It’s the people

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Dale & Tina Knobel

A college presidency may be filled with fundraising, building projects, and tending to the needs of a busy student and faculty population, but at a place like Denison, where the president’s house sits right on Broadway and where the president is likely to stop on the Quad for a chat or pop in the dining halls for a meal, it’s also full of personal moments. From walks through Monomoy Place in an effort to “spot the bunnies,” to encounters at the gas station, members of the Denison community share memories of their time with the Knobels. (For a look back on the Knobel years, keep an eye out for the next issue of Denison Magazine, which will be mailed in the coming days.)


An Endearing Connection

David Woodyard ’54

There is no legitimate reason why a president and his/her partner need to be a team, but when they are it is a special thing to witness on a college campus. Dale and Tina not only work together to advance the interests of the college, they model an authentic marriage in a time when about half of all marriages end in divorce. It is hard to miss the tenderness in each of their voices when they speak the other’s name. The glance or touch at an emotional moment reflects an endearing connection. They have separate lives in significant activities, but they obviously complement each other when they are together. Their bond has yielded the courage to embrace personal stress in our community and be a healing presence to others. Their tenderness and care have deep origins that reach beyond mortal groundings.

David Woodyard ’54
Professor of Religion


Let Me Eat Cake

One year, I bid on Tina Knobel’s chocolate cake at the DOWS Auction. I’m not a cake-eater, but I thought it would be nice to have for my family. When I picked up the cake, I tasted it, and over the course of a few days, ate the entire pan by myself! The next year, I bid on Tina’s chocolate cake again, thinking I would take it to a family function. Needless to say, it didn’t make it.

Jill Uland
Academic Administrative Assistant
Department of Psychology


Flat Stanley’s Tour Guide

Mary Frazell ’79

I recently stumbled across a photo of Dale with Flat Stanley (an illustrated character from the 1964 children’s book by Jeff Brown). He had done so much traveling for the college that I asked if he would take a photo for my young niece on one of his trips. He was incredibly busy, but he agreed to snap a picture for me. He even wondered if he should write a note to her about the importance of a liberal arts education. “No, Dale,” I told him, “she is only 9.”

Mary Frazell ’79
Associate Director of Donor Relations


A Portrait of a President

Brenda Falkenstein ’14

One of the first times I saw President Knobel, I was walking through Granville toward Whit’s after my first-year induction activities. There was a man carrying a large painting, walking the other way down the sidewalk. When I came closer, I saw that it was President Knobel casually walking down the street carrying a giant picture of himself. I think he must have been getting it framed, but it was just hilarious to watch.

All through my three years at Denison, the president has always had an active presence in campus events. I’ve seen him at everything from a Jimmy Buffet tribute concert, to actual buffets in the dining halls, to just standing around on A-quad talking to whomever passed by. I haven’t talked to him very much—a bit at Big Red Weekend (my parents love the guy), a bit at the annual Pascal Carter lunch (delicious cake)—but he always comes across as having an amazing memory for details and a genuine interest in people’s lives. I know I’ll miss playing “spot President Knobel.”

Brenda Falkenstein ’14, The Woodlands, Texas
Political Science Major


It’s Personal

After my son, Joe, was killed in a car accident in June 2007, I received a phone call from Dale Knobel. He expressed his deepest sympathy for our loss and spoke to me for quite a long time considering the nature of his call. It meant so much to my husband, my daughter (a Denison student at the time), and me that the president of Denison University cared enough to personally show his support for us in our time of grief. Knowing that he and Tina knew from personal experience exactly what we were going through made that phone call even more meaningful. I will never understand why Dale and Tina had to go through this kind of loss not once, but twice in their lifetimes, but I am so grateful for having felt their compassion when Joe died, and I will always admire their strength to keep going despite life’s tragedies.

Sarah Torrens
Library Associate II
William Howard Doane Libraries
Denison University


Family Ties

The Knobels have selfless hearts; therefore they have an uncanny ability to unite people.

We will miss seeing Dale and Tina on campus and in the community, but they should know they have a “family” to visit whenever they come home to Denison.

Nan Carney Debord ’80
Director of Athletics


A Case of Mistaken Identity

Early in my career at Denison, Dale introduced me as “Scott” to a small group of board members. He caught his error, looked at me and said, “Todd, it’s Todd. Sorry about that.”

“Well, I guess this a bad time to ask for a raise,” I said.

Dale simply said, “I just gave one to Scott.”

Todd Jamison
Director of Institutional Research


It’s All in the Details

Maureen Severson

In the summer of 2011 my son Charlie had just completed his first year at Denison and was completely in love with the Hill. One day, one of my tasks took me to the president’s office for a signature. Usually Dale is traveling or in a meeting, so I leave my paperwork in the large inbox on his assistant’s desk. But on this day he was on campus and I was waved into his office for the first time ever. As I strolled into this room saturated with memories and books, I found Dale at his computer. Quickly I explained why I was there, not wanting to waste his time. To my surprise, Dale put business aside for a few minutes and asked me how my rising sophomore was doing. I remember thinking at that moment, How cool. How cool it was that he knew my son’s class year and name. How cool it was that he cared enough to ask this staff member who is one of many. I’ve had many more moments like that as Dale and Tina and I have shared time on the Hill. They both treated this campus and this community like family. They knew when our birthdays were, when a family member was sick or passed, or when an accomplishment was made. So, thank you, Dale and Tina, for all your hard work and for working so hard on all the details.

Maureen Severson
Assistant Director for Stewardship


At the Table with the President

Tong Liu ’14

Just a few days after arriving on campus as a first-year student from China, I entered Monomoy Place in my traditional Chinese clothes with six other students, who were chosen to dine with the Knobels based on our contributions to a book about that year’s campus theme, “Technology & Community.” The house was grand and elegantly decorated; and the fancy, formal Western-style dinner made me very uneasy. But Dr. Knobel’s humor and smile made me much more comfortable. We mostly talked about the books and ideas of Steven Berlin Johnson, who was invited to give a talk for the Spectrum Series and was at the dinner, too. We talked about how to break barriers between disciplines. At that time the idea of a liberal arts education was still vague for me, but I got the impression that Dr. Knobel was truly upholding his commitment to the liberal arts.

Since then I’ve met Dr. Knobel often on campus. He joined us for the MLK service day. Another time he came to our multicultural play, I, Too, Sing America. As an international student, I feel great gratitude for Dr. Knobel’s efforts to bring diversity to campus. Without his policies, students like me probably would not have the opportunity to be here. He made a great difference in my life by building a more diverse and cohesive Denison community.

Tong Liu ’14, Chengdu, China
Classics Major

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11:24 AM July 17, 2013

Heather Lynn kyle wrote:

Great article!

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8:50 AM July 7, 2013

Mark R. Orten wrote:

Three and a half hours before I was to perform the wedding ceremony of two Denison alums last Saturday, Dale called me to ask whether he and Tina might “see the bells” before leaving town. “Sure,” I said. “Of course.”

An hour later I met them, along with one of our bell ringers, Allie Flower ’15 (because I don’t read music!), in the lobby of Swasey Chapel and soon we had climbed into the tower where the recently renovated keyboard is placed to accommodate the new flight of bells that Dale and Tina have made available to us.

Quickly we figured out the new electronic system, and immediately Dale pulled out his cell phone on which he had transcribed the notes to the alma mater, and he sat down and played it; perfectly, every note. Allie and I beamed at each other. And then Tina took her turn with a hymn, and then another. For twenty minutes they treated all of Granville to hymns, from the highest point in the county (or so I’m told), and then Dale ended with a rock song (from the Beatles, I think).

After emotional goodbyes, a final picture with Allie, and then one with me, they climbed into their car and literally left the hill for the long drive to Texas. It was their final gesture on the way out of town, on their departure from Denison.

Except for one. I did see Dale stop the car at the edge of the Swasey lot, put it in park, and step out only slightly to snap a picture of a buzzard sitting on a nearby, lofty branch, watching over all the proceedings. I couldn’t help thinking Dale might have identified with that ever-watching bird, even as he drove away.

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