Back in November, the Dodge College community
lost one of its greatest supporters and allies
, Marion Knott.
While the main building of Dodge College is named after her, some of our students may not realize who Marion was or what a huge impact she had on our school.
Marion Knott was born in April 1922 on the berry farm that would become Knott’s. In the early days of the farm, Marion was tasked with standing on the side of the road, waving rhubarb at passing motorists, in an effort to get them to stop her family’s berry stand.
When she got older, her, along with her two sisters, became the waitresses in the five-table tea room where her mother prepared sandwiches, pie, coffee, and eventually the famous Knott’s chicken dinners.
As the restaurant grew, so did the entertainment surrounding it. Eventually, she helped to convince her parents to put a gate around park, becoming the first incarnation of the theme park, Knott’s Berry Farm, that we know today. She became the director of design, planning, and entertainment for the park, and remained in that position until the park was sold to Ceder Fair in 1997.
Marion Knott was also heavily involved with philanthropy, where she focused much of her energy on education. While she didn’t have a degree herself, she understood the importance of having the opportunity to learn, no matter the capacity.
Marion served on Chapman’s board of trustees, starting in 1982. Thanks to her, Dodge College of Film and Media Arts is the renowned program it is today. Dean Bob Bassett has often referred to her as “the angel to our film school.” A week after first meeting Bassett, she gave the film school its first donation, jump starting the program.
In 1999, she helped to create the Filmmaker-in-Residence program. This program, still going on today, allows us to bring amazing working directors and producers to Dodge College every year, where they mentor students for a semester, and help them learn the ins and outs of the entertainment business.
She continued to generously give donations to Dodge College, helping to fund Marion Knott Studios in 2004.
“I will never forget the conversation I had with her saying that we wanted to name the building for her,” said Bassett. “She said ‘Absolutely not!’ She reiterated that she had never allowed her name on any building. But I said, ‘It’s not for you, it’s for us, because we want to associate ourselves with your values and your sensibility.'”
This week, we unveiled a plaque dedicated to her memory in the lobby, just above her bust, because she meant so much to Dodge College’s success. In fact, Professor Cory O’Connor was so passionate about us honoring her that he helped make the plaque a reality.
“”When Dean Bassett announced that Marion Knott had passed, he recounted the numerous ways she had selflessly supported our program from its inception,” said O’Connor. “Indeed, we have something special here in Dodge. I simply wanted to express my gratitude, not only to Marion Knott, but to Dean Bassett and Janell Shearer, as well, for their tireless commitments to putting Dodge on the map and for creating the environment in which I have loved teaching for the past twelve years.”
The next time you walk through our lobby, please take a moment to recognition Marion Knott, the woman who graciously dedicated herself to helping our school succeed.