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.
From the 1987 Re-dedication of Ward Beecher Hall
"A member of an early Youngstown family, Ward Beecher was keenly interested in the economic, industrial and cultural development of the city.
He attended Elm Street School, graduated from The Rayen School in 1907, and studied metallurgy at the then-Carnegie Institute of Technology. After graduation, he became a traveling auditor for Republic Rubber Company. He later was secretary and treasurer of Lau Iron Works, and helped organize Powell Pressed Steel Company, where he was treasurer.
During World War I, he served with the 309th Engineers in France.
In 1922, Mr. Beecher joined Commercial Shearing and Stamping Company, and learned all phases of the business - as timekeeper, advertising manager, finance chairman, secretary-treasurer, and director and vice president in charge of finance, positions he held upon his retirement.
He was a director of Mahoning National Bank, and served many community organizations, including the Salvation Army, where he was a member of the Advisory Board.
His wife is the former Florence Bakody."
In accordance with his 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 it's 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.