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About This Year's Recipient

Jim and Vanita Oelschlager
49th Bert A. Polsky Humanitarian Award recipients

Jim Oelschlager is the founder of Oak Associates, Ltd., an investment firm in Bath Township, and the founder of the Oak Clinic, a nonprofit facility in Uniontown that treats patients with multiple sclerosis, regardless of their ability to pay. 

Jim was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1973. He founded the clinic in 2001 as a comprehensive resource for multiple sclerosis patients’ nursing and medical care, social services, education, rehabilitation and social enrichment. The Oelschlagers remain the Oak Clinic’s primary funders. Vanita, an author and publisher of children’s books, donates a percentage of her revenue to the clinic and other related charities.

The Oelschlagers’ philanthropy has benefited health care organizations throughout the region, including Akron Children’s Hospital. Over three decades, they have donated more than $12 million and created three charitable funds at the hospital: the Oelschlager Center for Child Advocacy Endowment Fund, the Adoption Advocacy Center Fund, and the Global Health Fund, which provides health care resources to children in disadvantaged locations throughout the world. They are also members of Summa Health System’s Cornell Society of donors who have given more than $1 million.

View photos from the most recent Polsky Humanitarian Award event.

In addition to health-related causes, the Oelschlagers have donated more than $19 million to the University of Akron, primarily for scholarships. They founded the Oelschlager Leadership Awards scholarships, as well as the Oelschlager Summer Leadership Institute, a seven-day, on-campus experience for high school seniors who are recommended by their guidance counselors because they might otherwise fall through the cracks. Participants have a GPA lower than 3.0 but are involved in community service and school activities. According to Jim, the institute has yielded “excellent results” for its participants.  

The Oelschlagers also gave $50,000 each to 20 colleges to create student-managed stock funds, which brought winning students to Akron once a year. The goal was to help teach sound investment strategy to students pursuing a career in investment management and those with the potential to serve on boards and investment committees.

After Sept. 11, 2001, Jim heard about Doug Oelschlager, a firefighter unrelated to him who was killed during the attacks. Wanting to do something to help, he contacted Doug’s widow and offered to pay for their two children’s college education.

Jim is an alumnus of Denison University and Northwestern University School of Law, while Vanita is an alumna of the University of Mount Union. The Oelschlagers were the lead donors for new science buildings at both Denison and Mount Union.