On Monday in the Kilcawley Center’s Chestnut Room, Jim Tressel sat with Sudershan Garg, chair of the Youngstown State University Board of Trustees, to sign a letter of understanding that outlines the key terms of a contract that will make Tressel the ninth YSU president. Tressel is slated to take office July 1.
After a closed meeting, the board unanimously voted to approve the terms of the new president’s contract in the form of a “Term Sheet” that outlined the terms and conditions of the contract.
“On behalf of the Board, I want to welcome Jim and Ellen Tressel to Youngstown State University and Youngstown,” Garg said. “Welcome home, Jim and Ellen. There is nothing like home. You have been on vacation for too long.”
After signing the agreement, Tressel thanked the community and the supporters for the remarkable level of support he received after it was announced he would assume the role of YSU president.
“On Saturday, it took me seven hours to return on the texts that were sent. On Sunday, it took just under six hours to return all the emails. It was amazing the outpouring of encouragement and excitement,” Tressel said. “I can’t tell you how excited I am to be here because Ellen and I can’t tell you how lucky we are. We know we have a lot to prove. We know we owe a lot to the students, the faculty, the staff and the community. And I assure you we will work extremely hard. We know students are our number one mission — helping them reach their dreams and hopes and getting them ready to compete in this world.”
Tressel will receive $300,000 for his first two years of service to the university. His pay on the third year is undetermined and susceptible to change based on performance evaluation.
Tressel said that the university offered him a higher salary but he declined. YSU’s eighth president, Randy Dunn, signed a contract for $375,000 annual base compensation in 2013.
“There is no question that we have got great challenges in higher education; we’ve got great challenges in the state of Ohio; we have great challenges at the two institutions I’ve been at,” Tressel said. “Certainly, where we can and when we can, we’ve got to make sure that we’re as selfless as we can possibly be. I’ve been so blessed in my life.”
After Dunn’s early departure, the YSU presidential contract has been amended to include a termination fee, stipulating that the president will pay $200,000 if the contract is voided within one year, $175,000 if within two years and $150,000 within three years.
His contract also provides housing in the Pollock House on Wick Avenue, any reasonable costs of relocation, and an American-made vehicle.
After the meeting, Tressel held a press conference where he answered reporter’s questions about his ambitions for YSU and the valley.
“Youngstown State University is crucial [to the valley] as one of the largest employers, of course. But, much bigger than that, creating the workforce,” he said. “As you listen to the forecasters and so forth, they are wondering, ‘Are we going to have the talent out there from a technical standpoint that is going to be able to compete in the world? Are we going to have the talent in our region?”
Tressel touched on a few of the ways the valley and YSU can work to improve as it re-envisions itself— whether as a tech community or something else entirely. He pointed to the importance of a specific and inventive strategic plan, harmonious relations between academic faculty and administrators, retention, and extensive entrepreneurial and research activity for the region and the country and harmony.
“I think that the vision isn’t much different than the vision that we had 28 years ago [during his time as head coach at YSU]. … That is that the student comes first, and that our responsibility is for the students to have an extraordinary experience, to be challenged and to be ready to compete in the world,” he said. “Along the way, we wanted to win some games. Along the way, we want to do a great job. We need to improve the graduation rate, and that is the scoreboard. We need to improve our retention rate; that is the scoreboard. We need to improve the placement rates; that is the scoreboard.”
When asked about rumors circulating that Tressel, who was also a finalist in University of Akron’s president search, pulled his name from consideration at Akron after YSU informed him of their choice, Tressel said he could not comment.
“When it comes to discussions about a process, we don’t get involved in those discussions. All of those things are within the confidential relationships you had within the groups you are working with. What is exciting to me is we know we need the University of Akron to be great,” he said.
The board will reconvene on June 18 to negotiate the full employment contract.