By Brian Brennan
In 1991, Tod Hall killed the “Neon,” Youngstown State University’s yearbook. After a 59-year run, the 1992 edition would be the last. Budgetary reasons were cited for the action, though some were not so sure. Many believed that President Leslie Cochran was contemptuous of all YSU history that occurred in years B.C. — Before Cochran. Whatever the reason, the loss would prove great.
Alongside The Jambar, the “Neon” was a campus publication of record. In addition to presenting traditional portraits of graduates, the annual also documented campus activities and organizations. After 1992, much of this information was lost to history.
The first yearbook, the “Esse-Bee,” appeared in 1926. The following year, it was called “The Technician,” as the school was known then as the Youngstown Institute of Technology. After the institution was restyled Youngstown College, the publication was variously titled the “Wye Collegian” (1931 and 1932), the “Hourglass”(1933), and the “Beacon” (1934).
All were paperbound and devoted almost entirely to senior pictures, poetry, and prose. In 1935, the yearbook was renamed “Neon,” a title suggested by Mildred Bothwell in a contest sponsored by the YoCo Student Council and The Jambar. To Bothwell, “Neon” represented a “shining mass, lighting the way to memories of graduating seniors.”
It would henceforth be published in hardcover format (with the exception of the 1970 edition, which was published as three softcover volumes within a paperboard case). Highlighted were seniors, student clubs, fraternities, social events and sports (especially football and basketball), as well as some members of the administration and faculty. Like “The Jambar,” the “Neon” was produced by a student committee.
By the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the “Neon’s” appearance became less traditional. While graduate and organizational pictures remained, administrators and faculty appeared less and less as more space was given over to student artistic expression. By the time of its demise, the “Neon” had reverted to a more traditional format.
In 2004, an attempt was made to resurrect the “Neon.” A paperback version was published by the University and made available free of charge, with issues stacked alongside The Jambar in campus buildings. This new version summarized events on campus, but also included commentary on important national and world events.
While President David Sweet and other top administrators were profiled, no senior photos appeared. Two more editions followed, in 2005 and 2006. It was a valiant effort, but proved unpopular. No further issues were printed.
Fortunately, all hope was not lost. In 2017, a new digital yearbook, “The Guin,” appeared online. Hosted by Maag Library’s online digital repository, Digital.Maag, “The Guin” includes senior portraits and photographs of various student organizations.
While initially lacking in content when compared to the “Neon,” “The Guin” represents an effort to create a traditional student yearbook with the modernity of digital access. Another edition was published online in 2018 — with more graduates sitting for portraits than in 2017.
Past editions of YSU yearbooks may be found in Maag Library, Archives & Special Collections. “The Guin” may be read at https://digital.maag.ysu.edu:8443/xmlui/handle/1989/39.