Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Leon A. Beeghly

800px-BeeghlyCenter1

Beeghly Center, By Greenstrat – Own work, Public Domain, via Wikimedia

I spent a lot of time at Beeghly Center as a student at Youngstown State. I had a number of classes there including an utterly forgettable health class, a number of psych classes (my major), and a memorable philosophy class with Professor Thomas Shipka. Then there was the physical conditioning class! Of course we went to many basketball teams coached by Dom Roselli as well as concerts. I first heard James Taylor live in Beeghly Center. Amazing that he is still performing!

I never thought “who was Beeghly?” Beeghly was Leon A. Beeghly. He was not a Youngstown native, born in 1884 and raised in a small northwestern Ohio town named Bloomville in Seneca County. After college at Tri-State University in Indiana he began working with the France Company of Bloomville, that operated a number of stone quarries. Eventually the company moved to Toledo. It was here that Beeghly became interested in slag, a by-product of steel production used in concrete, road bases, railroad ballast, waterway construction, and even for soil amendments in agriculture.

Beeghly first formed a slag company in Toledo, but quickly realized that the blast furnaces of Youngstown offered a far greater output of this material. He joined with two other men whose names are also well-known on the Youngstown State campus, William E. Bliss and William H. Kilcawley, in forming the Standard Slag Company of Youngstown. He served as company president. In 1918, he and his wife Mabel and four children (Charles, James, Thornton, and Lucille) moved to Youngstown.

Leon BeeghlyBeeghly continued to work with inventors to develop new processes and products including the cold forming of metal resulting in the Cold Metal Products Company where son Charles was involved before becoming president and chairman of Jones and Laughlin Steel, at that time the fourth largest steel company in the country. James and Thornton and later-born John all were involved in Standard Slag. Last-born son Thomas served as president of International Carbonic Company of Santa Ana, California.

In 1940, Leon Beeghly formed the L. A. Beeghly Fund, to which the family has continued to contribute. This fund has invested in a number of religious, charitable, scientific and literary causes, as well as ten college buildings (two at Youngstown State with the new education building) at nine college campuses. Beeghly was a director for Youngstown Sheet and Tube and headed the Youngstown Chamber of Commerce three times. He led initiatives as diverse as vocational training and mental health care.

Leon Beeghly died in 1967. He was recognized at the time not only as a successful industrialist, but as a supporter of inventors and entrepreneurs and technological development, as well as a community leader and philanthropist. His family has continued Beeghly’s philanthropic tradition, with Youngstown State being one of the most significant beneficiaries. Beeghly Physical Education Center opened December 2, 1972 (at the end of my first quarter on campus), built in part with donations from the Beeghly family. More recently, Beeghly Hall became the home of Youngstown State’s College of Education. In 2017, a $1.5 million gift was announced from Bruce and Nancy Beeghly toward a new endowment to the college as well as two graduate fellowships in Electrical and Computer Engineering and in Business Administration.

For over 100 years the Beeghly family has provided both industrial leadership and philanthropic investment in the Mahoning Valley. Their recent gifts suggest an investment in Youngstown’s future. Leon Beeghly always cared about encouraging technological development coupled with supporting the educational foundations needed for any technological advance. His grandchildren are carrying on that work, an important piece in the economic rebirth of Youngstown.

12 thoughts on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Leon A. Beeghly

  1. Bob, I so much enjoy your articles on my hometown. Although I attended YSU and met my wife there and knew OF Beeghly on campus I NEVER realized what an impact he had in Youngstown and YSU. His family is still dedicated to our area and for that the people of the Youngstown area should be eternally grateful. I know I am. Thank you Bob for such a history lesson

  2. During the Thanksgiving season, we should all give thanks for the extremely generous philanthropists who shaped the Youngstown that we know.

  3. Thank you for this wonderful article on my grandfather, Leon A. Beeghly. His name was Leon, not Leonard. He was the most extraordinary person I knew along with my father, Thornton Beeghly. My grandfather and grandmother also gave the land on which the Boardman United Methodist Church was built. My grandparents gave all they did anonymously to help others and to build a better world. They had great faith in God. Their children gave the Gazebo in honor of their mother, my grandmother, in Mill Creek Park. My grandmother loved gardening. My grandfather was a church leader and my grandparents loved their family unconditionally. I was so blessed to grow up in this family.

    • Carol, thank you for writing. Everything I read about your grandfather, indeed your family, has been of the highest character. I apologize for the error in the article. I began with Leon and somehow slipped into Leonard and didn’t catch it. I’m glad you did and have now corrected it. As a YSU alumnus, I so appreciate how your family has invested in the university.

      • It was wonderful to hear from you directly. I’ve sent your article to my relatives and they also loved and appreciated it. My brother was also on the YSU board and he was appointed by the Governor of Ohio to the Board of Regents.
        Again, thank you for your interest in Leon. Again, I can’t stress enough what a remarkable Grandfather he was. My Grandmother, as well.

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