By Sara Pompeo
Ellen Tressel, Youngstown State University’s new first lady and a local celebrity in her own right, has returned to her home after 14 years, and she is excited to be back.
Now having returned, Ellen Tressel said she is looking forward to events and activities at YSU, such as the Pink Ribbon Cheer Classic, which she was asked to speak at this year.
“We were both excited about the changes that we had seen in Youngstown, and the growth the Valley had taken — the new industries, the new personnel that had joined the ranks,” she said. “It was different, and it was a challenge we both looked forward to. And we haven’t been disappointed.”
Ellen Tressel uses her position and renown in the community to help further the causes and projects she believes to be important, and she plans to continue this trend.
“When you’re in the public eye, when you have an opportunity to make a difference, you have to do it,” she said. “We’ve been very blessed and we’ve been given a lot, and so we feel that it’s our privilege and our responsibility to give back. It’s our way of paying it forward, of saying thank you.”
Ellen Tressel stated that she is not quite sure what the future may hold for her at YSU, but she looks forward to contributing wherever the greatest need is.
“A lot of what we’ve done since we’ve been here, we’ve done together. So, these are opportunities where perhaps Jim is the speaker, and I’m coming along as role of the support person,” she said.
Jim Tressel said his wife is a natural leader and is a powerful ally to any cause.
“We were gone for 14 years, and she is excited about how she can help. [Her talents are] her ability to be a part of events and causes, to come together for people,” he said. “She is a great team player and leader.”
Jim Tressel said his wife loves YSU and attending the university has become a bit of a family tradition — she, along with her father and son, graduated from YSU.
Ellen Tressel said her favorite part about being back in the community is the people.
“I grew up here, so I have friends and connections, and my family is here. My mom and dad are still in Canfield. To be back home where your folks are is very comforting,” she said.
In her childhood years, Ellen Tressel said she enjoyed playing with the neighborhood children, riding bicycles, playing baseball in the backyard and, most of all, swimming.
“We grew up with a swimming pool, and we were all swimmers. I had an older sister and a younger brother, and when I was about 5 years old, my mom and dad put an in-ground pool in, so we lived in the water all summer,” she said.
After graduating from high school, she attended YSU and graduated with a degree in business.
“I began an education route and then switched over to business. And actually, I never taught, even though my emphasis was on education. So, I’ve never taught a day in my life,” she said.
While studying at YSU, Ellen Tressel said she worked for her father’s company, Youngstown Welding and Engineering Company.
“I started out at the bottom, like most folks do, and worked my way up to Director of Purchasing. I went to school full-time and worked part-time. I loved the business side of the industry,” she said.
After working 11 years at her father’s company, she then took up a job at Jostens — a yearbook and class ring company — for a couple of years. Then, she worked at Butler Wick for 14 years, where she became vice president of trading. After leaving her job at Butler Wick, she went to Columbus with Jim Tressel in 2001, where he had received a job at Ohio State University.
She explained the story of how she and Jim Tressel met. In the late ‘70s, when plans began for the YSU stadium development project, her father was chairman of the campaign to raise money to build the stadium. They met after the stadium opened.
“Jim came in 1986, and in 1997 he contacted my mom and dad about some renovations that they wanted to do at the stadium and to the suites. At that point, Jim and I had never met,” she said. “So from that day, which was in June of ’97, I met Jim. I thanked him for the tour and wished him luck for the season and followed it up with a note to him, a handwritten note, and had to go back to work. … He got the note a couple days later, and then he called me. And he wanted to talk, and so our first date was a couple days after that. It was actually July 4 of 1997, and we went to a fireworks party.”
They have been together ever since — they married in May of 1999.
Shannon Tirone, chief of staff in the Office of the President, is inspired by how much Ellen Tressel cares about the university and community.
“I think anyone who is constantly positive, motivated and engaged is inspiring. She inspires me with her never-ending energy and the way she gives positive reinforcement to those around her,” Tirone said.
Tirone said how smart of a woman Ellen Tressel is, and how she makes time for everything that is important to her, including YSU.
“She has opened her home to student groups … attended many university lectures and programs, has become engaged with the community [by] serving on boards and committees and gets excited to watch our various student athletes compete,” Tirone said. “The number of things she gives to the community is never ending.”