History of the Institute

George Wells Knight

Born in Michigan on June 25, 1858 | Died in Columbus, Ohio on February 10, 1932

Photo of George Wells Knight

George Wells Knight graduated from the University of Michigan in 1884 and went on to teach high school in that state. He married Mariette Amanda Barnes, the daughter of a wealthy Michigan businessman. The couple had two daughters, Margaret Amanda and Adelaide Knight. Adelaide sadly died in 1922 in Italy while she and her parents were traveling through Europe. In 1885, he came to The Ohio State University as Assistant Professor of History and English Language and Literature. Two years after his arrival, he became a Professor of History. Knight assisted in the formation of the College of Law, and in 1904 and 1908 he was its acting Dean. In 1914, he became the Dean of Education, but after six years he returned to doing what he loved most, teaching history. In 1928, Knight retired with the title of Emeritus Professor of History. Four years later, pneumonia took his life. He left behind his wife and daughter Margaret.

On March 15, 1932, President George W. Rightmire wrote a letter to Professor Thomas E. French requesting that he read a brief memorial of Professor Knight to the Kit Kat Club.  This brief memorial, authored by Rightmire, states that Knight "was happiest when in the middle of a discussion with a group of intellectually keen and aggressive students, and they were stimulated to the utmost coordinated use of all their abilities."  For those of us who knew him well," wrote Rightmire, "he was a complete friend, a sympathetic counselor, an inspiration to intellectual honesty, and always, down through the years, ready to help, and affected with genuine pride in any progress which his old students or friends might make."

Knight House

Built in 191​2

Knight House.After his death in 1932, Mrs. Knight and her daughter moved to Tucson, Arizona and rented their house on 15th Avenue to Professor Henry R. Spencer, head of OSU’s Political Science Department. In 1937, Mrs. Knight and daughter Margaret formally presented the house at 104 E. 15th Avenue (now called George Wells Knight House) to the university to be used as an International House. The house has gone through many changes, including additions, and since 1997 has been the home of Ohio State’s Humanities Institute.