Heather Knowles `93 graduated from Graceland University with a Bachelor of Arts in English – Writing with a minor in Speech. During high school, she attended summer volleyball camps organized by Graceland women’s head coach, Stew McDole, in Rolla, Missouri. From those experiences she was enticed to visit campus, try out for Graceland’s team and learn all about the Graceland experience. Her initial campus visit was met with hellos, happy faces and a laid-back friendly vibe. She knew the university was the right fit.
An only child, Knowles describes her on-campus living experience (Sariah House) as both challenging and interesting. Moving onto a residence hall with “all these people,” was quite a change, but was full of love, laughter, kindness and five-star pranks.
Knowles recounts her most important takeaway from her time at Graceland, “In order to be successful, you must put in the work.” Not the most natural athlete, she worked hard on the women’s volleyball and basketball teams. She learned academically to complete assignments, take criticism constructively, and extract and use what her teachers, coaches, mentors and peers had to say to improve.
Following graduation, Knowles traveled to Scandinavia for work, and when she returned to the U.S., she landed an opportunity in the world of bookselling management. She then spent 14 years with Meredith Corporation, headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa, in their Special Interest Publications division, where she worked on teams that produced specialty garden titles for Better Homes and Gardens, Country Gardens, Flower Gardening, Garden Ideas & Outdoor Living, plus many more.
“I kind of love that my path hasn’t been a straight line – a lot of twists and turns along the way.”
Knowles more recently switched focus to help people in another way – massage therapy. She has specialized in geriatric and hospice care in Des Moines since 2012. She keeps herself creatively fulfilled with outside work as well. Due to her love of writing, in 2000 she began the monthly Des Moines Poetry Slam, which is still going strong today. Knowles’ additional accomplishments include numerous poetry performances and literary journal publications, nine personal poetry chapbooks, and she is currently editing an anthology of 30 years of her work. She attributes part of her fearless ability to try something new to the encouragement she encountered in her years at Graceland.
“If I had told my peers in 1993 that I was going to be a performance poet, they would have said, ‘I don’t know what that means, but it sounds cool, so do it!’”
Knowles created her own definition of success. She continues to do work daily that both helps people and allows for freedom and expression – all of it is work that matters. Her philosophy of success is to have enough (the Swedish wordlagom), and, in the words of writer Joshua Fields Milburn, “Love people, use things. The opposite doesn’t work.”