Genevieve Madeline Knight grew up in the South and spent the first twenty-four years of her life in Georgia and Florida. Her family valued Education and provided the best available opportunity for her to learn and develop all of her talents. There were three girls spaced two years apart -- Gwendolyn Elizabeth, Loretta Jean, and Genevieve Madeline. Each of them graduated as an honor student from Risley High School in Brunswick, Georgia and Fort Valley State College (now known as Fort Valley State University) where all were members of Alpha Kappa Mu Honor Society, Beta Kappa Chi Scientific Honor Society, and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. Her oldest sister, Gwendolyn Humphrey, taught mathematics and computer science at Florida A&M University until her death. It was Gwen who taught her how to ride a bicycle, dance, play cards and be political. The middle sister, Loretta Wright, is a twice retired science educator -- first as a high school science teacher and second as a Project Officer for the Annenberg/CPB Foundation in Washington, DC. Their mother was a stay-at-home seamstress and their father was a Civil Service worker at Warner Robins Air Force Base and Glynco Naval Base in Brunswick.
School was a joy for Knight! She loved to read, think, write, and dream. She took everything available and carried five academic courses each semester. Mathematics was not her first career choice. In the Fall of 1957 she was enrolled in the Department of Home Economics well on her way to becoming a commercial dietician. Because of Sputnik and her academic record in the sciences, she was recruited to help make America the first country to reach the moon. From among the offerings, she chose mathematics because it had fewer labs than any of the sciences. Her calculus teacher along with her sister Gwen groomed her for a fellowship to Atlanta University.
After Atlanta, she became an NSF Fellow, taking advantage of institutes for college mathematics teachers. Traveling across America provided her wonderful, new, and exciting experiences in real life and mathematical settings. It was at an NSF Lecture that Knight actually talked with a woman who had an earned a Ph.D. in mathematics and decided that she would like to have one too! Friendships she formed during the 1960s are still in place -- they visit at local, regional, and national conferences and over e-mail. Her base academic employment has always been at historically Black colleges and universities, by choice. She taught for 17 years at Hampton Institute (now University) and has been at Coppin State College for 13 years. Over the years Knight has continued to be an advocate for equity for women and minorities in the mathematics and mathematics Education communities. Her voice, reflective thoughts, and time are shared with many professional mathematics associations and organizations.
Mentors and great teachers from among various disciplines other than mathematics have shaped her life. Her first trusted guide was Mrs. Ruth P. Williams, Risley High School, and her latest (1998) is Dr. Martin Apple who is President of the Council of Scientific Society Presidents in Washington, DC. Professor Robert B. Davis opened up a whole new world to Knight when she was a graduate student working as a summer intern in the Madison Project. Over the years she has had many opportunities to work with master teachers. Dr. Adulalim Shabazz, formerly known as Lonnie Cross, Distinguished Professor of Mathematics at Lincoln University, was her thesis advisor at Atlanta University and introduced her to her current avocation -- attending professional conferences and conventions. (Shabazz actually had his students practice giving professional lectures.) Knight believes that a professor's greatness is measured by the work his/her students produce over the years. Dr. Shabazz has a legacy of outstanding mathematicians who were his students. Until recently, many of the master's degrees and doctorates in mathematics and mathematics Education from among African- Americans were his students. She hopes that the students whom she has mentored will become outstanding citizens and leaders.
Many awards attest to her status as a master teacher and mentor. She has won distinguished teaching awards from both Hampton (1976) and Coppin State (1990). In 1980 Knight was named Virginia College Mathematics Teacher of the Year, and in 1993 Maryland College Mathematics Teacher of The Year. Also in 1993, she received the Distinguished Teaching Award for College/University Faculty from the MD/DC/VA Section of the Mathematical Association of America. Most recently, in 1996 she was named Wilson H. Elkins Distinguished Professor for the University System of Maryland. As a mentor she was honored in 1987 with the Outstanding Faculty Award for Mathematics and Mentoring of Minority Youth from the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Her whole life has been devoted to teaching and making society better for all people. Minorities enjoy many Educational and professional opportunities because she was there and spoke out. History will never record many of her successful efforts.
Knight feels that students should take all the courses they can. Their selection should include languages, management, and technology. They should attend professional meetings, speak with the professors and make contact for graduate and post-graduate opportunities. They should complete the sentence "I can be anything I want to be ..." with the phrase "if I prepare and work hard." Students should grow and extend their horizons but remember to give back -- "Service is the rent we pay for living." She still loves to read, think, and dream.