When University of Findlay alumnus and Stark County, OH’s newest prosecuting attorney Kyle Stone ’05 was in the second grade, he took a very important test, one that, at the same time, would be a clear indicator of his future. It wasn’t a math test, nor a social studies quiz or English exam. Stone took an aptitude test to see what kind of career he might end up with as an adult. “Three jobs,” Stone said. “Judge, lawyer, teacher. So, since that time I’d wanted to be a lawyer.”
This, Stone continued, led to youthful aspirations, including much studying and mock trials at Canton McKinley where he attended high school. Luckily for UF, it also led to a college fair that he attended as a high schooler, one that pointed him squarely toward the University. “UF was the only school that I applied to,” Stone said. “When they came [to Canton] Scott Murphy, the admissions counselor from Findlay, told me all about the Law and Liberal Arts program that was new at the time, and I just thought, ‘This is perfect!’ I knew right then that UF was what I wanted.”
Stone’s path never wavered through his time at UF, as he began with his focus on law/liberal arts, and graduated with that undergraduate degree, paving his way for law school. It was all that he was involved with in between, however, that helped guide him toward being the first Black prosecutor in Stark County’s history. Relentlessly, Stone pointed himself toward academic progress, and he also filled his time up with activities that would help him to succeed. “You know, I obviously had no idea at that time how important these things were to the position I find myself in now, but they definitely were,” he explained.
To hone his talents as a potential leader, Stone became a resident advisor and served as both student trustee to the Board of Trustees and as the Black Student Union president during his time at UF. Of particular significance, though, was how he came to be in these positions. In another sort of foretelling for his future, Stone said that he decided, specifically in the cases of the BSU president and RA positions, that if he wanted to achieve, he would have to go above and beyond the “normal” path. To increase his chances of being named an RA, for instance, Stone went straight to the top, deciding to ask the president of UF at the time, Dr. Ken Zirkle, to write him a letter of recommendation. “I’d had some exchanges with him before,” he said, “but nothing much. I asked him to do it, though, and he said ‘Sure!’ and I got the position.” And he also chose to shoot straight for the BSU president position right from the start. “I decided I wanted to be president of the BSU. Not the secretary or wherever you’d normally start to work your way up, but the president. And that’s what I did.”
And through graduation from UF, a master’s degree in ministry from Temple Baptist University, and another master’s in public administration plus a juris doctorate, both from The University of Akron (after once again, only applying to one university for his law degree), Stone has remained at the leading end of things. As an attorney in 2017, Stone decided to take on criminal cases – something which he hadn’t done before – because he saw a need for change, both in his life and in the lives of those who were disenfranchised. After beginning to see and experience firsthand the regular trajectory of Stark County’s citizens who were getting caught up in the criminal justice system, Stone realized the need for change, and he knew that it was going to have to start with him. “I was very young when I decided to run for prosecutor,” Stone said. “But I had practiced two years of criminal defense by that point, and the number of clients I had would normally take people five years to get. I was confident in what the Lord was leading me to do.” His campaign, he said, ran exclusively during the height of the COVID pandemic, so it was not an easy thing to pull off. He started fundraising, being told that he would need to raise approximately $50,000 to succeed. Stone and his campaign raised $12,000. Bolstered, however, with a great amount of inner-city votes and strong party support, he ended up winning the race by about 4400 votes. “My predecessor had won by 659 four years prior,” Stone said. “So, that’s quite a swing.”
Stone is the only Black county prosecutor in Ohio and just the second ever to be elected in the state, and the leadership that he began to refine as a UF student has led him toward being not just a prosecutor, but an advocate for justice. With the support of police, the sheriff’s office, and pastors and churches with ties to the community, he released the Safer Streets Initiative to combat violent crime, especially gun violence, and to remove some of the barriers that individuals within the system encounter once they serve their debt to society. The initiative, which Stone said will hopefully “produce more knowledge and productivity,” has included a community gun buyback, discounted concealed carry classes, the assembling of crime watch groups, and an online record-sealing clinic. “As a prosecutor, whatever action takes place by the individual should be in an effort to implement programs like this, support community efforts, and change and improve the criminal justice system,” Stone said. “I believe we’re doing that.”
The wide benefits of his time as an Oiler, Stone said, helped him in various ways, from friendship to leadership. He explained that UF, and the programs and activities through which he became involved at the University, fostered an even better understanding of “how to interact with people across multiple cultural experiences,” and that that social education assisted him in meeting friends from many walks of life, including current UF head golf coach Dominic Guarnieri, whom he met when both were UF freshmen and dorm-mates in Fox Hall. The pair are close friends to this day, their families periodically getting together for dinners and recollection.
The mens’ kinship and their different, yet similar positions as leaders are no coincidence in Stone’s eyes, for it’s a part of what comes with a UF education, and just some of what alumni put out into the world as a result. “We were and are all brought together to learn at UF, inside and outside of the classroom. As president of the BSU, for example, we learned culture and history, and were exposed to each others’ backgrounds. The overall experience at UF helped to refine and prepare me as a leader, I know that; but little did I know the trajectory,” Stone said.