Retired ISU film director dies at 88

Abbie Moeller

Orlando “Steve” Knudsen, 88, retired director of the Media Resources Center and 31-year faculty member of Iowa State, passed away Thursday.

Knudsen is well-remembered by several members of the Instructional Technology Center (ITC), the new name for the Media Resources Center (MRC).

“I first met him 44 years ago as a student. He was my teacher and mentor,” said Bob Lindemeyer, current assistant director of the ITC, who made remarks at Sunday’s funeral service for Knudsen.

Lindemeyer said Knudsen started the MRC in 1969 and was the center’s first director. The department was created to make film for the new WOI-TV station being started by the university. At that time, 16 millimeter film was used because video was not yet available.

“For 20 years, he was the manager of the film production unit,” Lindemeyer said. This is now part of the ITC and is one of several services to the university.

Ed Rearick, project coordinator for ITC, said the film production unit then would make a film for a professor who wanted his students to experience something without taking the time and money for a field trip.

Knudsen was director until 1975 and retired from the department in 1980.

Rearick met Knudsen in 1972.

“I was working at the FPU, and he was my boss’s boss,” Rearick said.

Knudsen continued to make films after he retired, and Rearick said he had the opportunity to work closely with him on a film about the Atanasoff-Berry Computer.

The film was titled “From One John V. Atanasoff,” and told the story of the invention of the first electric-digital computer here at ISU, Rearick said.

“From One John V. Atanasoff” was released in 1983 on 16 mm color film; it was 28 minutes long. Rearick said Knudsen was very interested in publicizing the computer even after his retirement in order to make “Atanasoff” a household name.

“I learned a lot from Steve just in terms of being patient with making films,” Rearick said.

Film-making is a long, complicated process involving many things, he said.

“It’s more than just text — it’s text and voice and music and visuals … and Steve was the kind of person who would do things until he got them right,” Rearick said.

Knudsen’s film-making process included doing research and learning all he could about his film subjects. Rearick said that process and the way he worked with people made his films wonderful.

“He knew how to tell a story so you would know what was going on intellectually as well as emotionally. … Very human, very informed, very sensitive, very accurate,” Rearick said.

Funeral services for Knudsen were held Sunday at Collegiate Presbyterian Church, Sheldon Avenue and West Street. He was cremated after the service, and interment will be in Scarville.