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Stark & Knoll co-founder receives Polsky award

Stark & Knoll Co-founder Thomas Knoll received the Bert A. Polsky Humanitarian Award on Oct. 16 at the Hilton Akron/Fairlawn. Knoll, center, is pictured here holding the award standing next to John T. Petures Jr., president and chief executive officer at Akron Community Foundation,left, and Akron Community Foundation Board Chair Stephen Strayer. (Photo courtesy of Akron Community Foundation).

Legal News Reporter

Published: November 9, 2018

From co-founding two nonprofit organizations to assisting in the creation of a leadership program for retired executives in the Akron area--those are just a few of the ways in which Stark & Knoll Co-founder Thomas Knoll has given back to the community.

Over the years, Knoll has received many prestigious awards for his efforts and last month he was honored yet again as the 51st recipient of the Bert A. Polsky Humanitarian Award.

Knoll was presented with the award on Oct. 16 at the Hilton Akron/Fairlawn.

Established in 1969 to honor the late Bert A. Polsky, president of the former Polsky’s Department Store and founding trustee of Akron Community Foundation, the award is given to an individual or couple who best exemplifies Polsky’s selfless dedication to humanitarian causes in Akron.

“I was pleasantly and humbly surprised to receive the award,” said Knoll. “I try to give back because it’s the right thing to do.

“When my wife, Ginny and I first came to Akron we knew almost no one and the community truly embraced and welcomed us,” he said. “We have always tried to do the same and to give back where we could. When I look at young attorneys at my firm I try to encourage them to embrace the same principles.”

John T. Petures Jr., president and chief executive officer at Akron Community Foundation said part of the organization’s mission is to embrace the good works of people who make a permanent commitment to the community.

“Certainly Tom Knoll has done that,” said Petures. “His volunteerism has stretched across the lifetime of his professional career.

“The winners of this award are selected by a committee made up of past Polsky award honorees, who look at criteria ranging from exceptional volunteerism and commitment to the Greater Akron community to leadership and local service that goes above and beyond professional or employment responsibilities.

“During the ceremony, Tom’s message to the audience was especially poignant,” said Petures. “He announced that he and his wife Ginny were creating a $100,000 fund at Akron Community Foundation to promote civility and to celebrate ‘random acts of kindness.’”

Born in Flint, Michigan, Knoll moved to Sandusky, Ohio when he was 14.

He started college at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York but completed his bachelor’s degree in political science at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

“My dad was a mechanical engineer and I initially thought I might follow in his footsteps, but once I started the courses I realized that I wanted a career that was more involved with the public.”

After receiving his juris doctor from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law in 1965, Knoll began his legal career as an associate at Lowers, Oestreicher, Perelman & Seamon.

Prior to becoming a partner at Roetzel & Andress, he was an associate at Sacks, Subrin, Penner & Stein Co.

At Roetzel & Andress, Knoll focused on corporate and business law.

In 1985 Knoll and attorney Mike Stark, who passed away in April 2017, left the firm to co-found Stark & Knoll.

“I am now in the twilight of my career so I am not as busy in the corporate area as I was in the prime of my career,” said Knoll.

A longtime member of the American, Ohio State and Akron bar associations, Knoll is a former president of the Akron Bar Association and spent six years on the Ohio Supreme Court Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline.

Knoll has served on the boards of nearly two dozen nonprofit organizations, including the Akron Community Foundation, GAR Foundation, Goodwill Industries of Akron, The University of Akron Foundation and the Boy Scouts of America, Great Trail Council.

He co-founded Big Brothers Big Sisters of Summit, Medina, and Stark Counties Inc. and The First Tee of Greater Akron, which introduces golf and its inherent values to young people.

He also contributed to the commencement of Leadership Akron NEXT, a two-month program designed for retired executives, which encourages them to examine community needs and take on leadership roles.

By far his biggest commitment has been to Summa Health System, where he served as chair of the board of directors on two separate occasions.

“I have been involved with Summa Health System for about 30 years,” said Knoll. “I am currently on the executive committee for capital campaigns, which assists the health system in funding needed projects to improve the quality of healthcare delivery.

“I have enjoyed the challenges of working with a healthcare organization,” said Knoll. “Hopefully I have made a difference by contributing to the delivery and cost of healthcare in the community.”

Knoll and his wife Ginny served as co-chairs of the 2018 Summa Health Sapphire Ball and Habitat for Humanity’s “A Home of Our Own,” capital campaign, which raised over $2 million to purchase a new facility in Akron.

“My wife is involved in a number of community organizations,” said Knoll. “She served on the board of Mobile Meals and currently serves on the board of Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens. She is also a past president of the Junior League of Akron.”

In 2011 Knoll received the Akron Bar Association’s St. Thomas More Award. He is also a past recipient of the Greater Akron Chamber’s H. Peter Burg Economic Development Leadership Award.

Jeff Knoll, the oldest of the couple’s three sons and a partner at Stark & Knoll said he’s extremely proud of his father and all that he has done for the community.


“I live in two separate worlds with my father, one as his son and another at the firm,” said Jeff. “My dad has accomplished so much in his career, while at the same time being a great father and role model.


“As a child growing up, I watched him do so many things to help the community and, now that I have two kids of my own, I understand the difficulty of trying to balance career, family life and community efforts. What he accomplished is truly amazing.


“I am absolutely thrilled that my father received the Polsky Award,” said Jeff. “I am so proud and honored that he is my father and all of us at Stark & Knoll are so grateful to have him as a representative of our firm out in the Akron community.”

Knoll is beginning to wind down his practice but he continues to be active in the community. He is looking forward to spending more time with family and friends and perhaps doing a little traveling.

“My wife and I have a home in Savannah and we try to spend time there every winter,” said Knoll. “We also have seven grandchildren who we want to spend more time with, so I expect that we will focus more on family in the future.”