Clif Knight’s experience at North Carolina State University in the late 1960s prepared him well for continuing his education and launching a successful professional career. A transformational gift from the alumnus and his wife, Raya, will enable many future NC State students to build the same strong foundation.
The Poole College of Management has announced a bequest from the Knights to establish the Clifton Brooks Knight Jr. and Raya Keis Knight Scholarship Fund.
As the college develops a strong global reputation for providing an outstanding, entrepreneurial and real-world business education, the Knights’ generosity will help maintain its upward trajectory by addressing a top priority: increasing scholarships. The couple is excited to provide endowed merit scholarship opportunities for future Knight Scholars, and they believe in the university’s strategic vision for continuing to produce career-ready business and civic leaders and innovators.
“There are clear long-term strategies both at the university level and at Poole College in terms of student development,” Clif Knight said. “My commitment to the university and college is based on my firm belief that supporting North Carolina State and the College of Management is a great investment and will have very real, tangible results for students in the future.”
Scholarships help the university attract and support a range of scholars with enormous potential, and enable recipients to better embrace discovery beyond the classroom. Poole College of Management emphasizes personal and professional development through student organizations; internships ranging from work with start-up enterprises to global corporations; participation in regional and national competitions; and international study or work abroad.
I love what is happening at the College of Management,” Knight said. “The college is giving students real-world experience and putting them in a frame of mind to be business leaders.”
The gift furthers the Knights’ impact on NC State. Clif was elected to the NCSU Foundation Board of Directors for a four-year term starting in July 2014, and is a charter member of the Lonnie Poole Golf Course and a member of the Alumni Association. The Knights have been members of the Chancellor’s Circle for several years and recently were inducted into the R. Stanhope Pullen Society.
Ira Weiss, dean and Stephen P. Zelnak Jr. Chair at the Poole College of Management, thanked the Knights for their significant investment in the future of the college, where private support is fueling momentum.
“We are proud of Clif’s tremendously successful business career and thankful for the numerous ways he has given back, and continues to give back, to the Poole College and NC State,” Weiss said.
Clif Knight grew up in Raleigh. His father, Brooks, earned a degree in textiles in 1936 from then-State College. Attending Wolfpack athletics events together, especially basketball games in Reynolds Coliseum, was a regular, enjoyable part of family life. “That’s where it started. So attending North Carolina State was a natural,” said Knight, who earned bachelor’s degrees in economics (1969) and sociology (1970).
He also served as class president, was on the Honor Code Board and was a member of Kappa Alpha fraternity.
“It was a thoroughly fabulous experience,” Knight said of his college years. “The faculty were great. And, in the late ʼ60’s, there was an atmosphere of great change — you could certainly feel it on the campus. It was an exciting time to be in Raleigh.
“Being in college in Raleigh in the late 1960s was an incredible learning experience and hugely good fun. I felt very lucky to have had that opportunity.”
Most of all, Knight said, “the experience at North Carolina State gave me the sense that I could achieve whatever I might set my mind to. It gave me a lot of confidence.”
Knight earned his law degree from the University of North Carolina School of Law (1974) and his MBA from New York University (1986). He serves as executive vice president for legal and business affairs, and chief ethics and compliance officer, at Bookspan LLC, headquartered in New York City. Bookspan operates iconic book clubs, including Doubleday, Literary Guild and Book of the Month, and is one of the largest direct-to-consumer distributors of media products in the United States.
Appreciative of mentors who spent time sharing their knowledge, experience and expertise with him during his student and early-career years, Knight hopes to make a similar impact on young people by increasing his engagement at his alma mater. He has served, for example, as a judge for Poole College of Management’s annual Leadership and Innovation Showcase, a program that provides students with the chance to present work completed in independent studies, practica and other project-based learning experiences, while competing for Showcase scholarship awards.
Being involved on campus has proved eye-opening, Knight said, and alumni play a critical role in setting an example and providing growth opportunities for students.
“I would encourage other alumni to start by simply getting onto the campus to see the progress and feel the excitement at North Carolina State,” he said. “The transformation over the past few years is stunning. Any investment by alumni — time, energy or financial — would be a good one.”
The Knights reside in New York City and Southampton, New York, where they are very involved in numerous civic and philanthropic activities. Raya is an alumna of Hunter College of The City University of New York. They are pleased to be part of a significant moment in NC State’s history, Clif said.
“I really appreciate the way that the university has reached out to me on a personal level. I appreciate the opportunity to be involved,” he added. “North Carolina State has a great story to tell — and it’s very exciting, gratifying and a lot of fun to be able to be an advocate for something that really matters.”