In Memoriam – Dr. James Knoll

Dr. James Knoll
Dr. James Knoll
Dr. James Knoll
Dr. James Knoll

Dr. James Knoll, a former faculty member and chair in Morehead State University’s College of Education, passed away Friday, March 13, 2020, at St. Joseph Hospital in Lexington. He was 73.  

Born in Erie, Pennsylvania, he was the son of the late Aaron A. and Julia (McCloskey) Knoll. He taught and served as chair of the Department of Elementary, Reading and Special Education. In that role, he developed the Master of Arts in Teaching in special education, a program that allowed people with bachelor’s degrees to earn both special education certification and a master’s degree simultaneously.   

He rose through the academic ranks at MSU and pursued scholarly research and service. His research focused on improving student success and student lives, including the inclusion of students with disabilities, college achievement for disadvantaged students and preparation of students with disabilities for adult life.   

Knoll began his academic career at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York, then continued as a student of special education at Hunter College, where he earned a Master of Science in Special Education. He later earned a Ph.D. in Mental Retardation from Syracuse University.   

From Syracuse, he went to work for the Human Services Research Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In this role, he spoke before the U.S. Congress and traveled the world promoting the services available for those with special needs.  

He taught special education at Wayne State University before joining the faculty at Morehead State.   

Dr. Knoll spent his long career as an advocate for those with special needs of all sorts and as an educator, training teachers to provide the best possible services for those who need them most. In special education, “inclusion” was a favorite term that anyone who worked with him heard frequently.   

Beyond his professional life, Knoll was an artist who painted and photographed his world with passion. A recent one-person show at the Rowan County Arts Center featured his black and white photographs that explored the contrasts, textures, and the organic and geometric shapes we all see but rarely notice in the everyday world.    

Contributions in Knoll’s memory can be made to the Morehead State University Foundation, Inc., Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program, 121 E. Second St., Morehead, KY 40351 or online at