Honors Ceremony Introduction (Youtube)
Honors Ceremony Speech (YouTube)
Dennis D. Knutson was born on November 13, 1940 in La Crosse, WI two days after the Great Armistice Day Blizzard and lived with his parents, Ruth and Irvin (Bud) Knutson, and older brother in the nearby town of Westby. During his grade school years he experienced both rural and small town life with the traditional values of family, church and school that were important influences for his future.
On April 12, 1945, the day that President Franklin Roosevelt died, an event changed Dennis’ life forever. While riding a tricycle against his father’s wishes, he was accidentally struck by an automobile driven by his mother’s friend. Some resulting head injuries lead to a medical evaluation at the Mayo Clinic where after a week of observing people being cared for and experiencing the art of healing, Dennis announced to his parents that he wanted to be a doctor like the ones that cared for him—he never changed his mind.
Besides being a good student in school, he studied flute and piano and acquired his passion for music. At the conclusion of 8th grade his father moved the family to Kirkland, WA, a suburb of Seattle where his father had sought new employment. After only one year the family again moved to Ellensburg and then relocated to Clarkston, WA where Dennis graduated from Charles Francis Adams High School in 1958 as the valedictorian. Following his dream to be a physician he entered the University of Chicago and then transferred to Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA where he graduated in 1962 with a BA cum laude in Chemistry. Besides rigorous pre-medical studies his liberal arts education allowed him to be active in music and theater as the principal flutist in the orchestra and concert band, tour soloist, president of Alpha Psi Omega, a national drama fraternity, Blue Key Honor Society, Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges as well as receiving several prizes and scholarships plus summer research grants from the National Institutes of Health to study cutaneous (skin) biology at the University of Washington in Seattle.
In 1966 he received the degree Doctor of Medicine with honors from the University Of Washington School Of Medicine. While there he also continued research and honed his skills in electron microscopy. He was elected to Alpha Omega Alpha, the national medical honor society. During medical school he met and married his wife, Mary Ann, a registered nurse, and their first child, Eric, was born. Even with his busy academic and family life he managed to continue his music passion as flutist in the Seattle Philharmonic Orchestra.
Dr. Knutson next moved his new family to St. Paul, MN where he completed a rotating Internship at Charles T. Miller Hospital (now United Hospital) and was chosen “Intern of the Year”. In 1967 he answered the call to serve his country and was assigned to the 4676th USAF Hospital in Grandview, MO as a Captain in the USAF Medical Corp. During those two years Capt. Knutson served as General Medical Officer, Officer in Charge of the Laboratory, and Chief of the Physical Exam Section and their second son, Brian, was born.
With military service completed in 1969 the journey continued to Portland, OR where Dr. Knutson completed a three year residency in dermatology at the University of Oregon Health Sciences Center and continued his research with an appointment as Assistant Scientist at the National Institutes of Health Oregon National Primate Research Center and as Assistant Professor for the medical school in Portland. Because of his research in diseases of the sebaceous (oil) gland the American Academy of Dermatology awarded Dr. Knutson the “Gold Award for Original Work” presented for the Scientific Exhibit “Acne Vulgaris: New Concepts in Pathogenesis” at its national conference in Chicago and at the annual meeting of the American Medical Association in New York City.
Because of his reputation for excellence in clinical, academic, and research areas he was invited to join the staff at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, thirty years after he had first decided to be a physician. While there he became Associate Professor of Medicine for both the Mayo Medical School and the University of Minnesota and also renewed his love for direct patient care, his original aspiration. He also kept his music skills alive by playing flute for his church.
Dr. Knutson’s life took another turn when his uncle from Sioux Falls died. While visiting his aunt after the funeral he became aware of the real need for dermatology care and teaching in Sioux Falls. After one year in Rochester Dennis and family made their final relocation to South Dakota where upon arriving in 1975, Dr. Knutson initiated the leadership for teaching dermatology for the newly established degree granting University of South Dakota School of Medicine. He began private practice with the Donahoe Clinic, became chairman of the board for Central Plains Clinic and later helped form Dermatology Associates, joined University Physicians, and finally Avera Dermatology and Laser Center where he assumed leadership roles.
During the next 32 years, Dr. Knutson maintained a busy practice, taught countless numbers of students and residents, served as Clinical Professor and Chairman of the Dermatology Division for the medical school as well as being a voice for cutaneous health information throughout the State in print, on television and radio, and with informational lectures. He helped organize the SD Dermatology Society as its first president, lobbied in Washington, DC for skin health, represented his specialty on the State Medicare Advisory Committee, Midwest Congress of Dermatological Societies, American Cancer Society, American Academy of Dermatology, and various hospital committees. He is the only South Dakota dermatologist to be elected president of the Minnesota Dermatology Society. During his career he continued his interest in dermatopathology (skin pathology) and was certified in that specialty in 1979. Collaboration with the university pathology department led to the origin of a dermatopathology teaching program for residents and continuing medical education. In 1985 he and his associates started the first of a continuing annual free Skin Cancer Screening Clinic held the first Monday in May (Melanoma Monday). In 2007 his professional journey ended after 40 years of private practice, teaching, and research. Dr. Knutson retired that year but his love of family and the arts continued.
From his first piano lesson at age four to starting the flute at age 10, Dr. Knutson has enjoyed his music pursuits and passion for advancing the arts. Several members of his family are or have been accomplished musicians and due in part to his efforts and example, his children and grandchildren have continued that tradition. Dr. Knutson has performed on flute and piccolo with the South Dakota Symphony, Sioux City Symphony, and the Sioux Falls Municipal Band. He has been the principal flutist for several years for the Dakota Wind Ensemble, the Augustana College/Community Band and Orchestra, as well as enjoying playing in the High Plains Woodwinds, several pit orchestras for local musicals, the New Horizon Band, and is a frequent soloist for his and other churches as well as senior centers. For his 70th birthday celebration he performed a solo recital joined by 30 other top musicians from the area to raise $6000 for music scholarships.
In 1988 Dr. Knutson played an active role as founding chairman of the Festival of Bands, USA which in its 25th year still brings thousands of young musicians to South Dakota each October. He and Mrs. Knutson have supported a number of scholarships and endowments in both medicine and the arts including the SD Symphony, Augustana College, and the Special Needs Children’s Travel Fund of the Avera Foundation. He has served on several non-profit boards including the Shrine to Music Museum (National Music Museum) in Vermilion, the SD Symphony Board, Luther Manor Nursing Home, the C.H.A.R.G.E. Syndrome Foundation, and is the North and South Dakota representative for the Association of Concert Bands.
Family, medicine, and music have filled Dr. Knutson’s life in South Dakota where he continues his love and passion for his adopted State. He has shared his journey with his partner and wife of 49 years, Mary Ann, and their two sons, Lt. Col Eric D Knutson, F-16 pilot and base safety officer for the SD Air National Guard, and his wife, Amy, and Brian D. Knutson, MD, dermatologist with the Avera Medical Group and Chairman of the Dermatology Division for the medical school and his wife, Kristin. They also enjoy their life in South Dakota as a great place to live and rear their families, the Knutson’s five grandchildren. “Soli Deo Gloria”- Glory to God.