Cafaro Family receives Friend of the University honor

William and Alyce Cafaro
William and Alyce Cafaro

The Cafaro Family, founders of the nation’s largest privately held shopping center development company, receives Youngstown State University’s Friend of the University Award at an invitation-only event Wednesday, May 17, at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Youngstown.

Over the past 22 years, the Cafaros have made gifts to YSU totaling more than $4 million.

“We are pleased to recognize and honor the Cafaros for their generosity and commitment over many years to YSU and the greater Youngstown community,” said Jim Tressel, YSU president. “On behalf of everyone at the university, we thank you for your continued support.”

The annual Friend of the University Award recognizes the leadership and contributions to YSU and the community by a particular individual or individuals. The event enables YSU to acknowledge individuals who have made significant financial or personal commitments to the university and the community.

The Cafaro Co. dates to the 1940s, when William M. Cafaro and his brother, John, began developing grocery stores for the Kroger Co. and, in 1949, built its first shopping center in Sharon, Pa. Today, the Cafaro portfolio encompasses more than 50 properties with 30 million square feet of space in 10 states.

William and his wife, Alyce, supported schools, churches, hospitals and many other charitable causes. They often insisted on helping people anonymously. The Cafaros also were committed supporters of YSU, donating $1 million in 1995 to construct new honors dormitories on campus. The residence hall was named in their honor – The Cafaro House. “We are pleased that the family name will live on for many years to come,” Mr. Cafaro said at the dedication ceremony.

Shortly after Alyce’s death in 1996, the Cafaro family established the Cafaro Foundation, in her memory. Mr. Cafaro, who passed away in 1998, was closely associated with the development of YSU. In the 1960s, he lobbied Ohio state officials to designate YSU as a state university. In addition, he served for years on the board of the Youngstown Education Foundation, which later became the YSU Foundation.

The Cafaro’s children, Anthony, John and Flora, have followed their parent’s philanthropic example. Anthony Cafaro and his wife, Phyllis, and his sister, Flora, have gifted both personally and through the Cafaro Co. Mr. Cafaro has been a YSU Foundation trustee since 2000 and is a member of the Foundation’s Governance Committee.

The Cafaro Family Foundation gifted $1 million dollars towards the construction of the WATTS Center, $250,000 toward the construction of the Andrews Student Recreation and Wellness Center and $100,000 to establish the Joseph and Betty Nohra Scholarship in nursing and business, among other gifts.

The Cafaro Foundation has also gifted resources to the university to help fund the Rich Center for Autism and various scholarships.