Longtime Gustavus Adolphus College concert choir director and Professor Emeritus of Music Philip F. Knautz ’48 – known to a generation of student singers as “Mr. K” – died April 26 in Colby, Wis., at the age of 86.
Knautz was born in Finshafen, New Guinea, in 1923 to missionaries Fred and Margaret Knautz. He attended public schools in Fargo, N.D., graduating from Central High School in 1941. He attended Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., until the middle of his sophomore year, when he entered military service in World War II. He served with the 45th Infantry Division in Italy and was wounded and captured briefly in action between the Anzio beachhead and Rome. He later served with the 508th Battalion Military Police. Knautz was the recipient of the Combat Infantryman badge, the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, and African-Mideast-European campaign medals.
Following his discharge, Knautz enrolled at Gustavus, graduating with a B.A. degree in 1948. He undertook graduate study at the University of Colorado and later earned a master of music degree from the University of Texas. He directed the concert choir and taught in the music department at Texas Lutheran College in Seguin, Texas, for six years before accepting a similar position at Gustavus in 1954. Knautz directed the concert choir and taught music courses at the College until 1980, when he became director of fine arts programs until his retirement in 1985.
Knautz was also active as chorus director and dean of the American Legion’s Minnesota Boys State, as director of St. Peter- and Mankato-area barbershop harmony choruses as well as several church choirs, as a participant in community theaters in both Seguin and St. Peter, and as a part-time radio broadcaster. In retirement he was employed part-time with the St. Peter Heartland Express transit. He was a member of the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Phil Knautz is survived by his daughter, Cheri Roberts ’72; his two sons, Paul ’77 and Timothy; and five grandchildren. A memorial service has been scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Saturday, May 1, at First Lutheran Church in St. Peter, Minn., with visitation beginning at 12 p.m.
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