2003 "Penguin of the Year" F.W. "Bill" Knecht
F.W. "Bill" Knecht, Chairman and CEO of Wendell August Forge and a current Youngstown State University Board of Trustee member, will add another honor from Youngstown State University this evening to a well-deserved collection.
Tonight, Knecht will be honored as one of the 2003 Penguins of the Year by the YSU Penguin Club, an organization he helped create, is still a member of today and was president of at one time in his many years of outstanding service to his alma mater.
A native of nearby Warren, he graduated from YSU with a Bachelor of Science Degree and since that time has been an invaluable asset to both the University and Athletic Department.
Knecht was active in the formative years of the Penguin Club, which was chartered in 1974. For the Penguin Club, he served as the second president of the organization from 1975 through 1977. Knecht is just one of six presidents to serve two terms as the head of the Penguin Club. He participated on the search committee to select a new football coach after the untimely death of Dike Beede in 1972.
He took part in the capital fund drive, helping raise more than $3.2 million that has made Stambaugh Stadium one of the top Division I-AA facilities in the nation. He also assisted greatly in the success of the brick campaign that generated almost $500,000 for the department.
Following the national championship seasons of 1991, 1993, 1994 and 1997, Knecht's company has graciously donated bronze commemorative plates to all players, coaches and others involved with the program. He has also served on the YSU Athletic Advisory Council.
In 1999, he was inducted into the YSU Athletics Hall of Fame for his efforts as a contributor. That same year he became a member of the Youngstown State Board of Trustees. In 2001, he earned the YSU Distinguished Citizen Award – the highest mark of distinction given by the university. Also, he was YSU's commencement speaker that summer and was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degree.
Knecht has been just as impressive in his work outside of the YSU campus.
In 1978, he purchased Wendell August Forge and directed what is now the nation's oldest and largest operating hand forge into new prominence in the retail field. With his extensive marketing background, Wendell August has become a tourist attraction, drawing hundreds of thousands to its show rooms in Grove City, Pa., Berlin, Ohio, and the Prime Outlet Mall, also in Grove City.
Prior to purchasing the Wendell August Forge Company in 1978, Knecht spent 16 years as a salesman for the IBM Corporation where he specialized in educational sales. At IBM, he qualified for 16 consecutive 100 percent Clubs and in 1974 was recognized as a member of IBM's Golden Circle which designated him as one of the top 100 salespersons in the country.
In 1992, Knecht was recognized as a regional finalist for the Inc. Magazine's Entrepreneur of the Year and received the Mahoning County American Cancer Society Man of the Year Award. Other awards include being named the 1995 Boys Scouts of America French Creek Council Distinguished Citizen Award, the 1996 Thiel College Louis and Barbara Thiel Distinguished Citizen Award and the 1996 Great Communicator Award from the Youngstown Hearing and Speech Center. Also, in 2000, the American Cancer Society honored him with the courage award.
He continues his close associations in the area as a member of the Boardman Civic Association, the Dover Club, the Rockwell Springs Trout Club, the Duquesne Hunting and Fishing Club, The Youngstown Club, the Tippecanoe Country Club and the Four Square Club. He also attends the Zion Lutheran Church in Youngstown. Besides being on the Board of Trustees at YSU, he serves as a trustee at Grove City College. He is also part of the boards for the Penn Northwest Development Corporation, the Mercer County Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Mahoning Valley Historical Society, The Youngstown Club and the Rockwell Springs Trout Club.
He and his wife, Connie reside in Boardman, and are parents of two grown children, Deborah (Mrs. Jonathan Fetter) of Canfield, Ohio, and Will Knecht, whose wife is Jennifer of Wilmington, N.C. They have five grandchildren; Joshua, Daniel and Emily Fetter and Jared and Cameron Knecht.