KSU benefits from generosity

SALEM -The James and Coralie Centofanti Foundation received thanks Wednesday on behalf of grateful Kent State University students, staff and generations to come for a $700,000 gift to finish the Health and Sciences Wing at the Salem campus.

If the Kent State Board of Trustees approves, that generosity will be recognized with the renaming of the Health and Sciences Wing to James and Coralie Centofanti Hall, a fitting tribute to the Canfield couple with family ties in Salem.

“He would be very proud and very honored that the foundation he established has the capacity to donate these funds for the benefit of the students. My mother would be just as proud,” their son, David, said.

He was one of several members of the Centofanti family present for a reception in the student lounge of the Health and Sciences Wing to celebrate the foundation’s monetary commitment. David, of Canfield, and his uncle, Joseph Centofanti, of Salem, both offered remarks, along with KSU President Dr. Lester Lefton and KSU Salem Dean Dr. Steve Nameth.

“What this foundation has done is change people’s lives … individual students’ lives,” Lefton said. “This kind of facility trains the people who are going to take care of us.”

He offered his thanks to the foundation, its members and the members of the Centofanti family, saying their gift will make a big difference in the lives of generations of students.

The donation will be used to turn the now-empty 9,000-square foot shell on the second floor of the Health and Sciences Wing into state-of-the-art chemistry and biology laboratories, additional classrooms for biology, chemistry and other science-related studies and restrooms.

Dr. Ernie Freeman, associate professor of biology, said the gift allows the university to improve the lab facilities and improve the educational experience for students for generations to come.

“We can certainly use the extra space. We’re bustin’ at the seams with the labs right now,” biology lecturer Leah Meek said.

Nursing Program Director Mary Lou Ferranto said they’ll hopefully be able to do some research with the new labs.

The Health and Sciences Wing opened in September 2011 with state-of-the-art facilities on the first floor, including dedicated spaces for nursing and radiology instruction, centralized classrooms, a conference room, student lounge area and bookstore. The area had previously been a gymnasium. The multi-million dollar renovation added 16,000 square feet of space for education on the Salem campus.

As a member of the KSU Salem Advisory Board, Joseph Centofanti brought the programs and the Health and Sciences Wing to the attention of the foundation. He said they wanted to keep the money local and give to programs his brother would have been interested in helping.

He described how his brother was born in Italy and that their father, Camillo, came to America first and got a job in the steel mills, worked five years and then sent for the family to come over. Jim came over with their mother, Anna, and their sister, Mary, just before the Great Depression. Joe and their sister, Lillian, were both born in America.

He told those present that if they wanted to give credit to someone, give it their parents, who made a decision 90 years ago to relocate from Italy to the United States.

Nameth commented that he did some research on the Centofanti name and learned that it comes from cento, which means one hundred, and fanto, which means child. The meaning behind it was thought to be that the recipient would be blessed with a large family.

“You’ve extended your family today, all of you,” he said.

David Centofanti said his father understood the meaning of education and this was his father’s way of giving back. He said the foundation had already given a major gift to Youngstown State University and by giving this gift to KSU, they were able to help cover the educational needs in the two-county area.

Other members of the foundation committee besides Joseph and David Centofanti include Carol Potter, CEO of the Youngstown Better Business Bureau; Mark Graham, an executive vice president with Farmers National Bank; and Dante Zambrini, former superintendent of Canfield Schools.

James Centofanti was a member of the Board of Directors of Farmers National Bank, a business owner, philanthropist and horseman. He passed away in 2010 and Coralie passed away in 1999.

A timeline to begin construction on the second floor labs and classrooms will be developed in the next several months.