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One World

McKnight Endowment Honors a Father's Legacy in World Languages

by David Klein  |   Back to Table of Contents

When Norva Bounds learned that her father was planning to retire from teaching, she was determined to ensure that his legacy of scholarship would be remembered.

Bounds, a longtime Spanish teacher in Ravenscroft’s Upper School, decided to dedicate her full Ravenscroft salary that year toward the creation of an endowment in his name. 

“It delighted my father to no end,” she said of her decision to create the fund. “He was a very humble and modest person, but when he found out I had created the fund, he was absolutely beside himself, making the rounds and soliciting all his friends and colleagues for contributions to the fund.” 

In the 40 years since its founding, the William A. McKnight Endowment Fund has bolstered the World Languages Department at Ravenscroft, nurturing its programs and providing opportunities for students to explore their love of language and culture — just as its namesake did. 

“A born teacher”

In the course of his 42-year career in the Department of Romance Languages at UNC-Chapel Hill, William McKnight earned honors and the admiration of his peers and students as a professor of Spanish language and literature. McKnight, who served as a translator and decoder during World War II, was inspiring in the classroom, with a knack for making “Don Quixote” and 19th-century Spanish drama come alive for his students.

“He was a born teacher,” Bounds said. “Growing up with him, whether it was table manners or a walk through the woods, a lesson about nature or getting up at 4 a.m. to take me fly fishing or teach me how to row a skiff — every moment was a teachable moment.” 

Bounds’ reverence for her father’s work stems in part from her own lifelong fascination with the culture, history, architecture and people of Spain, beginning with a pivotal stay there with her family. After completing her degree at UNC-Chapel Hill in 1966, she married Michael Bounds, a third-year veterinary student. She taught Spanish in Oklahoma, where Michael was completing his studies, before the couple returned to the Triangle.

“Adventures and life lessons”

Bounds arrived at Ravenscroft in 1974, when she was hired by then-Headmaster Verne Hawes as a part-time Spanish teacher in the Upper School. Her 22-year tenure included serving as chair of the World Languages Department and leading several student excursions abroad.

“Taking my Spanish students to Spain and Mexico was both a pleasure and a challenge which required much planning. It was important to me that they have the cultural background to really appreciate what they would experience abroad,” Bounds said. “They returned from these trips not only with increased language skills but with adventures and life lessons that I’m sure most of them still remember. And it was nice for all of us to get to know each other better in a less formal environment.”

Now retired, Bounds and her husband share a home on the White Oak River between Swansboro and Emerald Isle. They and their daughter, WENDY ’89, continue to contribute to the endowment, which in recent years has been used to pay for world language classroom and teaching materials, including the latest edition of the “Ecce Romani III” textbooks used in Ravenscroft’s intermediate-level Latin courses. 

Upper School Latin and Greek teacher Jonathan Avery noted that the updated texts offer a “broader selection of readings that includes both prose authors, such as Cicero and Julius Caesar, and eminent Classical poets, including Vergil, Horace and Ovid.” 

At its heart, the fund supports students’ experiences of the very things McKnight and Bounds both cherished about their subject.

“World language instruction has a broad impact on students,” Avery said. “It not only increases their proficiency in another language but also provides them with insight into other cultures, increasing awareness of their own through comparison and inspiring them to leave the comfort of their own community and to travel and experience the greater world.”

McKnight, shown here in his office at UNC-Chapel Hill in the 1960s, enjoyed a 42-year career as a professor of Spanish language and literature.

McKnight, an avid fisherman, shows off what Bounds called “a prize striper

McKnight congratulates Bounds after she was awarded a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish Education in 1966.

Bounds — “my dad’s daughter,” as she says —  shows off a big flounder she caught.


What is an endowment?

Endowments are funds that have been established for specific purposes that benefit the faculty and students of Ravenscroft. The funds use only the annual earnings from their principal value, meaning they will support Ravenscroft in perpetuity.

Powered by the generosity of families, friends and supporters spanning decades of Ravenscroft’s history, endowments provide critical funding for institutional needs and goals around academic excellence, financial aid and diversity, fine arts and aesthetics, health and wellness, leadership and global learning, and spirituality — in addition to several funds whose use is unrestricted. 

View a complete list of Ravenscroft endowments by category.