EMS to celebrate life of professor C. Gregory Knight

October 15, 2015

A Celebration of Life gathering will be held at 3:30 p.m. on Oct, 23, in Robb Hall at the Hintz Family Alumni Center on the University Park campus of Penn State to celebrate the life of beloved faculty member C. Gregory Knight. A faculty member for 40 years in College of Earth and Mineral Sciences (EMS), Knight was widely respected by his peers, the many students whose lives he touched and colleagues in his field.

“The department is working closely with Marieta Staneva, Greg’s wife and adjunct geography faculty member, to plan the gathering,” said Cindy Brewer, head of Penn State’s Department of Geography. Knight died Jan. 1.

Knight joined the Penn State faculty in 1971 and retired from the University as professor emeritus of geography on June 29, 2011.

“Knight will be remembered as an excellent colleague, an outstanding teacher and a caring and enthusiastic mentor,” said William Easterling, dean of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences.

To honor Knight, plans have been approved to establish the Dr. C. Gregory Knight Collaborative Learning Laboratory (Knight Lab) in room 229 Walker Building. The Knight Lab will be designed as a collaborative work space for undergraduate students. The design will continue the small-group collaboration and dynamic course structuring held dear by students that Knight fostered during his tenure in geography.

Knight’s research interests were in climate change, water resources, resource management, global environmental change and sustainable development. He is best known for his research on the human use of the environment. He authored books on ecology and change in Tanzania, climate change in Bulgaria and methods for regional assessment of climate change impacts.

Knight served as head of the Department of Geography from 1982 to 1989. During his leadership, the graduate program in geography was ranked second nationally, moving to first shortly after he stepped down as head, and he was responsible for hiring three women to what was then an all-male faculty.

From 1989 to 1993, Knight served as vice provost and dean for undergraduate education and from 1996 to 2002, he served as associate director of the Earth Systems Science Center. He was the founding director of the Center for Integrated Regional Assessment, a National Science Foundation-sponsored center of excellence on climate change impacts. He also served on numerous University committees including the University Faculty Senate as chairman. In 1986, Knight was elected as Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Knight had international research, teaching and collaborative achievements in Africa and Eastern Europe. He had visiting professorships in many countries and from 1994 to 1995, he was a Fulbright Professor of Geography and Acting Dean at the American University in Bulgaria, where he gave the diplomas of the first graduating class and together with Staneva assisted with strengthening the foundations of this emerging institution.

Knight also was active in shaping the curriculum of the Penn State’s School of International Affairs prior to his retirement. The School of International Affairs was officially launched on July 1, 2007 and admitted its inaugural class in 2008.

“Greg was among the initial group of faculty who established the school, and his contributions were critically important to shaping an outstanding program with a strong international resource management component,” said Rod Erickson, president emeritus of Penn State.

Knight graduated cum laude and as a Senior Fellow from Dartmouth College in 1963 with a bachelor of arts in geography. He earned a master’s of arts in geography in 1965 and a doctorate in geography with a minor in anthropology in 1970, both from the University of Minnesota.

Staneva and Knight co-taught a study-abroad course on sustainability taking students to Bulgaria during spring break for several years.

Knight and Staneva were instrumental in establishing the National Coordination Center for Global Change at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and participated in the network-building of International Human Dimensions Program across Central and Eastern Europe.

The Celebration of Life gathering will be casual in nature with refreshments, mingling and memorial statements. Plans and progress on the Knight Lab will be shared. The Penn State community, friends and family are invited to attend.

For more information, visit http://www.geog.psu.edu/news/events/c-gregory-knight-commemoration online.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated October 21, 2015