Hillsdale College Library Director Dan Knoch died unexpectedly on June 25, according to an email from the Provost’s Office.
Knoch worked at Hillsdale College for 43 years. After graduating from Western Michigan University, he came to work at the Mossey Library in 1976 and eventually took over as its director. June 26 was scheduled to be his last day on the job, and Technical Services Librarian Maurine McCourry was ready to take over as library director the following day.
Knoch’s colleagues said the library was a great workplace environment largely thanks to him. Public Service Librarian Brenna Wade worked with Knoch for 14 years, first as a student employee, then later as a staff member. She said he worked hard to make sure the library had a congenial atmosphere.
And, Wade said, he was always supportive of staff and students. She recalled that when she first told him she was pregnant with her son, he was supportive and excited for her because family was important to him. A large part of his choice to retire, Knoch told The Collegian, was due to his desire to spend more time with his grandchildren.
Knoch was very involved with the city community and with his church, according to Wade. But when it came to family, that was a large part of his life.
“You could tell that family was really important to him,” Wade said. “I think that was just Dan. He loved kids. He adored his grandkids.”
Knoch and Public Services Librarian Linda Moore, who both started work at Hillsdale on the same day in 1976, would often talk about their families. Moore said in an email that she often started her workday by visiting his office to chat about family and “the news of the day.”
“He enjoyed watching the growth of both his family and his college family which began with the library staff,” Moore said.
Mark Maier, assistant to the provost and lecturer in English, used to work with Knoch in the college library. Knoch, Maier said, was a mentor figure to him.
“He was a great man; he was the soul of kindness,” Maier said. “He was a very steady, solid guy, even in high-pressure situations. In the library, it sounds silly to think there are high-tension, high-pressure things, but there are, like any job. He was always steady and even and didn’t lose his cool. He was a calming presence.”
Wade said Knoch’s approach to managing the library staff was “to hire good people and to let them do their jobs.”
McCourry said in an email that she pursued further education in library science and applied for the library director position with Knoch’s encouragement.
“He made me who I am as a librarian, no question,” she said. “He was the best ‘boss’ I’ve ever had — always caring, compassionate, and wise, but always fun, too.”
Maier said Knoch weathered some of the largest shifts in library work during his time at Hillsdale. He handled every technological advancement and change with “calmness and steadiness,” and he was willing to try changes that at first might have been frightening for library employees.
Knoch’s care for others extended beyond the library. He was an active member of the college community, attending “virtually every Hillsdale function,” Maier said, from sporting events and plays to concerts and lectures.
“He always made time to support colleagues and students,” Maier said.
Wade and Maier both said Knoch enjoyed finding good excuses to bring the library staff together for desserts and camaraderie. Usually, it was an occasion to celebrate someone’s birthday, Wade said, but he always had reasons for getting people together.
Information about a memorial service will be posted when it is available.