Douglas Knight

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Photograph of Douglas Maitland Knight, 5th president of Duke University.

Douglas Maitland Knight (June 8, 1921 – January 23, 2005) was an American educator, businessman, and author. He was a former professor of literature at Yale University prior to his presidency at Lawrence College from 1954 to 1963. Stemming from his work at Lawrence College was his subsequent term as president of Duke University, where he served until he resigned in 1969 following student protests and the takeover of the university’s main administrative building by students calling for a black cultural center and African-American studies program, among other things.[1][2] Controversy over these issues led to his transition into the business world at RCA and Questar Corporation. Knight never fully retired, and was known to consult for Questar’s Board of Trustees years after his departure.

Early life and education[edit]

Douglas Maitland Knight was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts.[3] He attended Yale University in 1938 and earned all three of his degrees in English there: his B.A. in 1942, his M.A. in 1944, and finally his Ph.D. in 1946.[4] After completing his doctoral studies, Knight remained at Yale undertaking research and would eventually make tenure. Knight was particularly interested in Alexander Pope, the great 18th-century poet and translator of Homer.[5] Knight studied Pope’s use of the heroic couplet and his translations of Homer’s “Illiad” and “Odyssey.” In one work, Knight compared Pope to Homer and found that Pope was more a student of Homer’s than he was a mere translator.[6] Dr. Knight also received 12 honorary degrees from colleges and universities throughout the country, including degrees from both of his former homes, Lawrence College and Duke University, as well as institutions such as Knox College and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.[7][8][9]

Presidency at Lawrence College[edit]

In 1954, 32-year-old Knight was chosen to succeed Dr. Nathan M. Pusey as the President of Lawrence College.[10] At the time, Knight was the youngest college president in the nation.[11] For the next nine years, Knight would leave his Midas touch all over Lawrence College’s 48-acre campus, eventually attracting the attention of Duke University’s nationwide search for a new president.[12] During Knight’s office, Lawrence saw a 100% increase in the book value of the physical plant and a 150% increase in the value of the endowment. Faculty salaries were doubled and the curricular structure was revolutionized to create a “three-term, three-course plan.”[13] Knight impacted Lawrence College in a hugely positive way during his stay there, but would go on to experience more controversial success at Duke University.

Presidency at Duke University[edit]

On January 1, 1964, Knight assumed his duties as President of Duke University.[14] One of the first actions Knight took as president was the creation of the Fifth Decade Program. The Fifth Decade Program was a ten-year plan to expand educational and research programs, strengthen the faculty, and upgrade the physical plant.[15]

The Duke Vigil[edit]

The Duke Vigil was a weeklong silent demonstration that began on April 5, 1968 following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 450 students marched 3 miles to Dr. Knight’s home to deliver a list of the following demands for a restructuring of the University into something less menacing to African American students: “(1) That he [Knight] sign an advertisement to be published in the Durham Morning Herald calling for a day of mourning; (2) That he press for the $1.60 wage for University employees; (3) That he resign from the then-segregated Hope Valley Country Club; (4) That he appoint a committee of students, faculty and workers to make recommendations concerning collective bargaining and union recognition at Duke.”

Knight invited students into his home and spent the entire night negotiating the terms of their demands. Knight faced criticism from the Board of Trustees over his “permissiveness,” but weathered the storm.[16][17]

Takeover of the Allen Building[edit]

The timing of the Allen Building takeover coincided perfectly with a weeklong campus event known as Black Week. In the Black Week of 1969, Duke University’s own African American paper, the Harambee, made its debut, featuring many incendiary articles on the subject of the standing of the Black man at Duke. The debut was spurred by the administrations feigned “involvement” in the activities of Black Week. President Knight and his staff made a grand total of zero appearances at events celebrating African American culture and diversity. In a statement of purpose by the Editorial Board of the Harambee, the paper’s message as well as the message behind Chuck Hopkins’s abstract letter was summarized: “Blacks believe that the blatant racism, subtle bigotry, dehumanizing effects of shallow liberalism and the belief that a white ‘superior’ culture is liberating the minds of Black people generated our present mentality. Moving from this point, Blacks believe that if the university community recognizes their acts of indignation and the students’ frustrations, we can solve the problem.”[18]

This quite constructive excerpt from the Harambee highlights a dying optimism that change at Duke was possible without radical action, however. The majority of African American students at Duke were of the belief that discussion could do no more for their complaints.[19] It was with this in mind that the group of seventy-some-odd students invaded the offices of the Allen Building and barricaded the doors. In their list of demands, included below in Figure 1, the “Malcolm X Liberation School,” as the group referred to themselves, cited additional reasons for the takeover.[20] Among these, two major points were the admission criteria for Black students and the rumored budget cuts to Black scholarships coming in the following Fall.[21] Declaring that the SAT was aimed at measuring the aptitude of the white middle class and that it failed when applied to students from different socioeconomic backgrounds, the students demanded that academic achievement in high school be the sole criterion for the admission of Black students.[22] They hoped that this would increase the number of African American students at Duke, which at the time sat at a meager 100 students, to something more representative of the Black population of the Southeast.[23]

The response to the Takeover differed between the three main corpora of the school’s community: the students, the Faculty, and the Administration. The student body’s response was largely supportive of the movement.[24] At the time of the expiration of the Administration’s one-hour ultimatum to the occupants, over 2000 white students surrounded the Allen Building to protect the black students inside.[25] These 2000 students battled the platoon of 75 police officers up and down the quad that night, enduring tear gas and baton beatings.[26] That night, over 1500 assembled in Page Auditorium to discuss the ensuing protests and a moratorium on classes.[27]

The students weren’t the only body that stood divided over the issue. In response to a vetoed motion to adjourn considering that every decision had been made without the involvement of the Faculty in the first place, over forty faculty members walked out the door of the General Faculty Meeting in protest.[28] Included among those involved in the police rioting were numerous faculty members.[29] It was no surprise that a large portion of the Faculty attended the meeting in Page Auditorium in support of the three-day strike and boycott of classes.[30] Much of the Faculty felt as if they had been excluded from any and all decision-making processes and dissemination of information regarding the events that had taken place. In the General Faculty Meeting, one member of the Faculty remarked that faculty involvement had entirely eroded and that the Faculty had been cuckolded into a puppet of Douglas Knight.[31] This sentiment is what paved the way for faculty members to see the fight as one of the common vs. the Administration, and jump on the side of the common. The remainder of the Faculty were opposed to the Takeover. Much like the students opposed to the Takeover, these members of the Faculty felt that the move to seize an administrative building was violent, unnecessary, and showed impatience, considering the administration had on numerous occasions claimed to be making progress on the requests of the black students over the prior two years.

Another reason the Faculty felt opposed to the Administration was President Knight’s aura of apathy towards the whole situation. To the General Faculty Meeting to which all were required to attend, Dr. Knight arrived nearly thirty minutes late.[32] Shortly after this, Dr. Knight asked the Vice-Provost to take the chair so that he might “go elsewhere on campus where he might be more useful,” despite the protestations of several members of the faculty.[33] When it was proposed that the use of force be removed from the ultimatum sent to the protesting Allen Building occupants, Dr. Knight responded, “…at certain times, it is impossible to suspend an action.” Before being corrected by a member of the faculty, he admitted that his number one priority was the safety of the University’s records, not the safety of the students inside the Allen Building.[34] It was abundantly clear that President Knight was in full damage-control mode, concerned more with public image than the safety of his own students. Members of the student body even picked up on their University leader’s apathy and humorously included in one of the fliers for a student convocation, “Dr. Knight has been invited…. Will he be there?”[35]

The indifference of the Administration as a whole was a major issue that the Allen Building Takeover exposed. In the weeks following the Takeover, radical reorganization took place within the University, including Dr. Knight’s resignation as President of the University.[36]

Recoil from academia[edit]

After leaving Duke University, Dr. Knight shied away from other offers for administrative positions. Less than a year after his resignation, Knight took a position as vice president of educational development for RCA Corp., an American electronics company. Knight found immediate success at RCA; two years later he became the president of RCA Iran.

In 1976, Knight continued his new career in business as president of Questar Corporation, a company that manufactured high-precision lenses for astronomical, industrial, and medical applications. Knight stayed with Questar for the next three decades, coming to be the owner of the company when its previous owner Marguerite Braymer passed away in 1996. In 2001, Knight sold Questar to Donald Bandurick but stayed on as a consultant throughout his brief retirement.[37]

Authorship[edit]

Douglas Knight is the author of several published books as well as many other scholarly articles and letters. See the table below for a complete list of his works.

Publication date Title of work
1951 Religious Implications in the Humanities
1951 Alexander Pope and the Heroic Tradition: A Critical Study of His Illiad
1960 The Federal Government and Higher Education
1967 Medical Ventures and the University
1969 Libraries at Large: Tradition, Innovation, and the National Interest
1971 The Dark Gate
1989 Street of Dreams: The Nature and Legacy of the 1960s
2002 The Dancer and the Dance

Death[edit]

Douglas Knight passed away in Doylestown, PA on Sunday, January 23, 2005 from complications arising from pneumonia. He is survived by his wife, Grace, and his four sons, Christopher, Douglas Jr., Thomas, and Stephan.[38]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://lux.lawrence.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3390&context=lawrentian
  2. ^ http://today.duke.edu/2005/01/knight_0105.html
  3. ^ Ibid.
  4. ^ http://lux.lawrence.edu/presidentialportraits/6/
  5. ^ http://lux.lawrence.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3390&context=lawrentian
  6. ^ “Alexander Pope and the Heroic Tradition.” Douglas M. Knight, 1951. Yale University Press. Accessed November 7, 2014.
  7. ^ http://library.unc.edu/wilson/ncc/honorary_degrees/
  8. ^ http://www.knox.edu/about-knox/our-history/honorary-degrees/honorary-degrees-1900-1999
  9. ^ https://www.lawrence.edu/info/offices/president/presidential_history
  10. ^ http://lux.lawrence.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3390&context=lawrentian
  11. ^ Ibid.
  12. ^ Ibid.
  13. ^ Ibid.
  14. ^ Ibid.
  15. ^ http://library.duke.edu/rubenstein/findingaids/uafifth/
  16. ^ http://library.duke.edu/rubenstein/findingaids/uavigil/
  17. ^ http://www.dukechronicle.com/articles/2005/01/24/dukes-5th-president-leaves-mixed-legacy
  18. ^ Editorial Board. “Statement of purpose—to educate the White masses.” Harambee. February 5, 1969. Box 1. Folder 2. Allen Building Takeover Collection, 1969-2002. Rubenstein Library. Duke University. http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/media/jpg/uaallenbldg/med/abtms01002019.jpg (accessed September 16, 2014).
  19. ^ Hobbs, M.E.. “First conversation between Dr. Hobbs and black students, at window of Allen Building, about 12:15p.m., Feb. 13, 1969.” February 13, 1969. Box 1. Folder 4. Allen Building Takeover Collection, 1969-2002. Rubenstein Library. Duke University. http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/media/jpg/uaallenbldg/med/abtms01004035.jpg (accessed September 16, 2014).
  20. ^ “The Black Demands.” February 13, 1969. Box 1. Folder 3. Allen Building Takeover Collection, 1969-2002. Rubenstein Library. Duke University. http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/media/jpg/uaallenbldg/med/abtms01003005.jpg (accessed September 16, 2014).
  21. ^ Ibid.
  22. ^ Ibid.
  23. ^ Vlasits, George. “Reflections on a night at the theater of the absurd.” The Radish. February 14, 1969. Box 1. Folder 4. Allen Building Takeover Collection, 1969-2002. Rubenstein Library. Duke University. http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/media/jpg/uaallenbldg/med/abtms01004009.jpg (accessed September 16, 2014).
  24. ^ Switzer, Bob. “Students respond to action by blacks.” The Duke Chronicle. February 14, 1969. Box 1. Folder 10. Allen Building Takeover Collection, 1969-2002. Rubenstein Library. Duke University. http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/media/jpg/uaallenbldg/med/abtms01010027.jpg (accessed September 16, 2014).
  25. ^ Ibid.
  26. ^ Vlasits, George. “Reflections on a night at the theater of the absurd.” The Radish. February 14, 1969. Box 1. Folder 4. Allen Building Takeover Collection, 1969-2002. Rubenstein Library. Duke University. http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/media/jpg/uaallenbldg/med/abtms01004009.jpg (accessed September 16, 2014).
  27. ^ Lydia, Malkia. “Taking over: Twenty years ago, blacks occupied Allen, police responded with teargas.” February 13, 1989. Box 1. Folder 13. Allen Building Takeover Collection, 1969-2002. Rubenstein Library. Duke University. http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/media/jpg/uaallenbldg/med/abtms01013013.jpg (accessed September 16, 2014). (b)(h)
  28. ^ “Minutes: General Faculty Meeting.” Duke University. February 13, 1969. Box 1. Folder 3. Allen Building Takeover Collection, 1969-2002. Rubenstein Library. Duke University. http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/media/jpg/uaallenbldg/med/abtms01003009.jpg (accessed September 16, 2014).
  29. ^ Vlasits, George. “Reflections on a night at the theater of the absurd.” The Radish. February 14, 1969. Box 1. Folder 4. Allen Building Takeover Collection, 1969-2002. Rubenstein Library. Duke University. http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/media/jpg/uaallenbldg/med/abtms01004009.jpg (accessed September 16, 2014).
  30. ^ “Duke Student Strike.” The Radish. February 14, 1969. Box 1. Folder 4. Allen Building Takeover Collection, 1969-2002. Rubenstein Library. Duke University. http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/media/jpg/uaallenbldg/med/abtms01004004.jpg (accessed September 16, 2014).
  31. ^ “Minutes: General Faculty Meeting.” Duke University. February 13, 1969. Box 1. Folder 3. Allen Building Takeover Collection, 1969-2002. Rubenstein Library. Duke University. http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/media/jpg/uaallenbldg/med/abtms01003011.jpg (accessed September 16, 2014).
  32. ^ “Minutes: General Faculty Meeting.” Duke University. February 13, 1969. Box 1. Folder 3. Allen Building Takeover Collection, 1969-2002. Rubenstein Library. Duke University. http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/media/jpg/uaallenbldg/med/abtms01003008.jpg (accessed September 16, 2014).
  33. ^ “Minutes: General Faculty Meeting.” Duke University. February 13, 1969. Box 1. Folder 3. Allen Building Takeover Collection, 1969-2002. Rubenstein Library. Duke University. http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/media/jpg/uaallenbldg/med/abtms01003011.jpg (accessed September 16, 2014).
  34. ^ “Minutes: General Faculty Meeting.” Duke University. February 13, 1969. Box 1. Folder 3. Allen Building Takeover Collection, 1969-2002. Rubenstein Library. Duke University. http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/media/jpg/uaallenbldg/med/abtms01003009.jpg (accessed September 16, 2014).
  35. ^ Flier for Student Convocation. February 15, 1969. Box 1. Folder 4. Allen Building Takeover Collection, 1969-2002. Rubenstein Library. Duke University. http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/media/jpg/uaallenbldg/med/abtms01004011.jpg (accessed September 16, 2014).
  36. ^ Jensen, Gail, and Anne Newman. "Black Thursday at Duke, 1969: Students Seize Allen Building." The Duke Chronicle, September 8, 1975. Box 1. Folder 13. Allen Building Takeover Collection, 1969-2002. Rubenstein Library. Duke University. http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/media/jpg/uaallenbldg/med/abtms01013001.jpg (accessed September 16, 2014).
  37. ^ http://today.duke.edu/2005/01/knight_0105.html
  38. ^ http://today.duke.edu/2005/01/knight_0105.html

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Nathan M. Pusey
President of
Lawrence University

1954–1963
Succeeded by
Curtis William Tarr