Metro State mourns loss of Associate Provost Douglas Knowlton

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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.