Metro State mourns loss of Associate Provost Douglas Knowlton

Metro State mourns loss of Associate Provost Douglas Knowlton
Photo courtesy of Metropolitan State University
Scott Lindell

Scott Lindell

Scott Lindell is the Associate Editor of the Metropolitan Student Newspaper.

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Dr. Dou­glas D. “Doug” Knowl­ton, Asso­ciate Provost for Stu­dent Suc­cess at Met­ro­pol­i­tan State Uni­ver­sity, died July 5. He was 67 and a res­i­dent of St. Paul.

Knowl­ton came to Metro State in July 2013. He had been serv­ing as Vice Chan­cel­lor for Aca­d­e­mic and Stu­dent Affairs for Min­nesota State Col­leges and Uni­ver­si­ties, but missed day-​to-​day inter­ac­tions with stu­dents. He jumped at the oppor­tu­nity to work on a cam­pus again.

He brought with him a wealth of uni­ver­sity lead­er­ship expe­ri­ence. Knowl­ton was a for­mer pres­i­dent of Dakota State Uni­ver­sity, and Vice Chan­cel­lor for Aca­d­e­mic Affairs of Uni­ver­sity of Min­nesota, Crook­ston. “He was well-​respected across the sys­tem,” said Greg Mel­las, direc­tor of Metro State’s Insti­tute for Com­mu­nity Engage­ment and Schol­ar­ship (ICES).

A sea­soned leader

Knowl­ton made an impres­sion on cam­pus with his friendly and per­son­able man­ner. Col­leagues val­ued Knowlton’s expe­ri­ence, wis­dom and the work he had done at other insti­tu­tions. He had a knack for keep­ing meet­ings pro­duc­tive and on sched­ule, Mel­las said.

As asso­ciate provost, Knowl­ton over­saw the depart­ments that sup­port stu­dent suc­cess. He worked with advi­sors, the Cen­ter for Acces­si­bil­ity Resources, the Dean of Stu­dents, Health­care and Well­ness Ser­vices and the Stu­dent Par­ent Center.

A rela­tion­ship builder

Ear­lier this year, Knowl­ton was part of a nine-​person search com­mit­tee to hire a new chief advance­ment offi­cer. When Rita Dib­ble was selected, Knowl­ton arranged a cof­fee meet­ing for her and the search com­mit­tee. This gath­er­ing gave Dib­ble a chance to recon­nect with peo­ple she met dur­ing the screen­ing process. It was a “warm way to wel­come her to cam­pus,” said Greg Mel­las, ICES Director.

Before Col­lege of Sci­ences Dean Tom Nel­son died last year, Knowl­ton wanted Nel­son to know that every­one at Metro State was think­ing of him. He gath­ered col­leagues to put together a gift bag with cards and notes. “Doug would think of it and sug­gest those types of things,” said Mellas.

Knowl­ton under­stood the impor­tance of rela­tion­ships. “He would make peo­ple feel val­ued out­side their con­tri­bu­tions as employ­ees,” said Mel­las. Knowl­ton often took time to chat with cowork­ers just to see how they were doing. “Peo­ple loved that,” Mel­las said. “They admired Doug because of that.”

A coun­selor

Mel­las also described Knowl­ton, a trained clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist, as being “deeply con­cerned with how peo­ple feel.” Col­leagues con­sid­ered Knowl­ton a calm pres­ence and a coun­selor at heart. “Peo­ple will remem­ber Doug for how he made peo­ple feel,” Mel­las said.

Pres­i­dent Ginny Arthur recalled a story that “epit­o­mizes Doug’s char­ac­ter­is­tics — kind­ness, gen­eros­ity and compassion.”

On a sum­mer morn­ing in June, a man was sit­ting in the recep­tion area next to the offices in Great Hall. He was cry­ing. “He was a lit­tle bit con­fused, lost, did not real­ize that this was a uni­ver­sity, but thought this was a place that could help him,” Arthur said.

Knowl­ton noticed the man and stopped to talk with him. Dur­ing their con­ver­sa­tion, Knowl­ton found out that the man was home­less and needed assis­tance. He walked him up the street to First Lutheran Church, which pro­vides ser­vices to the home­less. Knowl­ton also gave him a bus pass so he would have the trans­porta­tion he needed.

A will­ing­ness to take time out of his day to make sure that some­one was cared for. A lot of peo­ple would tell sto­ries about that, about Doug,” Arthur said.

An advo­cate for students

Knowl­ton often assisted stu­dents with their aca­d­e­mic and per­sonal issues. He was empa­thetic to hard-​working stu­dents and the chal­lenges they faced.

Doug clearly cared very much about stu­dents,” said Arthur. “That is why he decided he wanted to come to a cam­pus. He was very com­pas­sion­ate. In deal­ing with stu­dents, he was always under­stand­ing. He responded to stu­dents promptly. He helped lead them through the process. He really men­tored stu­dents that he came into con­tact with.”

She said stu­dents would seek out Knowl­ton as a men­tor even after their prob­lems were resolved.

In addi­tion to his asso­ciate provost duties, Knowl­ton vol­un­teered to tutor stu­dents in the Cen­ter for Aca­d­e­mic Excel­lence (CAE). Dr. Jules Thomp­son, CAE Direc­tor, noticed Knowlton’s apti­tude for help­ing stu­dents with their course­work. He was “so tal­ented at set­ting his stu­dents at ease,” she said.

He was so accept­ing, really encour­aged people’s cre­ativ­ity and problem-​solving skills,” Thomp­son said. “He was about empow­er­ing stu­dents to do their best work.”

Pro­fes­sor Suzanne Nielsen, Com­mu­ni­ca­tion, Writ­ing and the Arts Depart­ment and tutor coor­di­na­tor noted Knowlton’s “unas­sum­ing” nature when meet­ing stu­dents. “He had a very casual demeanor with stu­dents, which made them very com­fort­able,” she said.

A last­ing impact

Knowl­ton taught PSYC 300 Abnor­mal Psy­chol­ogy on Wednes­day evenings dur­ing sum­mer semes­ter. His stu­dents are griev­ing from the sud­den loss, Nielsen said. “Stu­dents loved him.”

Thomp­son cred­its Knowl­ton for build­ing com­mu­nity at Metro State by mak­ing every­one feel wel­come and encour­aged. “He really under­stood the sig­nif­i­cant role that stu­dent sup­port ser­vices can play in a student’s life and in a student’s expe­ri­ence in higher edu­ca­tion,” she said.

I was trained as a word­smith,” said Thomp­son. “I’m a trained rhetoric scholar and words fail me in this sit­u­a­tion because the loss is so devastating.”

Knowl­ton is sur­vived by his wife, two sons, two grand­chil­dren and a brother.

Memo­ri­als may be made to the Met­ro­pol­i­tan State Uni­ver­sity Foun­da­tion, Attn: Doug Knowl­ton Memo­r­ial Gift; Dakota State Uni­ver­sity Foun­da­tion, Attn: Dr. Dou­glas and Sharon Knowl­ton Endow­ment; or Cen­tral Pres­by­ter­ian Church.

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