Akron Roundtable is an outstanding community asset. Monthly lunchtime forums have provided occasions for prominent speakers to share ideas and opinions on significant current topics with Akron audiences.
Since 1976 more than 250 speakers have addressed Roundtable. The speakers are carefully selected to reflect a variety of backgrounds and interests. A sampling of the speakers includes such notables as: Phillip Caldwell, Ford Motor Company CEO; Clifford Grum, publisher, Fortune Magazine; Richard Thornburgh, Governor of Pennsylvania; United Auto Workers chief, Douglas Fraser; William Webster, FBI Director; Rita Dove, the nation's poet laureate; Randall Tobia, vice-chairman of AT&T; and Gen. Alfred Gray, commandant, U.S. Marine Corps.
Men, women and selected students from area high schools have shared in these outstanding programs, always presented with an opportunity for questions at the conclusion of the prepared presentations. More than 150,000 Akron area-citizens have comprised the luncheon audiences during these twenty years. Additionally, programs have been broadcast live over WKSU-FM to a northeastern Ohio radio audience potentially numbering 187,000 listeners. Programs are later re-broadcast over WAKR-AM. Since May 1995, programs have been available to audiences worldwide over the Internet.
Akron Roundtable has grown from a simple, but hopeful beginning. It has been stimulated by enthusiastic response from the people of Akron and by the faithful patronage and financial support of civic-oriented individuals, organizations and corporations who recognize the tremendous value such a resource provides for the people of Akron.
"Akron Roundtable began in 1976," states an early Roundtable brochure, "when the Kiwanis Club of Akron saw the need for a public forum and was given encouragement to continue its efforts by the late John S. Knight, nationally known editor of the Akron Beacon Journal." From his base at The Beacon Journal, Jack Knight and his brother, James, built the national newspaper and communications company that is today Knight-Ridder.
In 1973, W. Richard Wright, then vice-president of the Kiwanis Club of Akron with responsibility for programs, along with a few other members such as Al Boyer, Bruce Wert and Duane Isham, developed a plan for the establishment of a public forum. Kiwanis was hesitant to alter its traditional format, but Dick Wright prevailed and it was finally agreed that Kiwanis would expand its third Thursday monthly meeting to accommodate a wider community audience. To this day, Roundtable day is also the downtown Kiwanis Club's meeting as well.
A significant partnership was established by Kiwanis with the Akron Beacon Journal, the Akron Regional Development Board, and the Akron City Club; the Akron City Club later dropped out. Wright recalls; "I joined the Kiwanis Club around 1968; my special interest at the time was club programming. For eight years I had helped arrange events for the Fist Congregational Church, the University of Akron, Phi Delta Theta fraternity, Junior Chamber of Commerce, Kent State University, and the State of Ohio. I know a lot of people from my previous position at Goodyear Aerospace and from being national president of the University of Akron Alumni Association. I also had contacts from involvement in various fund drives and participation in the political scene. When I was elected vice-presided of the Downtown Kiwanis Club in 1973, I thought we could enhance our club reputation by calling on my contacts for exceptional programs. I continued to do so when I became president in 1976."