Thaxton said he expects Knopf’s continued friendship and leadership now that he can participate in even more OLLI offerings “to enjoy what he so lovingly created over these many years.”

Dancing 'between worlds of practice, theory, pedagogy, scholarship'

OLLI at ASU faculty research associate Craig Talmage will become an associate professor in management and entrepreneurship at Hobart & William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York, in July. He said Knopf is one of only a handful of professors who know how to challenge students to construe the world as a plethora of interlinking systems.

“I swear that neurons in my brain rewired themselves so differently after taking his courses, having him mentor me through my dissertation, engaging in our informal conversations in pubs and then crafting well over 20 publications together since 2014,” Talmage said. “He dances between the worlds of practice, theory, pedagogy and scholarship, using steps one can easily follow, yet few hardly ever achieve.”

Talmage said Knopf’s “kindness and care for his students surpasses the expectations of the profession and leads to lifelong connections that inspire such models of love to others in their work as well.”

OLLI at ASU member Kathleen Adamson said she first met Knopf in a class that taught better communication among people who disagree, but she didn’t know he headed OLLI at ASU or was a professor.

“He was just one of two fellow students who I worked with on listening exercises. We practiced what we had been taught and all of us in the class got to know each other a little bit,” Adamson said.

“Fast-forward a few weeks. Rick recruited me to the OLLI Fundraising Committee where I began working with him and others to raise financial resources for OLLI programming at ASU. Since then, we have become great friends, working together and sharing similar values and goals,” she said. “Rick is remarkably kind and generous, sharing ideas and opinions, inviting others into his family. He is learned and thoughtful without being pompous. He is engaged and welcomes others’ engagement.”

'Tender heart and penetrating intellect'

Bjørn Peterson, an OLLI at ASU senior research associate, said Knopf has been one of his life’s most important figures who defies “easy titles or roles.”

“Rick is the rare person whose tender heart and penetrating intellect create spaciousness for true, wholistic inquiry. Like the best traveling companion one could ask for, he’s ready to accompany his colleagues and communities into whatever journey they require while deepening the meaning and rigor with which they explore,” Peterson said. “Rick’s hospitality for learning and being is perhaps his defining characteristic. He has lived a life of tremendous accomplishment, yet maintains a beginner’s heart and mind, choosing wisdom and compassion over certainty and ego again and again. His questions draw people out, never to embarrass or rebuke, but always with the intent to deepen understanding.”

Peterson said anyone who spends 10 minutes with Knopf in the community will find themselves with 10 new friends, “having heard 10 profound revelations of humanity from people who were strangers just moments before. And you will be smiling. I couldn’t love him more.”

Knopf said the vibrancy of the university campus will be one thing he will miss most.

“I will miss the serendipitous encounter of students in the UCENT lobby and of those strolling through the halls,” he said. “There is great power and wisdom through the encounter that emerges from the everyday lived experience of the university, where people interact, gain stature, wisdom and excitement about life and its potential. People talking about who they are, what they want to be. The unexpected enlightenment of seeing the world through someone else’s eyes. That’s the miracle of the university.”

Knopf’s career was celebrated April 12 at the inaugural OLLI at ASU Night of Excellence. He will be the School of Community Resources and Development’s guest of honor at a reception in early May.

Mark J. Scarp

Media Relations Officer, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions