Zoldans donate $1 million for scholarships, fellows programs

Zoldan gift
Pictured at the announcement at Phantom headquarters in Youngstown are, from left, YSU Foundation President Paul McFadden, Alex Zoldan, YSU President Jim Tressel, Bruce Zoldan and Alan Zoldan. 

The Zoldan Family of Youngstown, founders of Phantom Fireworks, are donating $1 million to Youngstown State University for student scholarships and to establish a new mentorship program.

The gift from Phantom Fireworks and the Zoldan Family is being made in honor of their parents, Sam and Sylvia Zoldan, and their uncle, Abe Yampolsky.

“We thank the Zoldan family for their continued generosity to YSU and their ongoing commitment to the success of our students,” YSU President Jim Tressel said.

“YSU has been the shining star of our community, and all of our family members have benefited from the university’s presence here,” said Bruce J. Zoldan, president and CEO of Phantom Fireworks. “It is our privilege to be able do our small part in supporting this wonderful institution.”

The gift establishes the Zoldan-Yampolsky Family Executive Fellows Program in the YSU Williamson College of Business Administration’s Center for Non-Profit Leadership. YSU juniors chosen to participate will work with senior leadership on campus or at non-profit organizations to gain practical work experience. The goal is to increase capacity at local and regional non-profit organizations.

"This gift is a significant investment in our students and our community,” said Betty Jo Licata, dean of the Williamson College of Business Administration.

“Increasing the leadership capacity in nonprofit organizations has a long-term benefit for all stakeholders.  Our Center for Nonprofit Leadership, and our director Laura Dewberry, continue to develop impactful programs that engage our students, and the Zoldan-Yampolsky Family Executive Fellows Program is an important addition to the center's offerings."

The Center for Nonprofit Leadership at YSU offers a certificate and minor designed to complement any major on campus and prepare students for future leadership roles serving the community.

The gift also increases the Sam and Sylvia Zoldan Memorial Scholarship endowment, established by the Zoldans in 2006. The renewable annual scholarship is for YSU business students who also take at least one class in Judaic and Holocaust Studies.

Phantom Fireworks traces its origins to the early 1970s and today is America’s number one consumer-based fireworks retailer. The company has retail stores and showrooms in 15 states and more than 1,500 seasonal tents and stands throughout the nation.

Sam Zoldan is credited with being the co-founder of Phantom Fireworks, providing inspiration and guidance during the formative years of the company.  Sylvia Zoldan was the matriarch and foundation of the family, a strong influence at Phantom Fireworks from its inception, having visited a showroom just three days before her death. 

Abe Yampolsky, affectionately known by all as Uncle Abe, was Sylvia Zoldan’s brother.  He provided business advice and taught leadership skills to the entire Zoldan family.  Genial and kind, with a sharp mind for business, he was a role model for the family.

The gift is part of the YSU Foundation’s “We See Tomorrow” capital campaign. The $125 million fundraising effort is the largest in YSU’s history and has already exceeded $100 million.