The Ward Beecher Planetarium at Youngstown State University thrives thanks to the generosity of Youngstown industrialist and philanthropist Ward Beecher. Mr. Beecher donated a substantial sum to YSU for the nearly $1.6 million expansion to the school's science building. The expansion included the planetarium.
The Ward Beecher Planetarium opened in December of 1967. It was the first planetarium in the United States with the seats tiered and facing forward in a classroom arrangement.
In accordance with Ward Beecher's wishes that the sciences benefit young people, the planetarium has always been free and open to the public.
A major upgrade in 2006, generously funded by the Ward and Florence Beecher Foundations through their daughter, Eleanor Beecher Flad, replaced the original Spitz star projector with a GOTO Chronos and added the capability for fulldome video playback. An additional upgrade by the Ward and Florence Beecher Foundations in 2017 has brought the lastest in data visualizations to the planetarium, allowing guests to explore the universe in real-time.
In its over 50 years in service to the Mahoning Valley, the Ward Beecher Planetarium serves as a YSU astronomy classroom, a premium field trip destination to area schools, and an immersive, unique educational experience for the public.