"I grew up in Alpena, and I grew up poor," the thirty-eight-year-old teacher explains after school. A big man with a goatee and a nearly shaved head, he looks like a Muppet version of Simon "Shaun of the Dead" Pegg. "I was always interested in Latin--the myths and the heroes--but the first time I signed up, not enough other students did, so it didn't happen. I tried again senior year, and this time it did.
"I was a reader," continues McKnight. "But that was as far as I thought I'd go in school. After I graduated, I was looking forward to forty hours a week at the Big Boy as a line chef. That was my big ambition.
"Then about a month into classes, the Latin teacher asked me where I was going to college, and I said I wasn't going to college. He said he thought I should try, and he helped me fill out the U-M application and wrote me a letter of recommendation."
The teacher was Michael Brinkman--who, coincidentally, moved to Ann Arbor himself in retirement. "He was a wonderful student," remembers Brinkman. "Of course, he had long hair, but he was a mannerly, respectful, and dedicated student. And he was hungry for knowledge. He took Latin and just fell in love with the language."