Dr. Mike Knedler
His name is synonymous with music at Northwestern Oklahoma State University, and he has been a familiar face on campus for 32 years. In many respects, it will be hard to imagine Northwestern without the daily presence of Dr. Mike Knedler, who has announced he will retire at the end of June.
“Dr. Knedler has been the consummate professional during his entire career at Northwestern,” Dr. Janet Cunningham, said. “He always had the best interests of faculty and students at heart. Dr. Knedler is a tremendously talented individual who believed in the mission of Northwestern. He will be missed both personally and professionally.”
Knedler began his career at Northwestern in 1983 as an instructor of music and assistant band director, and in 1989 he assumed the position of director until 2005. Knedler became the Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences in 1990. After a restructuring of the University’s academic organization, he was selected to lead the School of Arts and Sciences.
The Ponca City native earned a bachelor’s degree from Phillips University in music education, and was a member of the Enid Symphony Orchestra. He then attended Baylor University in Waco, Texas, where he earned a master’s degree in music, specifically clarinet performance.
Knedler began his career in education in the Medford school system, also serving as the assistant band director. He then moved to Brownwood, Texas, where he taught at Howard Payne University. However, he was looking for an opportunity to return to northwest Oklahoma, so he accepted a job at Northwestern and began his long journey as a Ranger.
While teaching at Northwestern, Knedler took a short leave of absence to complete his doctorate from the University of Oklahoma (OU) receiving a Ph.D. in music education. He and his wife, Ragina, lived in Norman briefly. During his residency Knedler served on OU’s band staff.
Serving as a band director, professor and dean, Knedler has seen many aspects of Northwestern and has created many memories.
“One of my favorite memories is traveling with the band to the ‘99 football championship game and watching the Rangers win,” Knedler said. “I remember going on various trips with the band -- from taking students to Canada to loading 130 students on buses to travel all the way to Washington D.C to march down Constitution Avenue during a St. Patrick’s Day parade.”
Dr. Mike Knedler marches alongside the Ranger band as they march down Constitution Avenue in Washington D.C during a St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 2004, one of Knedler’s fondest memories of his time at Northwestern.
Reminiscing over his time as a Ranger, Knedler marvels at all of the changes at Northwestern during his tenure.
“We’ve gone from chalk boards to smart boards, from memos to email,” Knedler said. “The change in technology and the pace in which we move is amazing.”
Knedler has fulfilled many roles and has seen many accomplishments at Northwestern. He spent nine years serving as chair of the homecoming committee. He also wrote the grant that established the Title III program at Northwestern in 2011 and spearheaded a relationship with a university in China to help initiate a study abroad partnership.
Because Knedler has worn several hats during his time at Northwestern, he has meant a great deal to a number of people, including the man he worked closely with and took over for.
"To my knowledge, Dr. Knedler was the very first full-time assistant band director at Northwestern when he was hired in 1983,” said Dr. Ed Huckeby, project consultant for the proposed Creative Arts Center in Broken Arrow and the former Ranger band director who worked with Knedler.
“We had experienced excellent growth in the band program and then-president, Dr. Joe Struckle, approved the hiring of Mike Knedler, who was serving as an assistant at Howard Payne University at the time,” Huckeby said. “He had an outstanding reputation of excellence in performance, a stellar music education background, and was a ‘local’ from Ponca City, having completed his bachelor's degree at Phillips University in Enid.
“Mike was a tremendous asset to the band program and the music department. He took over the band program full-time after I completed my doctorate and became Director of the Enid Higher Education Program in 1989, and continued working toward the 1994 completion of his doctorate. After my retirement from Northwestern, Dr. Knedler was selected to transition into the Dean of Fine Arts position.
Called on at the last minute to fill in for a band member, Dr. Mike Knedler performs with the Glenn Miller Orchestra in 1994 in Herod Hall Auditorium.
“One of the more unique experiences I remember for Dr. Knedler was when the Glenn Miller Orchestra was performing for the Northwest Oklahoma Concert Series. One of their sax players was called away on an emergency, and I was contacted to see if there was anyone in the area who could be hired to ‘fill in’ for the Alva concert. As a talented woodwind player, Mike was a perfect choice and did an outstanding job to the delight of the local audience members! I'm sure this was an experience he will never forget.
“Latricia and I would never have expected to stay at Northwestern for 22 years, but opportunities to leave never outweighed the wonderful community and collegial environment at Northwestern. I am confident that Mike and Ragina Knedler have the same sense that over three decades at Northwestern have gone much more quickly than they would ever have expected. We wish the Knedlers much success and happiness in their future retirement years."
Knedler also helped a number of his students become great band directors, as well as successful people because of his leadership, work ethic and dedication to them.
"Dr. Knedler is the living definition of a role model,” said Bryan Pope, Watonga Public School’s band director and a former band assistant who worked with Knedler. “His professionalism, work ethic and dedication to his program and his students had a positive impact on Rangers for more than two decades. The success I have had as a band director is directly related to being a student of Dr. Knedler's. I could not have asked for a better director, mentor and friend. I owe a great deal to Dr. Knedler and Mrs. Knedler as well."
“He has been the one constant great thing that the Northwestern music department has had in the past several years,” Adam Steuart, Hennessey Public School’s band director, said. “He has always been there for me, and always made me feel like I could succeed. I think he just always made everyone feel like they were part of something bigger. For me, Dr. Knedler is one of the biggest reasons I stuck with music education. I will always cherish the time that I had with him as my mentor.”
"Dr. Knedler always allowed me to run with an idea,” Paul Baker, a Colonel with the United States Marine Corps, said. “I felt like he had my back and supported this freshman drum major. He invested time in my development by taking me to the Drum Corps International Championships in Madison, Wisc. His mentorship helped shape me as a leader, and I've used that leadership style in the Marine Corps for the last 25 years."
Dr. Mike Knedler directs the Ranger band at a football game, one of many events he led while associated with the band program for 22 years. He will retire at the end of June after 32 years of being a Ranger.
“I have many great memories of Dr. Knedler and my time in the Northwestern band,” Dr. Lisa Dozier Lohmann, professor of education at the University of Central Oklahoma, said. “Thanks so much for all you've done for Northwestern, and congratulations on your retirement.”
“I had just changed my major to music performance in flute when Mike Knedler came to Northwestern, so he became my flute instructor,” Mary Margaret Miller, member of the board of directors at BancCentral National Association, said. “I really enjoyed working with him in my many private lessons. He helped me put together and prepare for my junior and senior recitals. Believe it or not, it was a really fun experience! One of my first memories of Dr. Knedler was preparing for his surprise 30th Birthday Party! Rod Murrow and a few of us music majors ‘broke into’ his office the night before to decorate and hung streamers from everything we could find - even the ceiling! We celebrated that afternoon with punch, cookies and of course, more streamers and balloons. Enjoy every day of your retirement, MK!”
“He was a great friend, mentor, leader and definitely the coolest clarinet player I've ever known,” Jerad Bradt, owner of The Menagerie-Bradt’s mammals and More LLC and owner of BOSS Music, said. “I’m glad he stuck with it long enough for me to graduate.”
“I’m thankful for the opportunity that I’ve been given to work with Dr. Knedler,” Angelia Case, academic projects assistant and media specialist at Northwestern, said. “I’ve learned so much! His professionalism and integrity are second to none. I’ve had the fun experience of knowing him as my instructor/band director, friend and now, co-worker! Having that kind of opportunity is amazing. I have had the opportunity to see how he truly cares for people, for our students and employees, for our alumni, for Northwestern’s reputation and the integrity of what we do here at Northwestern.
“I do hope the new Dean can bake,” Case added. “That person has big shoes to fill in the Cinnamon Roll Bake-off during New Faculty Orientation. Dr. Knedler has won that contest many, many times, and having leftovers from that have been something to look forward to!”
“It has been such an honor to work with Dr. Knedler during my first three years as a dean,” Dr. Bo Hannaford, dean of the School of Professional Studies at Northwestern, said. “There is great value in having a mentor like him. He has provided great examples in dealing with situations that come with this job by exhibiting patience, reflection and at times, humor. He has been a great role model and he will be truly missed by all at NWOSU.”
Knedler reiterated how grateful he is for his time at Northwestern.
“When I think back about all the opportunities I have had at Northwestern, it is incredible,” he said.
When discussing retirement, Knedler said he and Ragina will probably spend a lot of time visiting their son, Blake, and daughter-in-law, Kaitlyn, in Edmond. He said they have no definitive plans, just looking forward to new adventures.
For Knedler, retirement doesn’t mean leaving.
“I’m not sure you ever really leave,” Knedler said. “Once a Ranger, always a Ranger.”