Tony Colnar readily admits that he's not had much involvement with Cleveland State since graduating from Fenn College in 1942 with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering.
But when he got involved, he did it in a big way by establishing a $100,000 charitable gift annuity to benefit students, programs and faculty in the Fenn College of Engineering.
"Fenn College was a friendly institution where instructors always had an open door for students," says Colnar, a full-time day student who commuted from his Cleveland home to campus for four years. "Attending Fenn was a good experience."
Colnar fondly recalls faculty members allowing students to skip lab courses on Friday afternoon to attend Cleveland Indians games if they made up the time on Saturday morning something he took advantage of on more than one occasion.
The education he received, including cooperative education experiences at various engineering firms, prepared him well for his career, he adds. In fact, he's had just one employer the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
Colnar joined the organization, originally called the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA), in 1942 and was based at Langley Field in Virginia. After several years, he was transferred to Cleveland, where he was on the engineering team that developed NASA research facilities both in Cleveland and in Sandusky. He was a NASA engineer for 32 years and has been retired for 32 years.
Born in Slovenia, Colnar came to Cleveland at the age of 11. Now 88 and living in North Olmsted, he's one busy fellow.
Twice each month, he has lunch with a group of his East Tech High School buddies. He travels often to Europe, where he enjoys going to an Adriatic Sea health spa that dates back to Roman times. He's also been to Alaska twice, the Caribbean, South America, Mexico, Canada and Hawaii. He belongs to the Knights of Columbus and several garden clubs.
An avid gardener, Colnar has won numerous prizes for his roses, dahlias and vegetables. These days, he concentrates on fruit his backyard is an orchard with dozens of apple, pear, plum and peach trees. Almost every apple tree bears two to eight varieties of fruit, thanks to his grafting skills.
And in May 2006, the lifelong bachelor married Marilyn, a woman he's known for 55 years. The newlyweds honeymooned in Niagara Falls and are now setting up their first computer and looking forward to using email and surfing the web.
The couple also plans to visit campus to check out Cleveland State's refurbished Fenn Tower and new recreation center and other facilities. Today's campus is a far cry from the three buildings that he remembers Fenn Tower, Stilwell Hall and Foster Hall.
Colnar says he established his charitable gift annuity because he knows the importance of supporting education. He hopes others will follow his lead.