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Stephen Michael Knott, computer science student and Boys’ Latin alumnus revered for ‘herculean efforts,’ dies

Stephen Michael Knott loved cooking and eating gourmet food.
Stephen Michael Knott loved cooking and eating gourmet food. (Handout / HANDOUT)

Stephen Michael Knott, who was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in computer science at the University of Maryland Global Campus and was a gourmet cook and watch collector, died of P13Kr1, a rare immune deficiency, on Aug. 8 at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda. The former Lutherville resident was 25.

“I’ve known Michael all of his life. I met his father the first day of third grade at Boys’ Latin nearly 50 years ago, and we’ve always been close to his family,” said Oliver J. “J.B.” Bailey III.

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“Michael never wanted to be the center of attention and was a very humble person. He was the type of person who’d change the conversation because he wanted to know what you were up to,” he said. “No matter what the challenge was, he’d make herculean efforts and just shrugged them off. He just rose above those challenges.”

Stephen Michael Knott — he never used his first name — who was the son of Stephen Mark Knott, a portfolio associate at Morgan Stanley, an investment banking company, and his wife, Irene Dougherty Knott, vice president of Whiting-Turner Contracting Co., was born in Baltimore and raised on Kurtz Avenue in Lutherville.

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He was 2 years old when he was diagnosed with P13Kr1, a rare immune deficiencythat results in a low number of white blood cells. With fewer white blood cells, which attack viruses and bacteria, the body is more prone to infections.

“He lived as normal a life as his body would allow him to,” his mother said.

Dr. Christa S. Zerbe, an infectious disease physician at NIH, has cared for Mr. Knott since 2013.

“I care for chronically ill children, and children who have chronic illness show a great deal of courage,“ Dr. Zerbe said. “And Mike’s parents were just amazing because they raised him to be normal.

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“They didn’t see what he couldn’t do and he was a direct result of their desire for him to be a normal kid. He didn’t see immune deficiency as a hindrance and he dealt with it in a matter-of-fact way. This is my life and I’ll work around any limitations. That embodies who Mike was. He had a drive and was just amazing. I had the utmost respect for him.”

Mr. Bailey said: “I was always struck by how he soldiered on. He just did it and he wanted others to benefit from what he was doing. He knew the end game. He was very pragmatic about that. No matter what his age, his parents always let him make the final decisions. I always thought of him as an old soul who had wisdom beyond his years.”

Mr. Knott, who earned Eagle Scout status when he was 15, was an outstanding student at Boys’ Latin School, where he was a member of the National Honor Society and received the Jennifer Brock Award for perseverance, courage and generosity. He was an active member of the lighting and sound crew for the school’s theater arts program.

“With us from the beginning, Michael, you’ve impressed all of us from the first day with the joy you bring to school,” said Christopher J. Post, the headmaster, in remarks he made at Mr. Knott’s 2015 graduation from the North Baltimore private school.

“You’ve faced incredible odds, as you’ve battled rare illnesses with dignity and courage — living out the very core values of our motto and our mission statement. And yet, through it all, you’ve displayed unbridled optimism — always smiling, always positive, you even used your senior speech as an opportunity to make light of your daredevil stunts during lower school days,” Mr. Post said.

“Michael, you’re respected by your classmates and teachers alike for your intelligence and curiosity, recognized in your winning the Socratic Award as a freshman, given annually to one student who exhibits devotion to the pursuit of knowledge. And there’s much more,” he said. “Michael participated in the Robotics program and has been a four-year stalwart in the theater arts program, working on the tech crew and running the lights. Michael, there are not enough words to describe the admiration that our community has for you and the impact that you have had on all of us.”

Mr. Post added that “these words still resonate today,” six years later, and that “Michael impacted our community immeasurably.”

After graduating from Boys’ Latin, Mr. Knott attended Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg and at the time of his death, was two classes away from earning a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Maryland Global Campus in Adelphi, where he had been on the dean’s list for the past three years. He was also an information technology intern at Whiting-Turner.

“He was a very bright young man who was well-versed in a lot of things such as current events, politics and cooking,” Mr. Bailey said. “He had a certain serenity about him and was a person who was very comfortable in his own skin. He didn’t have a shred of the ordinary about him.”

Mr. Knott had numerous interests including Legos, building computers, collecting wristwatches and knives, and gourmet cooking. He was an inveterate fan of the Food Network.

“He liked making shrimp tacos,” his father said, to which his mother added, that her son was a fan of a variety of cuisines. “He was international,” she said.

“He loved gourmet food and liked preparing it or going out for it. He enjoyed cooking for his parents and friends,” Mr. Bailey said. “And, he was his own harshest critic when he made something.”

Dr. Zerbe described Mr. Knott as “very quiet, engaging and generally nice individual.”

“He didn’t talk about his illness. Instead, we talked about food and restaurants,” she said.

He attended Mass at the Carmelite Monastery in Lutherville.

“Thanks to the endless efforts of his parents and his own hard work, Michael was able to live as normal a life as possible and most importantly, a full life,” said Chase Bailey, a lifelong friend, in his eulogy. “Michael was never dying of his immune deficiency, but rather living with it.”

It was Mr. Knott’s wish that his body be used for medical research of the disease that claimed his life.

A funeral Mass was offered Saturday at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Mary Our Queen.

He is survived by his parents, Stephen Mark Knott and Irene Dougherty Knott of Pasadena.

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