Remembering Sinclair's First President

Marvin C. Knudson, Sinclair Community College's first president, passed away on August 1, 2009, at age 100 in Peoria, Arizona. Marvin was Sinclair's president from 1967–1974.

You may recall that many Sinclair family members helped Marvin and his family to celebrate his 100th birthday just before fall conference last year. Among so many accomplishments, Marvin lead the effort for Sinclair to obtain full college-level accreditation and to develop dozens of programs and areas of study for a student body that grew from 2,500 to 8,500 during his tenure.

We have extended our sympathy to his family on behalf of Sinclair.


A full obituary from his family is provided below:

Marvin Carroll Knudson (September 1, 1908–August 1, 2009) died from the effects of a stroke at Peoria, Arizona. His survivors include three sons, seven grandchildren, and eight great grandchildren, scattered from Alaska to Maryland and Minnesota to New Mexico. His half brother, Jay Knudson, survives in San Diego, California.

Born in Viroqua, Wisconsin, Mr. Knudson and his late brother, Wendell, lived in the New Mexico Territory, Ismay, Montana, and Cottonwood, Minnesota as youths. Marvin graduated with a B.A. degree in chemistry from St. Olaf College in 1931. The University of Minnesota granted him an M.A. degree in education in 1933. He taught and administered in Minnesota secondary schools and Jr. Colleges from 1933–1945, in McGregor, Princeton, Elk River, Austin, Worthington, and Austin again. In Worthington he also administered a navy flight training program and earned his private pilot’s license.

In 1945, he moved his wife, Margaret Elizabeth (Roberts) Knudson (a Coon Rapids-Anoka native) and three sons to Pueblo, Colorado, where he remained for nearly twenty years. He served as President of Pueblo Jr. College and became the first president of Southern Colorado State College (now Colorado State University-Pueblo). He headed the National Junior College Association and the North Central Association (accrediting) of Colleges, Universities, and Secondary Schools while in Pueblo.

He moved to Phoenix, Arizona, to lead the state Jr. College consortium. In less than three years, he guided several new Arizona colleges and stimulated growth of the state’s JC system. In 1967, he accepted an offer to go to Dayton, Ohio, to lead a venerable but small YMCA-based Sinclair Jr. College. In six years he built a new campus, hired many new faculty, and boosted student enrollment from 400 to 12,000.

Then he and Margaret retired to Sun City, Arizona, where new opportunities involved his temporarily administering a Junior College in Yuma, advising on Ganado Mission schools, and leading caravans of RV's to many spots in the west.

Margaret died of a stroke in 1982 after 43 years of partnership. A year and some months later, he married Jane Cole Bronfenbrenner, then a widow living in the Sun City area. They shared a zest for travel and community affairs for more than 24 years; she died in Peoria, AZ, in late 2007.

He flew small planes until he was 80. He visited the DEW-Line with Bernt Balchen. He served with Charles Lindbergh in selecting the site for the Air Force Academy. He introduced aircraft maintenance in the curriculum of Pueblo Jr. College.

He hiked the Grand Canyon at least a half-dozen times, declaring at age 83 as he walked up from Phantom Ranch to the rim, that's about enough of that.

Marvin Knudson was honored by Marquis’ Who’s Who in America. Southern Colorado State College bestowed on him an honorary Doctor of Letters. On his one hundredth birthday, people came from Ohio, Indiana, Colorado, New Mexico, Washington, and Alaska to celebrate. He was a Kiwanian, Mason, Shriner, and elder in the Presbyterian Church USA. A step-daughter wrote from Pennsylvania: Marvin was a dear man, a good man, always kind and diplomatic, always encouraging. We shall miss him.

In his will, he has added support to the Past President’s scholarship established earlier by his sons through the Pueblo Community College Foundation.

A family-and-friends Memorial Service was led by Rev. Luther Abrahamson at The Forum chapel in Peoria, Arizona on August 3, 2009.