One of Derek Knight’s most vivid memories at Brock was the day the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWFSPA) was officially opened at its new downtown St. Catharines location in 2015.
“Happiest and proudest was Marilyn Walker whose unprecedented gift of $15 million had enabled this day,” he said. “Most importantly, it signified her core vision to provide local Niagara students the incentive to come to Brock and follow their individual passion for the arts.”
Knight, who is an Associate Professor with the School’s Visual Arts Department, is among nearly two dozen Brock University employees retiring this month.
While he packs up his personal items and says farewell to colleagues at the downtown arts building, Knight has been reflecting on the fond memories and proud achievements of his past 37 years at Brock.
He joined Brock in 1985 as a full-time contract lecturer and taught core courses in the history of art, as well as a course in interdisciplinary studio. Once tenured, he developed more advanced courses in 19th and 20th century European and North American art, as well as contemporary art and theory. He was also a core academic member of the master’s program in Studies in Comparative Literatures and Arts.
In 2010, Knight was named the second Director of the MIWSFPA during a crucial time in the evolution of the School and its facilities. In this role, which he held until 2017, he co-ordinated the needs of colleagues in Dramatic Arts, Music, Visual Arts, and Studies in Arts and Culture during the construction phase of the School’s new downtown location.
“It was a period of great optimism and a privilege to have participated in such an important venture in which the fine and performing arts were recognized as crucial to the Humanities and the University in general,” he said.
Also in 2010, Knight was named the first Marilyn I. Walker Chair in Creativity, Imagination and Innovation, an honour associated with his role as MIWSFPA Director. It was the first privately endowed Chair in the history of Brock.
“I was able to expand my research into the rising phenomenon of the biennial art exhibition — attending and documenting exhibits in Toronto, New York, Liverpool and Venice, as well as international blockbusters such as Documenta in Kassel and the Munster Skulptur Projekte in Germany,” he said.
Beyond his research and administrative duties at the University, Knight said the most enjoyable aspect of his role has been the opportunity to teach resourceful and dedicated students.
“As a program, we shared a common goal in introducing our students to the strong work ethic and demands of their chosen discipline in the visual arts by offering unique opportunities to exhibit, catalogue and discuss their work in a variety of public contexts, including Rodman Hall,” he said.
Although Knight will miss his students and colleagues at Brock, he is looking forward to his retirement, which officially begins Sunday, Jan. 1. He hopes to finish writing a novel he began three years ago, spend more time in Europe, and possibly to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.
Employees retiring December 2022
- Laurie Battista, Cleaner, Custodial Services, seven years of service
- Sheila Bennett, Professor, Educational Studies, 25 years of service
- Leah Bradshaw, Professor, Political Science, 36 years of service
- Betty Chambers, Assistant to the University Librarian, 16 years of service
- Janet Conway, Professor, Sociology, 15 years of service
- Vincenzo De Luca, Professor, Biological Sciences, 21 years of service
- Maurice Feldman, Professor, Applied Disability Studies, 19 years of service
- Karen Fricker, Associate Professor, Dramatic Arts, nine years of service
- Derek Knight, Professor, Visual Arts, 37 years of service
- Jane Koustas, Professor, Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures, 31 years of service
- Penni Lafleur, Academic Administrator, Communications, Popular Culture and Film, 17 years of service
- Caroline Lidstone, Assistant Secretary to the University, Office of the University Secretariat, 37 years of service
- Daniel McCarthy, Associate Professor, Earth Sciences, 27 years of service
- Thomas O’Neil, Professor, Child and Youth Studies, 23 years of service
- Gyllian Raby, Associate Professor, Dramatic Arts, 21 years of service
- Murray Smith, Professor, Sociology, 29 years of service
- Tony Tavano, Cleaner, Leadhand, Custodial Services, 19 years of service
- Susan Tilley, Professor, Educational Studies, 23 years of service
- Arthur Van Der Est, Professor, Chemistry, 23 years of service
- Ernesto Virgulti, Professor, Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures, 37 years of service
- Heather Williamson, Cleaner, Custodial Services, 10 years of service