About Us


The Knowlton Foundation is the legacy of Austin E. Knowlton, community leader, entrepreneur and philanthropist. Mr. Knowlton established the Foundation in 1981 in recognition of his business success and civic involvement. He funded it during his lifetime and, through his will, created a lasting impact that continues to support students and higher education.

The Foundation’s primary mission is to promote and advance higher education in the United States through direct grants and contributions to qualified colleges and universities.

Our History

Austin E. “Dutch” Knowlton

Pioneer. Entrepreneur. Philanthropist.

Throughout his lifetime, Mr. Austin E. Knowlton, known to his friends as “Dutch” or “Mr. K”, helped build and shape thriving communities.

Mr. Knowlton was the owner and Chairman of the Knowlton Construction Company, started in Bellefontaine, Ohio, in 1937. Dutch and his company were responsible for 600 construction projects throughout Ohio and the Midwest, including school buildings, hospitals, libraries and post offices.

Mr. Knowlton was a 1927 graduate of Bellefontaine High School in Logan County, Ohio, and The Ohio State University, class of 1931, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Architectural Engineering. Today, both Ohio State’s School of Architecture and its airport terminal and flight school are named in his honor.

An avid sportsman, he was an original founding partner of the Cincinnati Bengals, where he served as Chairman. He also held a major ownership interest in the Cincinnati Reds for many years. He had a lifelong passion for saddle-bred horses and was a Trustee of the Little Brown Jug Society for harness racing in Delaware, Ohio.

Mr. Knowlton was also an aviation pioneer, making extensive use of early business aircraft to efficiently support his far-flung construction projects from the late 1940s. He founded an aircraft sales and charter company, Ohio Aviation, which decades later would become an early part of NetJets.

His lifelong passions for sports, horses and aviation are reflected in the work of the Foundation, including funding football stadiums, fitness training facilities, a state-of-the-art equine center, a health and wellness facility, and a world-class aviation school.

In 1981, inspired by the success made possible by the education he received, Mr. Knowlton established his namesake Foundation to empower future generations of students and to support the institutions dedicated to educating them. Today, through the Foundation, Mr. Knowlton’s beneficial impact on communities throughout the Midwest continues, by helping to prepare future generations of leaders.

Austin E. “Dutch” Knowlton
Austin E. “Dutch” Knowlton