Newman chemistry program creator dies at age 89

Nov 04, 2020
Margaret Knoeber

Sister Margaret Knoeber, ASC, passed away on Oct. 31, 2020, at the age of 89. She is cherished by the Newman community and will be remembered especially because of her strong connection to education in the field of science.

Knoeber spent her high school years at Sacred Heart Academy, which was located on the Sacred Heart College (now Newman University) campus. She graduated from high school in 1949 and entered the novitiate the same year. She took her final profession of vows with the Adorers of the Blood of Christ (ASC) in 1955.

She earned her Bachelor of Science in natural sciences in 1961 from Sacred Heart College. She then went to Creighton University before transferring to Notre Dame University to earn an advanced degree in science.

margaret knoeber
Margaret Knoeber, ASC, ’49, ’61, (center, sitting) takes a moment to visit with alumni during a weekend alumni reunion in 2016.

At Notre Dame, she was one of only five women in her field working on a doctorate degree. She earned her Ph.D. from Notre Dame in 1967 and then returned to Sacred Heart College in that same year, where she would create the chemistry department and launch a four-year chemistry degree program.

Patrick Wolf, M.D., ’74 said Knoeber’s guidance and encouragement played a large role in his success.

Sister Margaret Knoeber (left) sits with Sister Barbara Borders at a Newman University Party on the Plaza event.

“She was a demanding teacher with a high bar to reach, but also with the ability to show you where the ladder was and how to use it,” he said. “I especially remember her patience with me. Organic chemistry was hard.”

She served as Newman University alumni director in the 1980s and then served on the ASC leadership team from 1990-1996.

After finishing her ASC leadership role, she helped Newman University launch a pastoral ministry program in Dodge City, Kansas. She returned to Wichita in 2002 as archivist for the Wichita Province and then the newly converged United States Province of the Adorers.

Knoeber was interviewed a few years ago about her connection to Newman and the chemistry program. She said she believed the quality of teaching and the gradual building of the university’s reputation in the sciences contributed to its success today.

“We began to get good teachers and when you get good teachers you have a good education, good learning, and that attracts more students,” Knoeber said. “And today that science building is teeming with students because of the reputation. So it’s not by milestone but gradual development of both faculty and then the growth in the students that are interested.

“I am just grateful that I had a little part in it. To have been there when we started and see now how much it has developed is really a thrill for me. I am grateful that we have such good faculty.”

Sister Therese Wetta served with Knoeber for six years on the same ASC leadership team. She said Knoeber inspired all the leadership team members to become better leaders in service.

“Sister Margaret’s contributions to Newman are many, beginning with the relationships with colleagues, alumni and students she established in her many ways of service,” said Wetta. “She was a woman of gracious hospitality, discernment and reliance on wisdom, a leader who asked hard and visionary questions and listened well. Even when wheelchair-bound, she continued to participate in a variety of events on the campus.”

Her continued relationship and connection with Newman University was inspiring to the whole community. Her love of learning and educating is one of the many legacies she leaves behind.

A celebration of Knoeber’s life will be held at 2 p.m., Nov. 22, 2020, in the Dugan-Gorges Conference Center located inside the Newman University Dugan Library. RSVPs are necessary to attend, contact Laura Hartley at [email protected] or (316) 942-4291, ext. 2161.