Born in 1877 in Lawrence Kansas, Solon E. Summerfield conceived of the Solon E. Summerfield Foundation, Inc. as a memorial to his father, Marcus Summerfield, a University of Kansas law professor. Solon E. Summerfield earned a bachelor's degree from KU in 1899, and a Bachelor of Law from KU in 1901. He went on to serve on the Board of Trustees of The Kansas University Endowment Association, and he received KU's Distinguished Service Citation for service to humanity.
After law school, Mr. Summerfield moved to New York City. He borrowed money from his uncle Elias and purchased the Bernstein Ribbon Company and factory. After a year running the business, Mr. Summerfield noted the difficulty of the manufacturing of and the waning market for high grade ribbons, and he was consequently prompted to stake his future on a different product: silk stockings. With another loan from his uncle, he established the Gotham Silk Hosiery Company in 1911. Realizing that the chief weakness of stockings lay in their vulnerability to garter runs, Mr. Summerfield's company invented a technology that prevented garter runs from going the length of the stocking. Gold-dyed thread at the lockstitch prompted the name for the new ''Gotham Gold Stripe'' stockings. By 1925, Gotham had become a publicly owned company listed on the New York Stock Exchange. By 1929, Gotham was the nation's leading hosiery manufacturer, and as sales grew, Mr. Summerfield's reputation and legacy of his Foundation were assured.
In June 1929, Mr. Summerfield sent a proposal to the Kansas University Endowment Association, committing himself and ultimately his estate to ''maintain a series of scholarships at the University of Kansas, to be awarded on the basis of merit'' that would ''enable deserving boys to go through the full four-year course at the University.'' That same year, sparked by Mr. Summerfield's desire to establish merit scholarships, the Solon E. Summerfield Foundation, Inc. was thus formed.