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Former W&L French Professor Russ Knudson Dies at 79

Russell C. Knudson, associate professor of Romance languages emeritus and a part-time member of the Admissions Office, died on Sunday, April 14, 2013, at his home in Lexington. He was 79.

A memorial service will be held at R.E. Lee Memorial Episcopal Church at 11 a.m. on Friday, April 19. The family will greet friends following the service in the Parish Hall.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial donations be made to Rockbridge Area Hospice or R.E. Lee Memorial Episcopal Church.

Knudson served on the faculty for 33 years. A year after his retirement in 1999, he joined admissions and spent the next dozen years interviewing prospective students and helping to guide them and their families through the process of applying to W&L.

“Russ was a wonderful member of the W&L community in many ways,” said Washington and Lee President Kenneth P. Ruscio. “Generations of students knew him as a French teacher, but an entirely different generation got to know him during admissions interviews and information sessions. His impact on the University spans almost half a century, and we send our deepest sympathy to his family and many friends.”

A native of Illinois, Knudson grew up on a farm in Minooka, Ill., just outside Joliet. He received bachelor’s degrees in music and in French from Illinois State University, and an M.A. in French from the University of Illinois. He did additional graduate work at the University of Wisconsin.

At W&L, Knudson taught popular French courses in conversation and literature in translation. From 1969 to 1989, he directed the University’s language laboratory and helped update it, moving it from the era of reel-to-reel tapes in duPont Hall to new space in Tucker Hall where it eventually became the vastly more modern Tucker Multimedia Center.

Knudson brought to W&L what was at the time an innovative emphasis on learning through practical application. He was the principal author of “Reprise Grammaticale,” a computer-based interactive experience with French grammar principles, exercises, reviews and a complete testing program. He designed the program for individual study, thereby allowing class time for activities in which the students applied the grammar they were reviewing individually.

An accomplished musician, Knudson specialized in the cello while majoring in music at Illinois State. During a three-year stint in the U.S. Army, he played the oboe with the Fifth United States Army Band. In Lexington, he performed with the Rockbridge Symphony and was also a fan of opera.

Knudson is survived by his wife, Carolyn; their son, Jeffrey Knudson (senior technology architect at W&L); their daughter-in-law, Julie Knudson (director of academic technologies at W&L); their daughter, Christine Knudson Wood; and four grandchildren.

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