Member of Adelphi University’s Profiles in Success program.
Professor of Mathematics, Evergreen Valley College
Favorite professor: Dr. Donald Hammer (Adelphi Math Department).
Advice for current students: “Don’t underestimate what you can accomplish.”
Little-known fact: His band, the Lifeguards, once competed against Billy Joel’s band in Hicksville High School’s battle of the bands competition.
In 1995, Robert Knight sold his medical practice and returned to the classroom. Ironically, it was his students who inspired him to leave teaching and study medicine more than 20 years earlier.
“I was teaching math in Syosset High School after completing my master’s degree in math at Adelphi,” he recalls. “And I was inspired by watching my students go off to college and start their careers.”
So, the former mathematics major returned to Adelphi to follow a pre-med curriculum. “My adviser, Professor Warren Eichelberg, told me I needed to get straight A’s and score in the 98th percentile on the MCAT,” he remembers. “And so I did.” Dr. Knight attended the California College of Podiatric Medicine in San Francisco and completed his residency at the University of Southern California Podiatric Medical Center.
For nearly 20 years, he maintained a private surgical practice in Northern California, occasionally traveling to Los Angeles and Mexico to work with children suffering from foot deformities. “Surgery is an art,” he says. “It’s a great challenge.”
Over time, changes in the practice of medicine and the increasing role of health maintenance organizations (HMOs) diminished some of his enjoyment of the profession. Twelve years ago, he sold his practice and began teaching as an adjunct professor of mathematics at the College of Notre Dame.
Today, he is a tenured mathematics professor at Evergreen Valley College in San Jose, and is a pioneer in the use of the Web and digital technology to teach math. Professor Knight’s website features many mathematical curiosities: optical illusions, free templates for graph paper, virtual graphing calculators, a “really big multiplication table,” and, most importantly, webcasts of his lectures for those students who “are absent, fell asleep in class, or just want to view a lecture again.”
Just named College Teacher of the Year by the Silicon Valley Mathematics Association, Dr. Knight maintains that digital technology can be a teacher’s greatest ally. He has embraced his location in the microchip capital of the world, and all his courses are web-mediated, meaning his students can read, listen, or watch his instruction at any time.
“Technology allows you to teach in a new and exciting way,” he says. Since his students are increasingly comfortable online, he works hard to bring mathematics to them in a language with which they are familiar.
Was the transition from the operating room to the classroom difficult? “Not at all. Medicine is about teaching too,” he says. Dr. Knight has clearly found ways to pass on his knowledge, whether it is on podiatric reconstruction or sine and cosine curves.
Dr. Knight’s favorite Adelphi memories include spending time with his Chi Sigma fraternity brothers and heading to Long Beach to surf.
He lives in Morgan Hill, California with his wife Marianne. They have two daughters, Jennifer and Jean-Marie, and two grandchildren, Gigi and Beau. In his spare time, Dr. Knight has taken up oil and watercolor painting and golf, and serves as president of the California Mathematics Council for Community Colleges.