Maria Weybrecht Knausz

Her dreams took flight

Maria Weybrecht Knausz was a 19-year-old college student, already a licensed private pilot, and an aspiring Air Force pilot when a routine dentist visit changed her life.

She was preparing to have her wisdom teeth removed when the oral surgeon felt lumps in her neck and immediately scheduled a visit with a specialist.

Within weeks, Knausz was being treated for stage four thyroid cancer that had spread to her lymph nodes and lungs, having multiple surgeries and spending time at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City undergoing radiation therapy. 

The devastating diagnosis also crushed her dream of becoming a professional pilot -- the FAA does not allow cancer patients to fly planes. But instead of grounding her lifelong love of flying, Knausz channeled her passion into something that would help other young people dealing with life-threatening illnesses.

In 2003, she founded Kids in Flight, an organization that provides sightseeing airplane rides to children facing serious illness.  Twelve years later, Kids in Flight continues to soar.

A student at Ohio University in Athens prior to her diagnosis, Knausz enrolled at CSU during her junior year to be closer to her family in Eastlake. She was valedictorian of her 2005 class and founded CSU’s chapter of the Student Association for Professional Communication. Her numerous honors include being named one of Glamour magazine’s top 10 college women in the country for 2005.

After completing her bachelor’s degree in communication, she continued on at CSU, earning an MBA and a certificate in not-for-profit management in 2007.

From there, she joined, an electronic medical software company based in Westlake. She works from her home and is the director of marketing.  

Knausz has traveled and lived all over the United States since graduation but these days stays a bit closer to home -- she and her husband, Jon, became parents of daughter Eva in 2014. 

“My inspiration now is my beautiful daughter. I want to make the world a better place for her,” says the alumna who certainly lives up to her middle name – Faith.

More Fascinating Alumni

Maria Weybrecht Knausz

BS ’05, MBA ’07
Marketing director,