Skipper and Ruth Knights Surprise College with Large Bequest

When the mail arrived one afternoon in September 2018, there was nothing to suggest that it included the first distribution of an unexpected six-figure bequest from two Allegheny icons who had died almost 20 years earlier. Staff were stunned to learn that the late Ruth E. (Williams) Knights, longtime associate dean of the college, and her late husband, Professor of History Paul A. “Skipper” Knights, had left half of their estate to Allegheny College. Those who studied at Allegheny from the late 1940s to the early 1980s rarely fail to mention this early power couple who met, married and shared their lives with countless students and faculty for more than three decades. It was deeply moving to learn that their final mark on the world would come to Allegheny in the form of a $352,000 unrestricted bequest.

Neither Ruth nor Skipper had a formal Allegheny connection before their employment. Skipper arrived in 1947 with a brand new Ph.D. in American history from the University of Iowa, and Ruth followed two years later, degree details unknown. They had completed their undergraduate degrees at Hobart College (Hobart and William Smith College) and Carroll College (Carroll University), respectively, and those two institutions share the other half of the couple’s estate. Allegheny College Historian, Professor Emeritus and honorary alumnus Jonathan Helmreich writes that Professor Knights and Dean Williams, popular young employees, were frequently asked to chaperone dances. Knights would squire Williams to events, and they later said that “it would be ‘simpler’ if they just got married.” In 1954, they did. 

The Class of 1957 dedicated its yearbook to the couple whom it said symbolized its Allegheny experiences. The editors wrote: 

As a team, this couple works together for the sole objective of guiding the Allegheny student in his social and academic growth at college. The whole-hearted interest and devotion that they display in the student’s welfare increases the respect which they command. Dr. and Mrs. Knights bring together the many phases of college life and present a picture of the whole school.

Mrs. Knights, as Associate Dean of Students, acts as a liaison between the student and faculty in the interest of further understanding and cooperative relations. Her keen insight and gracious presence at student or faculty gatherings makes her a stabilizing force behind all that goes on in the college.
Dr. Knights … represents the strength of close student-faculty relationships. As an advisor to the Block A Club, a fraternity group, and to individual students, Dr. Knights has shown an unfailing interest in the student’s welfare.

Outstanding as individuals, Dr. and Mrs. Knights, together represent the finest of Allegheny.

“Outstanding as individuals, Dr. and Mrs. Knights, together represent the finest of Allegheny.”

In planning their gift, Skipper and Ruth named each other as the sole beneficiaries of their estates. Skipper died two months before Ruth, so it is her will that facilitated this gift. She established a trust through her will to benefit a family member with the proviso that after that person’s death, the balance would go to the three colleges. This is not an uncommon scenario, as many people desire to support both loved ones and their favorite charities through their estates. 

For more information on ways that you may use your will and/or retirement accounts to provide for your loved ones and beloved charities, please contact Melissa Mencotti, Director of Gift Planning, at (866) 332-3853 (toll-free) or (814) 332-6519, or visit

The Annual Fund Grant program provides promising, talented young scholars with access to a life-changing education. Without donors like you, the Allegheny experiences you value would be out of reach for many of these deserving students. You can be part of shaping students, like Emily, who will go on to change the world.