Montana State University

Memorial service set June 19 for Stu Knapp, one of MSU's great utility players

June 3, 2013 -- MSU News Service

Stu Knapp (2010 photo by Kelly Gorham).

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Tel: (406) 994-4571

BOZEMAN – Stuart Knapp, a long-time administrator and professor known for his commitment to students and his versatile service to Montana State University and the Montana University System, died May 25, 2013 in Bozeman.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday, June 19, at the Pilgrim Congregational Church in Bozeman. 

Knapp, 84, came to MSU in 1978 and spent the next 21 years serving the university in a variety of capacities that made him one of MSU’s greatest utility players, according to those who knew him. He was vice-president for academic affairs, acting president, parasitology professor in the Department of Veterinary Molecular Biology, adjunct professor of entomology, interim dean of the College of Agriculture and director of the Montana Agricultural Experiment Station. From 1996 through 1998, he also served as deputy commissioner for academic affairs for the Montana University System.

From those positions, Knapp started MSU’s International Studies program and signed off on the grant proposal that established MSU’s writing lab.  As vice president, Knapp established the University Honors Program in 1981. He designed an honors course entitled  "Great Expeditions" and followed the many subsequent expeditions with great interest. Together with then-President Bill Tietz,  Knapp established the Presidential Scholarship Program in 1984, attracting high achieving students to Montana State University. Knapp spearheaded the university's efforts to compete for national scholarships such as the Goldwater and Rhodes scholarships, and delighted in the students who won those awards over the years.

Knapp also wrote a grant to study regional education telecommunications and designed courses that followed the grain and beef when it left Montana. He helped organize MSU’s undergraduate research and creativity program and teaching-learning committees. He taught classes on Lewis and Clark for MSU’s Elderhostel program and organized three trips to Africa.

As a researcher, Knapp published scientific articles that focused on parasites, whether they involved dogs, rainbow trout, bison, elk or Cashmere goats in Montana or rhinoceroses in southern Africa.

Before coming to MSU, Knapp spent nearly 20 years at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Ore., where he also served in a variety of roles. They included associate and full professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine, director of the University Honors Program and dean of Undergraduate Studies.

Among his many awards, Knapp won MSU’s Blue and Gold Award and the Honors Program Distinguished Service Award.

“I loved higher education,” he once said, explaining why he delayed his retirement until age 70. “To me, it’s a pleasure to work with students. I like to work with faculty. Old or young, it didn’t make any difference.”

He enjoyed all of his jobs at MSU, whether he was teaching undergraduate students, mentoring grad students or learning how to better incorporate research into MSU’s curriculum, Knapp said. He is remembered for saying, “Never forget. It’s all about students, students, students.”

Knapp finally retired in 1999, but he stayed in close contact with his MSU colleagues and kept active despite hip replacements, a pacemaker and Parkinson’s disease. He was council president for the senior community where he and his late wife, Bev, lived. He was a member of the Bicentennial Committee and board of directors for the Lewis and Clark Foundation. He was a member of the Yellowstone Association Board of Trustees and a board member for the Montana Committee for the Humanities.

In his spare time, Knapp loved to go birding. During one 2010 trip alone, he was thrilled to see more than 1,000 birds from 37 species on the Heeb Pond near Manhattan.

“It doesn’t get any better than this,” he said.

For more than four decades, ever since his two sons were young and he worried about them carving pumpkins for Halloween, Knapp painted pumpkins to look like they were designed by coastal Indians in the Pacific Northwest.  

Northwest coastal Indian art was one of his many interests, Knapp said. He was also an avid reader who collected rare books. He painted pictures. He loved skiing and was very proud that he continued to ski during the last years of his life through Eagle Mount, which made a video of one of his snow days:

Knapp also loved traveling, fly-fishing and a fitting joke. He was devoted to his wife, children and grandchildren. He was committed to his friends, students and MSU.

Memorial contributions may be sent to the University Honors Program at Montana State University, P.O. Box 172140, Bozeman, MT, 59717.

Arrangements are in the care of Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service,

To read a complete obituary, go to


Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or