Montana State University

Former MSU administrator to memorialize wife with $100,000 gift to MSU library

April 15, 2011 -- By Evelyn Boswell, MSU News Service

Former MSU administrator and professor Stuart Knapp, also known for painting pumpkins with designs of Coastal Indians of the Pacific Northwest, plans to honor his late wife with a gift to the MSU library. (MSU photo by Kelly Gorham).   High-Res Available

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
BOZEMAN - A retired Montana State University administrator and professor who still follows student successes at MSU will honor his late wife by donating $100,000 to the university library.

Stuart Knapp, 82, made an estate gift in Bev Knapp's name that will provide for book and electronic materials collections at the MSU library after his death, said Patricia Gleason, the library's director of development. The library provides critical information resources to support research and educational needs for students and faculty at MSU.

Bev Knapp, who died last year at age 78, was a strong supporter of the MSU library, Stuart Knapp said. She also chaired the Bozeman Public Library board, looked after its interests as a Bozeman city commissioner and served as president of the Montana Library Association. She was believed to be the only non-librarian elected to that position at the time.

Bev Knapp earned her bachelor's degree in journalism and English from the University of Idaho-Moscow. An avid reader, she especially enjoyed reading books by Tony Hillerman, Patrick O'Brian and Ellis Peters, Knapp said. She regularly read to the couple's two sons and took them to the library when they were children.

"I think the first people the kids met outside of medical staff when they were little were librarians," Knapp said.

Bev and Stuart owned several thousand books before moving from their home into an apartment a few years ago, Knapp said. They donated many of those books to the MSU and Bozeman libraries.

Gleason said Knapp's gift is much appreciated and an inspiration to all those who knew Bev, as well as being an example of how one person can make a difference. Once funded, the endowment created by Knapp's gift will benefit thousands of students and faculty, both now and throughout the future.

"The legacy you are providing affects the quality of education across all disciplines, providing essential resources for the entire academic venture at Montana State," Gleason wrote Knapp in a letter thanking him for his gift.

Knapp's donation reflects his student-focused career, Gleason said. In fact, Knapp is still remembered as an administrator who often said, "Never forget. It's all about students, students, students."

Knapp said he wanted to give to MSU because "We were part of MSU and wanted to be remembered as having been part of the MSU family. I never had any second thoughts, no regrets. I love this university."

Knapp came to MSU in 1978 and became well-respected for his ability to serve the university with excellence in a variety of capacities, including vice president for academic affairs, acting president, parasitology professor, adjunct professor of entomology, deputy commissioner for academic affairs for the Montana University System, and interim dean of MSU's College of Agriculture and director of the Montana Agricultural Experiment Station. During those years, he instituted several MSU programs that promoted quality undergraduate education, student excellence, teaching and learning. Among them was MSU's Honors Program. Knapp retired in 1999.

Through it all, Bev was by his side, Knapp said. He added that Bev held several jobs over the years, but he is sorry that she sacrificed her career for his.

"She could've been very successful in any number of fields," Knapp said.

Describing Bev's many interests and adventures, Knapp said his wife loved politics and chaired the Democratic central committee in Gallatin County. She enjoyed traveling, visiting museums, playing bridge, cooking gourmet meals and growing herbs. Especially important to her were her weekly hikes with her friends in the Bozeman Women's Activity Groups (BWAGs).

The women encountered moose, rattlesnakes and a logging truck at close range, but nothing deterred them from their Wednesday hikes, Knapp said. One time they camped overnight near Norris. They planned to eat cereal for breakfast, but someone forgot the milk, so they poured pina coladas into their cereal instead.

"She liked to tell that story to show how adaptable they were," Knapp said.

The Knapps started bird watching together during their dating years and continued throughout their marriage. The couple met on the first day of Bev's freshman year at Pacific University when Stuart offered to carry Bev's luggage into her dormitory. They married when Bev was 19, and Stuart was 22.

The couple also belonged to a gourmet meal club, although Knapp still chuckles about a "total disaster" with pig knuckles and the nickname ("Burnie") that Bev acquired after burning a long-forgotten dish.

His wife of 59 years left him too soon, Knapp commented.

He added that his gift is one way to honor her and keep her memory alive for generations to come.

Despite having Parkinson's disease, hip replacements and other health problems, Knapp continues to stay busy and pick up new hobbies. He recently led a busload of senior citizens on a birding trip through Gallatin County. While hospitalized this winter, he started sketching magpies outside of his window. He has since started to paint with water colors and draw cartoons.

Knapp hadn't skied since 1983, but he recently skied at Bridger Bowl with the assistance of Eagle Mount's therapeutic recreation volunteers. He exercises twice a week in the Eagle Mount swimming pool and meets regularly with friends. He talks about visiting South Africa again. He continues to paint designs of the Coastal Indians of the Pacific Northwest on pumpkins, a tradition he started almost 45 years ago.

He also keeps up with the accomplishments of MSU students, noting that two more undergraduates recently won the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship.

After all, Knapp said, "It's all about students, students, students."

For related articles, read:

"Stu Knapp: Still painting pumpkins after 43 years"

"Because of Stu Knapp, wide array of MSU programs took flight"

Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or