USM mourns the deaths of two professors

Posted on February 04, 2013 in News
By Tom Collier

Bernice Conklin-Powers
Courtesy of usm.maine.edu
Bernice Conklin-Powers
Tom Knight
Courtesy of Christine Maher
Tom Knight

University of Southern Maine community members are mourning the deaths of two professors last week. Thomas Knight, a professor of biological sciences on the Portland campus, and Bernice Conklin-Powers, a professor of social and behavioral sciences at Lewiston Auburn College will be remembered by faculty and students for their passion for teaching and their constant concern for the well-being of their students.

Conklin-Powers was a licensed psychologist who specialized in teaching child development and child and adolescent psychology. Her research focused on evaluating clinical outcomes and clinical programs. She was also a yoga instructor and taught stress management classes at LAC.

Conklin-Powers’s early research related to occupational stress, coping mechanisms of family therapists and the treatment of children and adolescents at youth services bureaus.

In a post to Facebook, Tandy Breault, one of Conklin-Powers’s former students, wrote, “I learned so much from her, learning how to meditate. I still use the techniques she taught … to cope with change and stressful situations.”

According to Moore Lisa Moore, associate professor and chair of the Department of Biological Sciences, the loss of Knight was not only emotionally jarring for USM’s Department of Biological Sciences, but also logistically challenging. The department had already lost two other professors within the previous 14 months, making the scramble to fill Knight’s vacated teaching positions all the more difficult. Enrollment numbers for the department are up, and demands on the already strained faculty have risen yet again, forcing some to take on more classes.

Professor Knight also left behind a considerable amount of research concerning methods to increase plant biomass.

“His research was very interesting,” Moore said. “A lot of people didn’t know about it, since he couldn’t publish it for a long time because he was getting patents on it.”
According to Moore, Knight had been collaborating with scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. “His research was going very well. He had gotten several patents out on it. He also had many students, over the years, work with him on the project.” Moore said that Knight was currently in the process of writing up research papers to go along with his work.

Knight had also been granted a sabbatical for the fall semester of this year and was poised to shift his research in a slightly different direction, looking into methods to increase food production around the world.

The research Knight had been working on will continue. “Whether any of the project will continue to be done here, I don’t know,” Moore said.

A memorial service for Thomas Knight will be Feb. 11 at 4 p.m. in the University Events Room on the seventh floor of Glickman Library. Faculty are planning on creating a student scholarship in his name.

Memorial service details for Bernice Conklin-Powers are forthcoming.