Clark County’s First Citizen 2016: Bob Knight

Clark College president celebrated for his commitment to community

By Tom Vogt, Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter

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Did You Know?

The First Citizen selection committee is made up of former honorees and a panel of community members.

People don’t always understand what First Citizen award-winners are all about, a presenter said Wednesday before handing the 2016 honor to Bob Knight.

“A lot of people think it’s about their day job,” Jennifer Rhoads said.

Knight certainly has a distinguished record there, serving as commander of Vancouver Barracks from 1997 to 2000 and helping the historic U.S. Army post transition into its civilian role.

As president of Clark College since 2006, Knight has an impact on about 14,000 students each year.

But the First Citizen award committee looks for more from the nominees, said Rhoads, executive director of the Community Foundation for Southwest Washington. It’s about their after-hours and weekend contributions to the community, Rhoads said.

And, people who only know Knight through his two high-visibility leadership roles “don’t realize that he is one of the most active community volunteers in our region,” former Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard said in a letter supporting the nomination. Pollard is one of seven former First Citizens to support Knight’s nomination.

A series of speakers took turns telling the crowd at WareHouse ’23 about Knight’s roles as a community contributor. Barbara Kerr, former Clark College communications officer, said she consulted with Clark College executive assistant Leigh Kent, who is in charge of Knight’s schedule.

“She said it’s like being an air traffic controller and having every plane flying in the United States in one day stacked up over O’Hare and all trying to land at the same time,” Kerr said.

For his part, Knight said that he has been fortunate enough to say “yes” when the right opportunities came along. That included his family’s path to Vancouver.

Late in his 21-year Army career in 1997, Knight was offered a posting at the Pentagon. He wondered if there was an alternative, and the Army offered Knight the opportunity to command Vancouver Barracks. He said yes.

A few years after leaving the Army, he was working at Clark College as a vice president during a leadership transition. When the board of trustees asked Knight to serve a 30-day stint as temporary president, “I said yes,” Knight said.

That pattern continued in a range of different community service opportunities. They include Rotary Club of Vancouver, the local chapter of the American Red Cross, Boys & Girls Clubs of Southwest Washington, the Columbia River Economic Development Council, Fort Vancouver National Trust, Washington State University Vancouver advisory council and Workforce Southwest Washington.

“Good folks asked me to get involved,” Knight said.

Knight also spread the credit around, noting that he’s not the only one in his family who participates. Earlier on Wednesday, his wife, Paula, marked a milestone of her own. She finished the work required to get her nursing license reinstated. That will enable her to take on a bigger role at Daybreak Youth Services, where she works as a volunteer with troubled youngsters.

Regents Bank is the presenting sponsor for the First Citizen celebration. Contributing sponsors are Biggs Insurance, PeaceHealth Southwest Washington Medical Center Foundation, Community Foundation for Southwest Washington and The Columbian.