Storied USD professor Knutson passes away at 89

Longtime University of South Dakota (USD) professor Wayne Knutson passed away Monday.

School officials described Knutson, 89, as a dedicated professor with a strong commitment to his creative interests.

“Dr. Wayne Knutson was an amazing man, with many areas of interest and many talents,” Dean of USD’s College of Fine Arts Larry Schou said. “He spent his career at USD helping build up the programs in theater, in English, at the Black Hills Playhouse (where USD students perform) and in the College of Fine Arts. One of the many things I will remember about Wayne was his passion for storytelling and his concept of working hard and doing the job well."

Knutson began his career at USD in 1952 as a professor of speech and drama. He also directed the university's theater. Knutson went on to hold posts as chair of the Department of English, dean of the College of Fine Arts, and vice president for academic affairs. At various times, Knutson taught fine arts, English, and theater. Outside the classroom, Knutson authored plays and librettos. In 1986, he received the Governor’s Award for Distinction in Creative Achievement, one of several honors earned throughout his career.

Speaking to a local paper this year, Knutson viewed his life as if it were another great work of drama.

"It all becomes a big story," Knutson said. "Like any story, it has chapters. Grade school, high school, college, marriage, family, profession, and then you come to the final chapter of life. That's where we're at. You still don't know how it's going to end, like a good book. You don't want to go to the last page to see how it ends, you'll wait for it. Time is more precious, spouses become more important than ever. Friends from way back become important. It's been a very good trip from the time I was a first grader in a one-room rural school. I happen to think I had a marvelous life.”

Knutson was born in Roberts County, South Dakota in 1926. He had been dealing with heart problems.

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