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David L. Knaggs Endowed Scholarship

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David Lee Knaggs
David Lee Knaggs

David Lee Knaggs was a lifelong Austinite, dual degree recipient from The University of Texas at Austin in 1994, writer, teacher, and father. He was a fine product of his time and place — able to quote Yeats, slow smoke a brisket to perfection, cast a tight fly line, predict outcomes of University of Texas football games, land a washer softly, and debate the veracity of historical claims from Roman times, the Texas Revolution, or the Cold War. He made a difference everywhere he went.

He was a smirk waiting to happen. He knew he had something on you. The smirk was always lurking beneath the surface as he pitted his friends against his mother in card games, mocked his father for being a dinosaur who still used a typewriter and a cane fishing pole, or as he got you to bite on that third pump fake. There was nothing he enjoyed more than creating an argument out of nothing between friends, siblings, parents, anyone, really, and sitting back to enjoy the fireworks he lit.

That smirk was there when he trapped you into discussing land wars in Asia, Harry Caray and the Cubs, or coach Bobby Knight’s motion offense. It was there when he strolled into a place with his “Man from Snowy River” hat and his “Fist Full of Dollars” poncho. It was there when he sang the Jayhawks and Arlo Guthrie through that Copenhagen-speckled grin. His needles were sharp, but that ridiculous smirk dulled them a bit when you saw the playfulness in it. Trading barbs or punches with him was at your own peril because he always, always had to have the last shot regardless of whether or not you were even.

But there wasn’t a better friend. He was always up for taking that long drive with you (be it a road trip from Camp Lincoln, a book tour to the Alamo, or a drive to a Longhorns football game), having that next-to-last beer, playing one more hand of cards, or playing one more game of driveway hoops. He loved having his people together in one place and used BBQ, beer, good laughs, and Texas sports as his means to an end.

That smirk was also there when he introduced you to his wife, Rhiannon, and would have been there every day for his daughter, Isabella. He wanted to have an annual bluebonnet cookout at his house in Driftwood for all the kids. It would have been so he could have all his friends and family with him and look out over them from his place at the pit, beer in hand, enjoying a wonderful sunny day with his people about and with that silly little half-assed smirk rising up from within.

David, or Knaggs as he was especially known, lived by example the Twain adage of not letting college get in the way of his education, though education — creative writing, expressive grammar, English literature, and any and all types of history —served to inspire his thoughts and pursuits. For David there was no learning for learning’s sake, it was an authentic desire, and secondarily, strategic grist for his sarcasm mill. Everyone who knew David experienced his deep love for knowledge, life, friends, and family.

The surface banter, so easily dispatched, hinted at the depth of his convictions that he was able to voice in “Me and My Elephant”, a piece he wrote while in the midst of his treatment for leukemia that so eloquently places you into his head, heart, and the dark room, lit only by the light of the computer, where he mused about life and loves.

He was able to laugh facing death, but not all that easily. Life was what he loved and he knew how vital he was to so many around him. He knew how much he mattered to his parents, brothers and sister, and wife and daughter. He did not act selfishly much. He ached for others when they suffered, and he strived to bridge gaps among people whenever he could. He provided glue to solidify and deepen relationships among his friends and family — calling out hypocrisy, broaching uncomfortable circumstances, asking people to rise above pettiness.

And doing so not with delicacy and diplomacy but with well-played darts of truth that rang true and hit issues and moments, not people. His love and affection was not in question. It was front and center and ever present. He was loyal and true and heroic in his relationships. He was a proud and devoted father and husband. The humor was handy, but the soul was the constant and much stronger. His rare gift was his ability to assert them both delicately and to great effect. He was a man of substance and commitment who seized each and every moment he lived.

David’s friends and family wanted to honor his life by putting together the David L. Knaggs Endowed Scholarship. He was a stout force of goodness. His loss is undeniable, though thankfully his influence continues to be felt by all he knew.

David’s friends and family hope to reward and inspire a student to learn and to live with the affection and courage that David did. Our wish is that this scholarship will help deserving students through The University of Texas at Austin and remind those students to think with clarity, smirk if they want to, express themselves honestly, make the world around them more interesting, and most important, demonstrate the love they have for those around them.

by Bart Knaggs and Lucas Patterson

The David L. Knaggs Endowed Scholarship was established by the Board of Regents of The University of Texas System on May 30, 2013, to benefit The University of Texas Office of Student Financial Services. The endowment honors Mr. David Lee Knaggs. Gift funds were provided by various donors.

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