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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

Faculty member, students honored by URI thanatology program

Media Contact: Dave Lavallee, 401-874-5862

Ceremonies highlight Peace Dale resident’s national award

KINGSTON, R.I. -- July 1, 2005 --The University of Rhode Island’s interdisciplinary program in thanatology paid tribute to one of its faculty members and honored undergraduate students who received a minor in thanatology and post-baccalaureate students who received a certificate after completing 15 credits in courses on death and dying.

Earlier this year, Gene Knott, associate professor of human development and family studies, a national leader in death education, was presented a plaque at the international conference for the Association for Death Education and Counseling.

The interdisciplinary team of faculty members gathered this spring to honor the Peace Dale resident by presenting him with a scrapbook of copies of letters from across the nation that were submitted to support his nomination for “Special Contributions to the Field” from the national association.

Nursing Professor Jean Miller, the Weyker Endowed Chair in Thanatology at URI’s College of Nursing, said in her nomination letter it was only fitting that Knott receive the “special contributions” award during the association’s 30th anniversary year because he played a major role in its birth.

“In the summer of 1975, Dr Knott organized the first seminar in Death Education at the University of Rhode Island,” Miller said. “This led to the Forum for Death Education and Counseling and ultimately to the Association for Death Education and Counseling. He served as president of the organization from 1978 to 1980. In some sense of the word, he could be called the father of ADEC.”

He has also made important contributions to the education and understanding of organ donation on university campuses, especially among minority students. Knott developed a curriculum for colleges and universities in North America and has collaborated with Assistant Professor Mark Robbins from the URI Cancer Prevention Research Center on more than $5 million in grants and contracts to improve the organ donation experience in several parts of the country.

At URI, Knott has been a valuable member of the thanatology group that developed the minor and the certificate program. He was the co-chair of the Honors Colloquium “Mortal Questions.”

“Our initial thoughts in nominating Gene were to honor him for his outstanding teaching abilities,” Miller said. “Students flock into his courses where they give him very high ratings in their evaluations. It is not only that he teaches well, but that lives are changed in his classes.”

Nursing Professor Carolyn Hames, a member of the thanatology team, added that the “Special Contributions” award is not given every year. “They hold this award and the people who receive it sacred. This is a distinct honor that is bestowed only when there is an individual who is highly deserving of it.”
In addition to Knott, the program honored Sandra Megerdichian (Cranston) for completing the post-baccalaureate certificate program and Mary Najmowicz and Brieann Buckley for completing the undergraduate minor in thanatology.

Information on the thanatology program can be found at Course offerings are listed each semester in this web site and in the URI web site under e-campus. Additional information can be obtained from Miller at or 401-874-5315.

Photo caption
Peace Dale resident Gene Knott, professor of human development and family studies, is presented with a scrapbook of letters that supported his nomination for an award from the Association for Death Education and Counseling for “Special Contributions to the Field” by Nursing Professor Jean Miller, the Weyker Endowed Chair in Thanatology at URI’s College of Nursing. URI News Bureau photo by Joe Giblin