Teaching the Science of Communication

UCF associate professor is putting his major to good use, educating the next generation of speech-language pathologists

KenyattaRivers

Kenyatta Rivers, ’88, ’90, Ph.D. | Associate Professor/ASHA Fellow
Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders
UCF College of Health and Public Affairs

By Angie Lewis, ’03

Majoring in speech-language pathology as a UCF student, Kenyatta Rivers, ’88, ’90, Ph.D., has brought his education full circle, as he’s now an associate professor in the College of Health and Public Affairs.

The department may have changed names since he graduated — from communicative disorders to communication sciences and disorders — but its mission has remained the same: “to empower our students to achieve their greatest potential as clinicians, scientists, scholars, and professionals. By providing the foundations of our discipline and through the use of innovative technology, we enable our graduates to be leaders who positively impact individuals and their communities.”

As a professor, Rivers plays a vital role in educating the department’s students so that they can one day follow in his footsteps, helping children, adolescents and adults acquire effective speech, language and communication skills.

He thoroughly enjoys passing on his knowledge and experience to his students. He says his favorite course to teach is Language/Literacy Disorders and Differences in Children and Adolescents, because it allows him to provide master’s degree students with a working knowledge of language disorders in preschool and school-aged populations, which will enable them to serve as productive collaborators in delivering appropriate services in a variety of settings.

While Rivers spends much of his time teaching the next generation of speech-language pathologists, he also makes time for countless research projects, numerous philanthropic organizations, and UCF football games with fellow Knights.

Communicating Q&A

Q. What has surprised you most about being in your profession?
A. How much students and others look to you for guidance in all areas of their lives

Q. Besides your office essentials (e.g., laptop, etc.), what’s one thing you always bring with you to work?
A. Professional and popular magazine articles

Q. If you could teach a college course in any other department, what would it be?
A. Death and dying from a multicultural perspective

Q. Advice for someone who wants to do what you do?
A. Know your profession, develop a high level of competence in an areas(s) that you’re interested in, and then let the real you shine

Q. How do you decompress?
A. Attend and participate in a variety of community events, along with visit the elderly, attend rodeos, monster truck shows, and drag racing shows

Q. What’s the biggest misconception about you?
A. I don’t take lunch breaks.

Q. What’s one thing you’ve done that will go down in history?
A. My work on the development of pragmatic language skills in African-American children and adolescents.

Q. What/who always makes you laugh out loud?
A. My students

Q. Favorite food?
A. Chocolate cake

Q. If you had to choose another career, what would it be?
A. Possibly hospitality management, nursing, occupational therapy or biology, with an emphasis on marine life

Q. If you had to wear one item of clothing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
A. A bow tie

Q. If you could socialize with anyone for a day, who would you choose?
A. Meet Michael Jackson or Prince to better understand their creativeness

UCF Mascot Bears Legacy of Influential Knight

Before UCF’s mascot was established, “Sir Knight” was making an impact by shielding students from the Vietnam War draft.

EdKnightJr-legacy
Friends and family gathered to remember the life of Ed Knight Jr.
(PHOTO: Daniela Marin, Central Florida Future)

By Daniela Marin
Entertainment Editor, Central Florida Future

On Aug. 22, nearly 40 years after graduating from UCF, a group of Kappa Sigma alumni brothers reunited to remember the man who may have saved their lives.

Before the university’s name was changed from Florida Technological University to the University of Central Florida, and before the school’s mascot was established, one Knight — dubbed by students as “Sir Knight” — was making an impact by shielding students from the draft during the Vietnam War.

Isaac “Ed” Knight Jr. died Aug. 16 at the age of 93, after retiring from a 20-year career as UCF’s director of records and registration. However, the university’s mascot, which was elected by students in his honor, is proof of Knight’s lasting legacy.

“The school was growing from its infancy, and when it came time to choose a mascot, we decided we’d get behind the name ‘Knights,’ said John Voelpel III, ’73, the Kappa Sigma faculty advisor at the time, who was impacted by Knight. “The whole fraternity did. The student body ended up voting for ‘the Knights,’ and not everyone knew why, but it was because of Ed Knight and what he did for us.”

At the time, men in the U.S. had three options: volunteer to serve a tour in Vietnam, get drafted or maintain a student deferment.

Voelpel, who attended the university from 1969 to 1973 for business administration, said classes at the time were limited and capacity was tight, but “Sir Knight” was an instrumental force in ensuring that male students were placed in the classes they needed to maintain their deferment.

“We weren’t draft dodgers, we weren’t burning our cards, [and] we weren’t running off to Canada, but we would have preferred not to go,” Voelpel said. “He was a very large influence in a very vulnerable time in our lives.”

EdKnightJr-KappaSigmabrothers
Former Kappa Sigma fraternity brothers hold an old copy of the Future — now known as the Central Florida Future — featuring Ed Knight Jr., who impacted students in his time at UCF. (PHOTO: Daniela Marin, Central Florida Future)

Knight’s friends and loved ones, including people he hadn’t seen for years, gathered at the Baldwin-Fairchild Funeral Home in Altamonte Springs last Saturday to celebrate his life. There, Voelpel and other fraternity brothers shared Knight’s impact.

“I have to tell you, personally, I would have been in Southeast Asia,” he told the crowd. “I’m clumsy. I would have tripped on a tripwire or something and died the first day I was there. I would have never met my wife, never had my children, wouldn’t be standing with these gentlemen today, if it wasn’t for Ed.”

After not seeing him for 10 years, Gracia Muller Miller, ’76, also attended the service and spoke on Knight’s impact. Miller, who was a music student and worked as an assistant in the registrar’s office, shared how Knight became a father figure for her amid racial tensions.

“It was a very lonely time when I first started going to school, and a lot of times I would hang out in the office just because that’s where I felt safe,” she said. “And, Mr. Knight was the one who set that climate. The racial movement was part of my growing up, and Mr. Knight was different — he was a Bulldog, but he was not a hater. There were other people around me that I knew didn’t necessarily like me, but the climate at the registrar’s office didn’t allow them to act out against me.”

At 6 feet tall, Knight was a former University of Georgia basketball player with a U.S. Air Force career of more than 20 years. He quickly became known on campus as a gentle giant and father figure, all while raising a family of his own.

“My dad, he liked the youth, he liked the young people and he saw potential in everyone,” said Brigitt Berry, Knight’s youngest daughter. “That’s who he was, he was the encourager. He liked helping people set goals in life and helping them realize them.”

Despite his commitment to the community, Berry said that didn’t stop her dad from being “the best father in the whole wide world.”

“My parents were always there for me,” she said. “He always came home and spent time with us. He didn’t bring work home with him. He’d come home and play with us. And he absolutely adored my mom, so with those two traits, how could he not have been the best role model?”

And Miller, who went on to become a guidance counselor for Seminole County Public Schools for 20 years, said Knight inspired her to become a positive influence herself.

“I believe that because of Mr. Knight, I was also able to make some impact at UCF,” she said. “I didn’t think of dreaming bigger, but Mr. Knight taught me to dream bigger. He was a man who gave himself to others every day.”

The man to register the first student at UCF is now gone, but his legacy to the university and the lives he touched is lasting.

“I think he’d be very proud of where the school stands today, and he’d be proud of where all the kids he helped get through college stand today,” Voelpel said.

Knight is survived by his children Deborah Knight, Ed Knight III and Brigitt Berry, son-in-law Kip Berry, and two grandchildren.

This story was published in an Aug. 26, 2015, edition of the Central Florida Future online. It has been slightly edited in accordance with AP and alumni association style guidelines. See original article. 

Pegasus and the UCF Knight

The history of UCF’s live mascot program

Pegasus_UCF-Knight

By Angie Lewis, ’03

Tradition is in full force on game days at Bright House Networks Stadium. The UCF Marching Knights enter the stadium, followed by the cheerleaders, who lead fans through the War Chant. But, before the team arrives and the crowd starts jumping to “Zombie Nation,” there’s one more tradition to cheer, as Pegasus and the UCF Knight charge onto the field, rearing as Knightro draws the sword from the ground. While you may have seen this choreographed entrance many times, you may not know how this particular tradition got started, or where our “Pegasus” comes from.

The university has had a variety of Pegasus mascots over the years, including horses donated by Burt Reynolds in the ’80s, and Rick Walsh, ’70, retired Darden executive and UCF Trustee, in the ’90s.

In 2001, the UCF Alma Mater Society, comprised of the university’s Distinguished Alumnus Award winners, established the official mascot program, after presenting a proposal to the alumni association, which partnered with Medieval Times and received a donated horse named Centauro. That same year, the Equestrian Club at UCF and the Pegasus Mascot Team were established.

The “World Famous” Lipizzaner Stallions also donated horses to the program, until last year, when the UCF Alumni Association formed a relationship with Arabian Nights and Al-Marah Arabian Horses in Clermont, Fla.

The university’s current “Pegasus” is a 24-year-old Gray Arabian gelding, also known as Clemmy in the stables, who joined the mascot team in August 2013. His job in the former Arabian Nights dinner show was to rear off the bad guy.

“The light work load he does for UCF and our lesson program keeps him in shape and his mind active,” says Zach Becker, breeding manager for Al-Marah Arabians.

Arabian horses, named after the peninsula, are the oldest breed in the world, known for their small, refined, dished faces, Becker explains.

“Originally, they came from the desert, [which is how they got] their compact bodies and great stamina,” he continues. “They have a great temperament and willingness to please, as they slept in the tents with their riders when sandstorms arose in the desert.”

In addition to Clemmy, UCF also uses a 14-year-old Gray Arabian gelding named Kizmet for parades and other event photo ops.

“Thanks to Arabian Nights, our horses are used to large numbers of people, as well as lights and music,” Becker says. “Also, any new up-and-coming horses ride with us to the game and just hang out at the trailer for the day to get used to the sights and sounds of UCF. The more things we can acclimate them to, the better.”

The horses aren’t the only ones who are trained, however.

Carla Cordoba, ’94, associate director of constituent programs at the UCF Alumni Association, has been the advisor for the Pegasus Mascot Team since its inception. During that time, she’s overseen five horses and about 15 Knights.

Knights have to go through an audition process, which includes an in-person interview, as well as a riding evaluation, with current mascot team members, Cordoba and Becker, to see what their riding capabilities are, and to make sure they get along with the horses. Becker then works with those chosen on how to cue and ride each movement, teaching them how to speak the language Al-Marah’s horses will understand.

More Info

Follow Pegasus and the UCF Knight on Facebook.
Find out more about the Equestrian Club at UCF.

DID YOU KNOW…?

  • Knightro is the athletics mascot and takes on a character persona, while Pegasus and the UCF Knight are a university mascot, although they both appear at athletic events.
  • In addition to the other criteria required to be a Knight, each rider must also be able to fit into the small costume.
  • All Knight rider candidates must squire for at least one year before applying. A squire’s main duties including grooming Pegasus, getting him and the Knight into their costumes, interacting with fans, and escorting Pegasus and the UCF Knight onto the field.

SUPPORT THE PEGASUS MASCOT PROGRAM
Want to be a part of UCF’s history and traditions by helping to keep the Pegasus Mascot Program alive? Contact Carla Cordoba at [email protected] or 407.823.3453 for more information.