Pauline Park Wilson Knapp
Pauline Knapp received her bachelor’s degree in home economics from the University of Kentucky in 1924. She completed her master’s and doctoral degrees in psychology at Columbia University. During the early years of her professional career, she worked as associate professor of home economics and director of the nursery school at the University of Georgia. She is credited with establishing Georgia’s first child development center in 1928.
Knapp returned to UK to work in the department of home economics in the late 1920s. During the summer of 1930, she conducted a nursery school in the Home Management House. Her summer program laid the groundwork for the establishment of a permanent nursery school at UK in 1935, which continues today as the Early Childhood Laboratory.
From 1932-1941, Knapp was family counselor in the consultation bureau at the Merrill-Palmer School in Detroit. This position marked a return to the school where she was a student in the 1920s. In 1941, she left Merrill-Palmer School to serve as head of the Department of Family and Life at the University of Alabama, a position she held until 1945.
From 1946-1952, Knapp served as dean of the School of Home Economics at the University of Georgia. As dean, she worked to build a home economics research program and the school became an integral part of several regional research initiatives. Under her leadership, the number of majors offered increased to nine, an infant laboratory was added to the nursery school, and the process to establish two doctoral programs was initiated. Knapp was very interested in home economics education beyond the scope of the University of Georgia programs. She organized regular meetings for representatives of all of the college home economics programs in Georgia which provided an avenue to strengthen and update course content and teaching procedures.
In 1952, Knapp returned to her beloved Merrill-Palmer School to serve as president and director. During her years as president, she broadened the school’s emphasis on parent education to incorporate research on human development and increased research on applied child and family issues. Under her leadership she increased the schools scope and built two new facilities, The Program Center and The Skillman Center. As a means to emphasize the increase in scholarly activity, Knapp facilitated a name change from the Merrill-Palmer School to the Merrill-Palmer Institute. She oversaw the largest increase in student enrollment and faculty appointments in the history of the institute.
Knapp earned national and international recognition in child development and family relations. Her work was well-published, and she was often called upon to speak regarding the field of home economics, early childhood education and the education of women.