Professor emeritus passes away after long fight with cancer

Erika Bradley

Professor emeritus of communication studies, Tom Knutson, passed away Tuesday night at the age of 71 of pancreatic cancer.

Knutson administered a program at Sacramento State that allowed graduate students the opportunity to teach English in Thailand for a year at Chitralada Royal Palace School. He was tied to the Thai culture and often mentioned it in communication courses he taught to give examples of low versus high context cultures, such as the U.S.

He said he was proud Sacramento State students were accepted over students from schools, such as Harvard and Stanford, to teach abroad in Thailand. Knutson also taught at Bangkok University and would explain cultural differences between students in the U.S. and students in Thailand.

Knutson traveled to Thailand, where he knew how to speak the language, 50 times. It was in there where he met his husband Phan Datthuyawat.

Knutson had a vibrant personality and sense of humor. He was a dedicated professor, always on time to class and taught up until the last week of his life.

Professor Edith LeFebvre was a close friend and co-worker of Knutson. She praised his professionalism and the admiration his students had for him.

“The last class he taught was last week and he came in a wheelchair,” LeFebvre said. “He was late! Can you imagine! The students gave him a standing ovation.”

Knutson had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer years ago and always told his students of his condition. He frequently made jokes about his condition and the times he could not drink beer. He loved beer.

Knutson is survived by his husband Phan Datthuyawat, 50. The couple had been together 21 years and married for 6.

Services are being planned.