Eleanor Watanakunakorn, a longstanding philanthropic leader across the Mahoning Valley and beyond, received Youngstown State University’s prestigious Friend of the University award at an invitation-only dinner Saturday at the Pollock House on campus.
“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.”
The annual Friend of the University Award recognizes the leadership and contributions to YSU and the community by a particular individual or individuals. Among past recipients are Warren P. Williamson III, Helen Stambaugh, John and Denise DeBartolo York, the Beeghly Family, the Cafaro Family, Frank and Norma Watson, Shorty and Elba Navarro, Jocelyne Kollay Linsalata and Nathaniel R. Jones.
Mrs. Watanakunakorn’s most recent philanthropic support for YSU came via a $1.5 million donation to endow a biomedical research lab in the College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in honor of her late husband, Dr. Chatrchai Watanakunakorn, the first infectious disease specialist in Youngstown who worked nearly 22 years at St. Elizabeth Health Center. She also honored her husband’s legacy in 2008 by establishing the Dr. Chatrchai and Eleanor Watanakunakorn Scholarship at the YSU Foundation.
Other philanthropic efforts include the largest single donation to the Northeast Ohio Medical University, where her late husband taught, and the creation of the Dr. Chatrchai and Eleanor Watanakunakorn Medical Education Fund at Akron Children’s Mahoning Valley. She also donated $1 million to create a new special care nursery on the Akron Children’s Beeghly campus in Boardman in honor of her granddaughter, Alexis Caroline Watanakunakorn.
In 2014, she was recognized as “Outstanding Philanthropist” by the Association of Fundraising Professionals Mahoning-Shenango Chapter National Philanthropy Day Awards. That same year, she received an honorary degree from Northeast Ohio Medical University. She also is the recipient of Akron Children’s Champions for Our Valley’s Children award.
Mrs. Watanakunakorn earned a bachelor’s degree in Home Economics from the University of Alberta and a master’s degree in Clinical Nutrition from the University of Iowa.