Mount St. Joseph University

Lasting Generosity and Vision

Mount News: alumni magazine

Head shot of Austin Knowlton.

Austin E. Knowlton was a lifelong Ohio resident who became a successful businessman, avid sportsman and generous philanthropist. Mr. Knowlton was a 1927 graduate of Bellefontaine (Ohio) High School and a 1931 graduate of The Ohio State University, where he received a Bachelor of Science in Architectural Engineering. 

He was the owner and chairman of the Knowlton Construction Company, a business started in 1937 in Bellefontaine, Ohio. Through his company, Knowlton was responsible for more than 600 major construction projects throughout Ohio and the Midwest, including school buildings, hospitals and libraries. As a sports enthusiast, he had a 50-year interest in saddlebred horses. He was a founding partner and chairman of the Cincinnati Bengals, a major owner for many years of the Cincinnati Reds, and a trustee of the Little Brown Jug Society for harness racing in Delaware, Ohio.

As a philanthropist, Mr. Knowlton was a benefactor of the Ohio State School of Architecture, which is named in his honor. He established the Austin E. Knowlton Foundation, which he funded throughout his lifetime and through his will. One of the primary purposes of the foundation is the advancement of higher education by providing “direct grants and contributions to qualified colleges and universities.”

The impact of Austin E. Knowlton’slasting generosity and vision is evident in the anecdotes and updates shared by the students who have received the scholarships. Just ask Leanne Reichert. Leanne grew up in Indian Lake, Ohio, just twenty minutes down the road from Bellefontaine High School, where Mr. Knowlton attended. She’s now in her sophomore year as a nursing major, busy with her classes and her first round of clinicals at Bethesda North Hospital.

When asked to reflect on Mr. Knowlton’s generosity, Leanne was appreciative. “I think it is very impressive to hear of all of Mr. Knowlton’s numerous accomplishments, especially knowing that he didn’t grow up in some prestigious town or school. It amazes me at how much he accomplished – his construction company, helping found the Cincinnati Bengals, owning a portion of the Cincinnati Reds. To think he was from a small town makes him surprisingly relatable and makes his accomplishments even more admirable,” she says. The appreciation comes with her continued success at the Mount. “If I could talk to Mr. Knowlton, I would tell him how genuinely thankful I am for his generosity. To give a complete stranger such a scholarship just goes to show what a remarkable person he must have been.”

Kayla Thieman is a freshman majoring in biology who plans to one day become an optometrist. She, too, is a recipient of the Knowlton Scholarship, and she echoes Leanne’s sentiments. “The Knowlton scholarship means that I can focus on my studies and do my best, without worrying about the cost of college,” says Kayla. She has already become involved as a freshman senator in Student Government Association and an active member of the Campus Activities Board (CAB). In the first semester she participated in service learning at Santa Maria Community Services and loved working with the clients. Kayla entered the Honors Program in her second service learning experiences that are required as an honors student.

A third recipient of the Knowlton Scholarship, Catie Adams, is a junior majoring in graphic design, and she is right where she wants to be. “The Mount fits me and who I am. I love the small class sizes because I like to personally know my professors and classmates. The design program is amazing and I can be on the track team while working as a lifeguard at the YMCA,” Catie says. The thing she finds most interesting about Mr. Knowlton is the clear focus he had on his dreams, all while thinking about how he could help others. Catie sees herself heading in that same direction. “Until recently I hadn’t volunteered much, but then I joined Leadership Pathways at the Mount and I’ve
come to realize how important it is to helpothers.” Catie is currently completing a semester abroad at Limerick University in Limerick, Ireland. 

The support from the Austin E. Knowlton Foundation doesn’t end in the classroom. As a defensive lineman on the Mount’s football team and a recipient of a Knowlton Scholarship, Robert Grogan can attest to this. Robert shares Mr. Knowlton’s passion for education and football. As a sophomore majoring in interior architecture and design, he hopes to continue to graduate school as well as someday give back to students with financial need in the same way Mr. Knowlton did for him.

While the success stories vary, the generosity of the Austin E. Knowlton Foundation remains constant and remarkable, providing opportunities to students pursuing their dreams.

The trustees of the Foundation established the memorial scholarship endowment at the Mount in 2009 and since then have contributed a total of $1.1 million to continue the scholarship fund for future generations of Mount students.

First consideration for the scholarship is given to residents of Logan County, Ohio, (where Mr. Knowlton graduated from high school) who have been accepted to the Mount as a full-time, first-year student. Among eligible applicants, priority is given to students interested in pursuing careers related to architecture or design.

The scholarships are renewable for eight consecutive semesters provided the recipient is enrolled full time and is in good academic standing. “We are really pleased to support the educational efforts of the College of Mount St. Joseph.
Its academic values coincide perfectly with those of the Foundation,” says Charles D. Lindberg, trustee of the Austin E. Knowlton Foundation.