Akron Bicentennial Commission Establishes Akron200 and Hires Executive Director
Akron, Ohio, Jan. 3, 2024 — Today, the Akron Bicentennial Commission and Mayor Shammas Malik are announcing that the Commission is forming a not-for-profit corporation, ‘Akron200 Inc.,’ in order to receive funds and distribute grants to neighborhood groups that are planning celebrations as part of Akron’s Bicentennial. After consultation with the Mayor, the Commission has appointed Mark Greer as Executive Director to implement plans for the city’s 200th anniversary.
“We are establishing ‘Akron200 Inc.’ as a tax-exempt organization to receive grants and donations,” says Dave Lieberth, Executive Secretary of the Bicentennial Commission. “The new corporation is being formed to help plan, organize, and execute events for this momentous occasion. We are pleased to welcome Mark Greer to the team to help lead this effort.”
“The Commission began as a city-sponsored body, and these new steps, to create a non-profit entity led by Mark Greer, will help ensure the success of our Bicentennial,” says Akron Mayor Shammas Malik. “Mark is a dynamic leader and creative thinker, and I am excited to see what’s ahead.”
Mark Greer has served on the Commission since its formation in June 2022 along with 27 other community representatives. A native Akronite, Greer is the founder of Ulysses McNeal Consulting Company. He served as Small Business Program Manager and Administrator of the Great Streets Initiative for the City of Akron for four years and oversaw the award of over $3 million in grants. A graduate of Firestone High School, he earned the B.M. magna cum laude in Music Performance from Bowling Green State University and holds a masters degree from Kent State University. Greer also serves as an assistant pastor at The Family Church, a non-denominational ministry in Akron’s University Park Neighborhood, and previously taught on the faculties of Malone University and the University of Mount Union.
Lieberth, the former Deputy Mayor of Akron and volunteer Executive Secretary of the Bicentennial Commission, says the new corporation will select a board of directors from Commission members. The chairman of the new board is Ernest Pouttu, President and CEO of Harwick Standard Distribution Company in Akron. The vice chair is Dr. Cynthia Capers, Emeritus Dean of the University of Akron College of Nursing. In 2021, Pouttu and Capers were selected by Mayor Horrigan as Honorary Chairs of the Bicentennial, along with Marco Sommerville, former Senior Advisor to the Mayor, and Summit County Probate Judge Elinore Stormer who chaired the Marketing workgroup of the Commission that developed a new Bicentennial logo.
Support for the new initiative has been provided by the Akron Community Foundation. Its board of directors awarded a $25,000 grant to the Bicentennial Commission to provide interim funding for salaries and expenses until more permanent funding can be put in place. Greer will work with a new finance workgroup to deliver a budget to the City of Akron that would be acted upon by the city council in March.
“Akron’s Bicentennial will be an important and exciting time for our community, and I’m so pleased the foundation can be an early supporter of this planning process,” said John T. Petures Jr., president and CEO of Akron Community Foundation. “Our foundation is built to last and will celebrate 70 years of service to our community during the Bicentennial. I believe we’ll be here to celebrate the next 200, too.”
Several projects are in-progress and are the “leading edge” of the Bicentennial, including:
- The Akron History Center, an enduring free museum-quality exhibit about the 200-year history of Akron, is being constructed at 172 South Main Street in downtown Akron. $1.8 million has been committed to the project by government, local foundations, corporations and individuals. Design work was completed this summer, and fabrication of exhibits is underway with installation scheduled for January, and the opening targeted for Spring, 2024.
- A new anthology of Akron history is being published by the University of Akron Press. Dr. Jon Miller, Professor of English and Director of the Press is co-editor of the book that will be released in time for the 2025 anniversary.
- An outdoor drama, directed by Katie Beck, Co-Artistic Director of Gum-Dip Theatre and a member of the Commission, is planned for Waters Park on North Hill during the Bicentennial.
- A group of Akron Public School teachers is being assembled to develop digital materials for the teaching of Akron history to students in grades three through eleven.
The Akron Bicentennial Commission includes 28 representatives from neighborhoods, special interest groups and every ward in the city. The Commission has established a process to receive applications from community organizations (schools, houses of worship, neighborhood groups, associations) to create programming that will ensure that the year-long commemoration is inclusive and reflective of Akron, and open and accessible to the public.
Workgroups are being established to create opportunities for hundreds of citizens to participate in Bicentennial activities.
PARTIAL CALENDAR OF EVENTS
Akron’s 200th year begins December 6, 2024. General Simon Perkins filed the plat of Akron at the courthouse in Ravenna on December 6, 1825. In line with prior commemorations of city anniversaries in 1925, 1975, and 2000 the Akron Bicentennial Celebration will take place in July 2025.
- December 5, 2024 - Akron Roundtable presentation by Dave Lieberth.
- April 22, 2025 - Tuesday Musical Association premiere of an orchestral fanfare for the Bicentennial celebration, to be debuted at a concert at E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall.
- July 3- 6, 2025 - The Akron Bicentennial Celebration, Tuesday through Sunday.
- Downtown Festival at the Civic Gateway- Lock 3, Lock 4, Main Street
- July 5 Bicentennial Parade
- TBD – The Soul of Philanthropy Exhibit sponsored by Akron Community Foundation’s Black Giving Collective
Other historical commemorations occurring during the Bicentennial year include the Centennial of the Goodyear Blimp; John Brown’s 225th birthday on May 9; the 90th anniversary of the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous on May 11; and the 125th anniversary of the founding of the Firestone Tire & Rubber Company in August.
Contact: Executive Secretary David Lieberth