[Pictured from left to right: Kelly Wilkinson, Dean of the Williamson College of Business Administration, Dr. Tomi Ovaska, the Paul J. Thomas Endowed Chair in Economics, and Dr. Kevin Ball, Associate Provost for Academic Programs and Planning]

Dr. Tomi Ovaska, Professor of Economics at YSU’s Lariccia School of Accounting & Finance, has been named the Paul J. Thomas Endowed Chair in Economics at YSU.

“We are so appreciative of the Thomas Family for the endowed professorship.  Dr. Ovaska has plans to use this professorship to impact the college, university, and the Mahoning Valley community in a variety of ways,” said Kelly Wilkinson, the Dean of the Williamson College of Business Administration.

The endowed faculty position was created in honor of Paul J. Thomas, a successful Mahoning Valley businessman, through a $1.5 million donation by Thomas’ daughters in 2018.

“I am honored to be appointed as the Paul J. Thomas Endowed Chair in Economics at YSU. This position not only recognizes the significant legacy of Paul J. Thomas in our community, but also emphasizes the critical role of economics education in understanding and shaping public policies and practices,” said Dr. Ovaska. “I am grateful to the Thomas family for their generous support and commitment to advancing education in economics and entrepreneurship. As I accept this role, I look forward to fostering an environment where research and education can thrive and make a lasting impact on our students and the broader community.”

Dr. Ovaska is a lieutenant in the Finnish Naval Reserve. He received his M.A. in Political Science from the University of Jyväskylä, Finland in 1997 and a Ph.D. in Economics from West Virginia University in 2003. Dr. Ovaska has been a professor at YSU since 2007. His research interests include behavioral economics, comparative economic systems, entrepreneurship, and life satisfaction. His awards and honors include the Distinguished Professor Award at YSU in 2014, 2019, 2020, and 2022, a Docenture in political economy at the University of Jyväskylä in 2020, and the Top Downloaded Paper Awards from the Economic Affairs journal in 2019 and 2021.

A native of Niles, Ohio, Paul J. Thomas was vice president of Superior Industries and vice president of Easco Corp. He served on the boards of the Ohio Bank Corp., McKinley Bank, and WKBN Television. He also was a trustee for many area nonprofit organizations, including the Mahoning Valley Economic Development Corp., the Mahoning County Library System, and the Butler Institute of American Art.