Giving out a few well-deserved orchids

Since this is my last column for the Tribune Chronicle as a community columnist, I would like to make a trio of nominations for editorial orchids.

The first orchid should go to Gary and Kathy Salvner.

Gary, aka Dr. Gary Salvner, is a professor emeritus at Youngstown State University, where he was chair of the English Department and is still co-chair of the YSU English Festival. Nearly 40 years ago, Gary was one of the ”founders of the feast” celebrating reading and writing.

Several years ago, Gary and his wife, Kathy, found a way to transform a family tragedy into a creative legacy and add a musical element to the English Festival.

When their younger son, Jeremy, died unexpectedly, the couple established the Jeremy Salvner Music Competition as one of the Festival’s preliminary activities. Jeremy had loved a wide range of music, and that love has been the motivation for the creation of more music in our corner of the world.

Since then, many talented area students have composed and recorded music inspired by books on the Festival booklist. It is amazing to hear what these young composers have produced. Kathy and Gary Salvner deserve far more than my words can convey.

The second on my list for a floral tribute is another YSU couple, interim President Dr. Ikram Khawaja and his wife, Susan.

Ikram has been a part of the YSU community since 1968. Twice he has been induced to come back from retirement to assist the institution to which he is devoted.

I have gotten acquainted with them through their yearly commitment to the English Festival. They have graciously hosted or co-hosted a dinner to celebrate the annual event.

Dr. Khawaja is the type of person who constantly deflects the spotlight from himself to others. Each time I have heard him speak, he quickly begins to tout accomplishments of those in the audience. He introduces himself simply as “Ikram” without any title, which he has earned, from “chair” to “provost” to “president.”

He has quietly and efficiently filled the gap between presidencies and paved the way for the return of Mr. Tressel.

Finally, I would hope an orchid can go to those three writers with whom I have shared this platform, Andrew Herman, June Jagunic and Kyle Tennant.

To be sure, I did not always understand June’s opinions, but when she wrote about the people and events of our Valley, she wrote with both passion and compassion. She shines a light on those folks and their actions which often go unnoticed or underappreciated.

In reading the columns written by Andrew, I found myself drawn to the biographical elements that he included. His descriptions of his past experiences and his family always gave me a more hopeful view of life. His ideas made me think more deeply about what is possible.

The vigor and enthusiasm which spirited the writings of Kyle caused even an older person like me to “see visions” and “dream dreams.” His commitment to the future of his town and our area made for compelling reading. Kyle’s words encourage us to respect the younger workers and leaders of our cities and towns.

As for onions … quite frankly, I personally don’t like them – not in salads, not on sandwiches, not with pierogi, and not even on the opinion page of my favorite newspaper, despite the alliterative value.

Williams is a Hubbard resident. Email him at