Although Ohio’s municipal universities had sought state assistance for 40 years, even modest help wasn’t forthcoming until Governor James A. Rhodes made higher education a priority in the early 1960s. When convincing studies proved the need for higher education would soon outstrip the supply — especially in northeastern Ohio — it was finally proposed that Akron become a full-fledged state university. Akron voters gave their approval by an overwhelming 9-1 margin, and the University became a state institution July 1, 1967.

The University of Akron Foundation was created the same year. While state monies supported student tuition and institutional progress, the nonprofit Foundation allowed individuals, corporations, and community leaders to support specific University projects according to their personal goals and vision. Donors to the Foundation have allowed the University to support a great faculty, grant scholarships, create new programs, acquire property, and construct state-of-the-art facilities.

After achieving state status, one of the first gifts to the University was a Berk family gift of broadcasting equipment, given in memory of S. Bernard Berk, the founder of WAKR-TV. A gift from Gilbert W. and Marguerite H. Dilly established the Performing Artist Series, which enhanced students’ cultural experiences.

The Philip P. and Faye Lutz Scholarship Fund was created in 1968 for the purpose of providing scholarship support for undergraduate University students.

The Clarence A. Kelley Athletic Scholarship Fund was established by the late Clarence A. Kelley, class of 1931, prominent Akron businessman and attorney, and his wife, Mary, who were devoted to the University. This fund is used to provide financial assistance for deserving undergraduates who are participants in the University’s intercollegiate athletic program.

The 1970s brought the first major fundraising drive for an arts center, which led to the magnificent E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall, one of the distinctive buildings on campus. Funds poured in from throughout the community. 

Major benefactors included the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which contributed the signature Clara I. Knight Plaza and fountain that welcomes entertainment-seekers. Other donors included E.C. McCormick Jr. (who chaired the campaign) and his wife, Freda, and Charles G. Herberich, an executive from a well-known Akron insurance and real estate family. Today, E.J. Thomas Hall is one of the finest cultural centers in the country.

Herberich, a member of The University of Akron Foundation Board of Trustees, continued his very generous support of the University in many ways. His benevolence created an endowed professorship in Real Estate, the first endowed professorship in the College of Business Administration, and the Center for Economic Education, a program designed to aid the teaching of economics at the secondary-school level. Ellen Herberich became a major supporter of the University’s ballet program.

The Eckler Scholarships were established in 1976 and are among the most prestigious awards for students majoring in business. From 1976 to 2008, the Edith Mae Eckler Trust has provided almost $900,000 to The University of Akron’s College of Business Administration. The funds, provided through a provision in the estate of the late Mrs. Eckler, support students majoring in finance and accounting. 

In the 1970s, Robert L. McCormick Jr. established a life insurance policy to benefit The University of Akron. Upon his death years later, the bequest supported the growth and rising success of the College of Business Administration. Mr. McCormick was a 1948 graduate of the College and was involved in the early days of “Evening with the Accountants,” a program that continues annually, providing networking opportunities for the University’s accounting students. He and his wife, Doretta, were loyal supporters of the University.

The George S. Ketter Memorial Scholarship was established in 1972 by Mrs. Elaine S.  Ketter in memory of her late husband and endowed by her upon her death in 1995.

The Beta Lambda chapter of Pi Lambda Theta honored its founder and first adviser in 1972 by establishing the Mabel M. Riedinger Scholarship Fund. This endowed fund provides tuition assistance for students enrolled in the College of Education.

The Ann van Blaricom Falor Scholarship in Nursing was established in 1976 by William H. Falor, M.D., class of 1934, in honor of his wife, Ann van Blaricom Falor. An academically talented junior in the College of Nursing is the recipient of this endowed scholarship.

Lisle M. Buckingham established a pattern of generosity in 1977 to the University by establishing the first of three scholarships. A prominent Akron attorney and philanthropist, Buckingham was trustee of the University and a founder of The University of Akron Foundation.

The Gilbert W. and Marguerite H. Dilley Performing Artist Series was established in 1977. The series brings nationally recognized performing musicians to The University of Akron on an annual basis to enrich the musical education of students enrolled in the School of Music by bringing to campus musicians who will perform for and with students, give master classes, provide individual and small group instruction, and interact with students in both formal and informal settings. Musicians sponsored by the series will provide experience and motivation not readily available through regular classes, lessons, and rehearsals. They will provide a link between the collegiate setting and the professional world.

The Leslie E. Soderquist Engineering Scholarship Fund was established in 1977 in loving memory of Leslie E. Soderquist, director, vice president, and head of engineering for 31 years at the McNeil Corporation, by his wife, Helen, who passed away in 1984, and his son, Ronald. 

The Claire Burns Heller Endowed Fund was provided through the estate of Mrs. Heller, the wife of Glenn H. Heller ’22, M.D., a physician and surgeon. Mrs. Heller provided her gift in honor of her husband and his alma mater.

The University’s Bierce Library became home of the John S. Knight papers and memorabilia in the 1970s. The Pulitzer Prize-winning editor and publisher of the Beacon Journal was a constant supporter of the University, editorially and financially, and was a member of the University board, the Foundation board, and the “Hilltoppers,” an organization for the school’s elite donors.

The Nancy Swartz Wilson '48 Endowed Scholarship Fund was also established. The scholarship represents Mr. and Mrs. John A. Wilson's belief in the value of higher education and a commitment to The University of Akron.

Separately, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Beacon Journal were large donors for such major projects as E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall, the Clara I. Knight Plaza, the Polsky building, Bierce Library, and “Excellence in Education” programs. Collectively, they also have funded the John S. Knight Lecture Hall, the John S. Knight Lectureship, and the University Park Neighborhood Revitalization project.

The Knight Foundation evolved from the more modest Charles Landon Knight Memorial Education Fund and has been a mainstay of support for the University. In return, the University has kept alive the vision of John and James Knight through public service, research, comprehensive educational programs, and more. 

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Support for cultural activities has always been present within the University community. Guzzetta Hall, completed in 1976, provided a new home to the Firestone Conservatory and the Sanderfur Experimental Theatre. Caroline J. Pardee again showed her allegiance to the University by making a gift that named the E.J. Thomas Hall lobby in honor of her parents. Tire industry supplier Louis S. and Mary Schiller Myers began the Mary Schiller Myers Lecture Series, which brought performing and visual artists to campus twice a year.

Evan B. Brewster established four scholarship funds in 1978: two funds in honor of his sons, one in honor of his son-in-law, and a book and scholarship fund for law students. The Evan B. Brewster Jr. Scholarship Fund was established in honor of Brewster’s eldest son, Evan B. Brewster Jr., class of 1953. The Thomas A. Brewster Scholarship Fund honors his youngest son, Thomas A. Brewster, class of 1958. Marketing students selected by the dean of the College of Business Administration are the recipients of this fund. The George T. Haramis Scholarship Fund was established in honor of his son in law, George T. Haramis, class of 1944, and is awarded to engineering students as determined by the dean of the College of Engineering. The Attorney Evan B. Brewster Book and Scholarship Fund is awarded to law students as determined by the dean of the School of Law.

The Ruth I. Wilkinson Memorial Scholarship Fund was established in 1979 by John E. Wilkinson of Akron, a loyal friend of the University, in loving memory of his mother. This endowed fund provides tuition assistance for deserving undergraduate students with financial need who are majoring in either voice, piano, organ, or any combination.