A Legacy Beyond a Lifetime

Taking a closer look at the multiple charitable vehicles established by our founders, Marion and Henry Knott, during their lifetimes, including the Knott Foundation and other funds


With the generosity of Marion and Henry Knott – and their large Catholic family that has only grown in size over the decades – many in Baltimore are familiar with the Knott name. What most don’t know, however, are the multiple structures for giving that our founders established long ago, as well as how those structures continue to support the community today.

A Family Foundation to Strengthen the Community

In 1977, Marion and Henry Knott established The Knott Foundation as a private family foundation in the State of Maryland. The vision of the Foundation is “to provide resources for nurturing and sustaining family unity through charitable activities in the Roman Catholic community and other deserving agencies that the Knott family encouraged and supported.”

“Today, 40 years later, continuing the philanthropic legacy of my grandparents remains at the heart of our mission, as we strive to both improve our community and strengthen our family,” states Lindsay Gallagher, Board President.

The Foundation is a multi-generational philanthropic family enterprise, with 34 Trustees representing 3 generations and 8 branches of the Knott family. All of the Foundation’s Trustees are involved in making grants that help strengthen communities in central and western Maryland. The median grant to an organization is around $50,000, and program areas include education, human services, health care, Catholic activities, and the arts. You can learn more about the Foundation here: www.knottfoundation.org.

A Trust to Benefit Catholic Charities

The Henry J. and Marion I. Knott Catholic Community Fund (est. 1971), is a trust governed by Catholic Charities of Maryland (the Agency). The Fund is overseen by a committee of the Agency’s leadership and a Knott family member. Currently, the Fund provides approximately $250,000 per year for the Agency’s key priorities and organizational funding needs. Most recently, the Fund has been dedicated to helping the Agency with technology upgrades.

“Producing life-improving outcomes for those we serve and being accountable to our benefactors requires that we keep pace with the ever-evolving technological world,” comments Bill McCarthy, Executive Director of Catholic Charities. To that end, the Fund’s annual support has allowed Catholic Charities to refresh its technology – including providing staff with laptops and Chromebooks, and helping to implement an electronic health records system for their many programs serving children and families.

“We are grateful for the ongoing financial support from this fund and the thoughtful involvement of family members who guide our stewardship of this valuable resource,” concludes McCarthy.

A Trust to Support Other Catholic Institutions

In 1975, the RCA Trust (Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore Trust) was established as a trust that supports certain Catholic organizations including the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Notre Dame of Maryland University (NDMU), and the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.

Lump sums were paid out to each beneficiary organization at the beginning of the life of the trust. From those payments, the Archdiocese of Baltimore directed $1 million to Catholic Charities’ Our Daily Bread campaign and $1 million to the Baltimore Basilica’s Restore the Light renovation campaign. NDMU dedicated $2 million to create the Marion Burk Knott Athletic Center, which remains a focal point for athletics, fitness, and a variety of other student services on the college’s campus. And the University of Notre Dame built Marion Burk Knott Hall, the first residence hall on campus named for a woman.

“This Trust is a wonderful example of the leadership and philanthropic spirit we have been blessed with in the Archdiocese of Baltimore,” States John Matera, Chief Financial Officer of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Today, the Archdiocese and NDMU continue to receive annual proceeds from the Trust, beyond the initial payments outlined above. Each organization receives approximately $100,000 per year.

The Archdiocese uses this annual income to support The Basilica of the Assumption Historic Trust. Since 2003, a large proportion of this money has been used to support renovations and maintenance of the Basilica’s grounds. More recently, the funds have been allocated to support the Basilica’s programming as a City parish.

“What the endowment allows us to do is huge,” comments Rev. James Boric, Pastor of the Basilica. “It has afforded us the ability to create a tailor-made missionary program to evangelize Baltimore and help the homeless and addicted on our streets. The Knott Endowment has allowed us the freedom and the room to re-invent the Basilica into something more than just a historic building. It has allowed us to become a parish that is meeting the needs of our Church and our City in 2019.”

Father Boric cites the fact that the Basilica has women discerning religious life, a young man discerning priesthood, and between 25-50 young professionals coming to Adoration every Thursday as signs of success of their evangelization work supported by the RCA/Knott Trust. “This is the fruit of a lot of things—but certainly the Knott Endowment is a part of that,” he remarks.

Meanwhile, NDMU uses ongoing annual contributions from the Trust to support student financial aid and institutional operations. “Notre Dame today is blessed to provide as much as $10 million in financial aid and scholarship resources to worthy students each year,” shares Carroll David Galvin, Interim Associate Vice President for Development and Director of Corporate, Foundation & Government Grants. “Most recently, 51% of students in the undergraduate Women’s College are recipients of federal Pell-grants, awarded to those students showing the highest levels of financial need. Funds from the Knott Trust help support aid to this population, and others, on our campus,” he confirms.

Scholarship Funds to Help Catholic Students

The Marion Burk Knott Scholarship Fund (est. 1980) and the Marion I. & Henry J. Knott Scholarship Fund (est. 1988) together operate as the Knott Scholarship Funds. The assets of these two funds total approximately $100 million. The Knott’s vision for these scholarships was to create a future for Maryland that is supported and steered by a community that puts into action the values and beliefs of the Catholic faith.

The Knott Scholarship Funds award scholarships to academically talented Catholic students who wish to continue their education in a Catholic school within the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Full-tuition scholarships are awarded to elementary students (grades 5-8) and high school students attending a Catholic school. College scholarships are available at the three Catholic Colleges in Maryland: Loyola University Maryland, Mount St. Mary’s University, and Notre Dame of Maryland University.

To date, nearly $60 million in scholarship awards have benefited some 1,500 students in elementary school, high school, and college. With a rich history spanning 38 years, the Scholarship Funds has produced some heartwarming results: over 64 siblings have been awarded scholarships; a mother/son are both scholarship winners; and there have even been two marriages between Knott Scholars. You can learn more about the Knott Scholarship Funds here: http://knottscholar.info/

Matt Smolka (Loyola Blakefield ’20) and Katie Smolka (School of the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen ’21) are a brother and sister who have both benefited from Knott Scholarships.

“I felt very honored to be named a Knott scholar considering the great legacy of the scholarship program,” shares Matt. “I know that my parents and I very much appreciate the generous contribution of the Knott family for their financial support, especially with two kids to send to college, so it’s an incredible gift from an incredible foundation.”

“Together, the community of Knott Scholars demonstrate an outstanding academic record, as well as the promise to fulfill our founders vision: that they will use their intellectual abilities to serve others,” reflects Michelle Burke, Director of the Knott Scholarship Funds.

Adds Jim Sellinger, Chancellor of Education for the Archdiocese of Baltimore: “The Knott Scholarship Fund has recognized outstanding student performance and has reinforced the importance of Catholic education provided by the Archdiocese of Baltimore Catholic schools for close to four decades. The students who attend our Archdiocesan Catholic schools are blessed to have the Knott Scholarship Fund recognize their academic excellence in the classroom with full scholarships.”


Together, the legacy of charitable vehicles that Marion and Henry Knott created to benefit the community total more than $150 million. All of these resources create a picture of the causes that our founders cared about and their commitment to students, families, schools, churches, and charities within the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Martin Knott, a Charter Trustee of the Knott Foundation, sums it up like this: “My parents believed in doing good work while they were here, but more importantly, leaving a legacy when they were gone. So what they did is set up a structure that builds a work ethic in the next generation, and an understanding that you have to help other people. The funds they created during their lifetimes have perpetual meaning – in addition to their family, they are a lasting legacy of their morals and values.”

By Kelly Medinger i