Wichita State alumna and Oscar-nominated actress Shirley Knight dies at 83


Shirley Knight in “Redwood Highway” (2013).

Shirley Knight, a Wichita State alumna and Oscar-nominated actress, died Wednesday at age 83. 

Knight died of natural causes at her daughter’s home in San Marcos, Texas. 

Knight transferred to WSU after attending Phillips University in Enid, Oklahoma. She later moved to Southern California to study acting at the Pasadena Theatre school. 

Knight proved to be a successful actress, earning multiple awards throughout her career. In 1976, she received a Tony award for her portrayal of an alcoholic actress in Robert Patrick’s play, “Kennedy’s Children”. 

It is a difficult job in this day in age to be a serious actress, and I hope that in the future, there will be a lot more serious plays that can make a contribution to society and nourish us in our daily lives,” Knight said in her Tony acceptance speech.

Her success didn’t stop there. In 1988, she earned an Emmy award for her guest appearance in the television drama series “Thirtysomething,” and in 1995, she earned two more Emmys one for her work in “The McMartin Trial” and the other for her guest appearance in “NYPD Blue”. 

Knight received two Oscar nominations for her work in the films “The Dark at the Top of the Stairs” (1960) and “Sweet Bird of Youth” (1962). She also took home the title of Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival for her work in the 1966 film “Dutchman”.

Knight was born in Gossell, Kansas, and raised in Mitchell and Lyons, Kansas. She was named the Native Sons and Daughters’ Kansan of the Year in 1999, received the Governor’s Distinguished Artist Award in 2007, and was inducted into WSU’s College of Fine Arts Hall of Fame in 2015. 

She is survived by her two daughters, actress Kaitlin Hopkins and writer Sophie C. Hopkins.