Susan Knell leaves Upper Arlington Community Foundation more than $1.2 million

Nate Ellis
ThisWeek group

The Upper Arlington Community Foundation has received an unrestricted bequest of more than $1.2 million from the late Susan Knell – the largest in the organization’s history.   

UACF executive director Tracy Harbold called it “transformational.”

Susan Knell

“This is significant in so many ways,” Harbold said. “Never in my entire career have I been a part of receiving an estate gift that was unrestricted.   

“Sue’s love for upper Arlington and her trust in the foundation is truly an incredible thing. This gift is transformational for the foundation.” 

Before she died Nov. 30, 2019 at the age of 84, Knell lived a long life in Upper Arlington that included playing collegiate basketball, worshipping at First Community Church, advocating that the playground at Barrington Elementary be accessible to children with disabilities and donating to local projects such as the restoration of the Amelita Mirolo Barn at Sunny 95 Park and the Veterans Memorial Plaza being built at Mallway Park.   

She also left more than $1.2 million to the UACF, a nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing life in Upper Arlington through scholarships and grants for everything from helping residents and businesses pay bills during times of hardship to supporting recreation and community beautification projects. 

Harbold said Knell left instructions that her donation not be made public until after her death. 

It’s not yet known what the total gift will be, but as of Sept. 14, it was $1.2 million and counting.   

“We received her first installment of her gift in December and have received installments in June and July of this year and have been told it is not finished yet,” Harbold said. “We do not know the sum total.   

“So far, we have received $1.2 million. We have been informed by her estate and trust attorneys that there will be more funding coming our way as her estate is finalized. We are not sure exactly how much that will be or exactly when that will be.”   

The gift will be used to support the UACF in its work to support Upper Arlington residents, businesses and projects, Harbold said. 

“The unrestricted nature of the bequest reveals the passion and faith Susan had in the group and those associated with the UACF,” she said. 

“In the time that I knew Sue, she was always very concerned about not having her money frittered away,” Harbold said. “So it is the foundation’s intention to make sure that we utilize her funding to sustain the foundation for many years in the future so we can continue to raise funds and make our community great.”  

According to her obituary, Knell was an Upper Arlington High School graduate who went on to play basketball at Colorado Women’s College, an all-women’s college that now is associated with Denver University.    

In addition to her donations to “countless organizations,” Knell was a board member of the Upper Arlington Historical Society and was a member of the Scioto Country Club, the obituary stated.   

After college, Knell returned to her family home on Bedford Road in Upper Arlington, which her obituary said was built in 1916 by her grandmother and was continually occupied by Knell family members for more than 100 years.   

Former Upper Arlington City Council member Mary Ann Krauss, who served on council from 2003-12, said she met Knell due to her steadfast attendance at council meetings.   

“I introduced myself to her because she came so regularly and we became friends,” Krauss said. “As her health declined, I became more involved with her – I went to see her and took her food – and we became stronger friends.”   

“I saw Sue as a simple person,” Krauss continued. “She was simple in her dress and she was simple in the car she drove. But she was not simple in her philanthropy. She was generous to her family, and any project she believed in, she wanted to support.”   

Krauss noted Knell was particularly supportive of plans to build a more visible recognition of military servicemen and women at Mallway Park, in part because her father, Riechmann Knell, served in World War I and her brother, Richard Knell, served in World War II.   

Krauss said proceeds from the sale of the Knell family home will be donated to the Upper Arlington Historical Society.   

Historical society executive director Melanie Circle Brown said Knell donated $30,000 to the organization in memory of Jake Will, with whom she served on the society’s board of trustees.   

“We have also received a treasure trove of wonderful Upper Arlington-related historical memorabilia,” Brown said. “The Knell family lived here for over 100 years and Sue left us many archival items: photographs, old maps, brochures, etc.   

“While COVID-19 has kept our board from assembling in person to thoroughly talk through our plans, we will work to fulfill her wishes that we highlight and educate the public about Upper Arlington’s historical past. Once the estate is finalized, we definitely intend to honor Susan Knell and her generosity,” Brown said. 

Krauss said she hopes her friend’s donations will inspire others to give “legacy” gifts to Upper Arlington organizations to strengthen the community for years to come “just as Sue has done.”   

Harbold said the donation will bolster the UACF well into the future, ensuring that it will honor Knell and benefit the community for “generations.”   

nellis@thisweeknews.com  

@ThisWeekNate