Youngstown, OH

Philanthropist receives Youngstown State University's Friend of the University award

Paul Krasinic
Markus Spiske/Unsplash

YOUNGSTOWN, OH — At an invitation-only dinner on Saturday, at the Pollock House on campus, Eleanor Watanakunakorn, a longtime philanthropic leader in the Mahoning Valley and abroad, was honored with Youngstown State University's coveted Friend of the University award.

The annual Friend of the University Award honors a specific individual or individuals for their leadership and accomplishments to YSU and the community. Warren P. Williamson III, Helen Stambaugh, John and Denise DeBartolo York, the Cafaro Family, Frank and Norma Watson, the Beeghly Family, Shorty and Elba Navarro, Jocelyne Kollay Linsalata, and Nathaniel R. Jones are among those who have received the award in the past.

The most recent gift from Mrs. Watanakunakorn to YSU was a donation of $1.5 million bestowed to a biomedical research lab in the College of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. This donation was in honor of her late husband, Dr. Chatrchai Watanakunakorn, Youngstown’s first infectious disease specialist who worked for nearly 22 years at St. Elizabeth Health Center.

Her other charitable endeavors include the largest single donation to Northeast Ohio Medical University, where her late husband taught, and the establishment of the Dr. Chatrchai and Eleanor Watanakunakorn Medical Education Fund at Akron Children's Mahoning Valley. She also gave $1 million to the Akron Children's Beeghly campus in Boardman to build a new special care nursery.

The Association of Fundraising Professionals Mahoning-Shenango Chapter National Philanthropy Day Awards named her "Outstanding Philanthropist" in 2014. In the same year, she was honored by Northeast Ohio Medical University with an honorary doctorate. She was also named one of Akron Children's Champions for Our Valley's Children.

“Eleanor’s continued commitment to YSU and the entire community makes her a well-deserved recipient of this award,” YSU President Jim Tressel said. “On behalf of the entire YSU community, we thank Eleanor for her support.”

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