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Remembering Carol Franks, 1948 – 2010
Remembering Carol Franks, 1948 – 2010

Courses:  Introduction to Fiction, the Short Story, Philosophy in Literature, Writing: Process and Response, Grammar and the Sentence, Practical Grammar, and Grammar for Writers

She was guided by her own high behavioral and ethical standards.  While her mind might have codified those standards, it was her heart that was their master.  A tenet of that mastery was that her heart be always open to everyone, and it was with that proviso that she faced the world ....  Her humor and grace were coupled with serious learning and attention to detail Carol brilliantly provided a stimulating and encouraging classroom to all those whose good fortune guided them to her.  

Carol’s friend and former student, Sally Nicoletti, remarked, “Her beautiful mind was tempered with generosity, kindness, and respect for everyone . . . and never fed by ego.”

Friend and former student, Shem Caitlin O’Hailey, who supported Carol through her last difficult weeks of teaching, wrote, “Mark Twain has said, ‘Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.’  Carol Franks did just that ….  Carol brought a personal warmth and passion to the study of literature, writing, and grammar. An incessant punster, she loved and savored words the way some people love and savor chocolate. Her teaching voice was engaged, compassionate, and impassioned. Those of us who studied under Carol will always remember her love of teaching, her probing questions, her intense listening, her total commitment to our success, and her concern that we succeed not just in college but in life. I feel privileged to have known her.”

Comments from colleagues and friends:

One afternoon the Buddha sat in the shade thinking back to his days as a student and how it would be a joy to live that life once more, perhaps as a teacher. Next thing you know, Carol Franks showed up at PSU. – Tony Wolk, English, who taught alongside her for more than a decade

Carol Franks was one of the brightest and funniest people I have ever known, and without doubt one of the best teachers. I had the pleasure of teaching with Carol.  She made the experience joyous. She created an atmosphere of trust and sharing, and both by example and method encouraged open-mouthed curiosity—openness to the world. She was a wonderful weaver of words. She will be with me always. – Larry Bowlden, Philosophy

Carol was to me a great friend and colleague but, especially, she was a shining storyteller. Her wit and humanity created sometimes simple, but always wily, tales of small town North Dakota and a family of loving tricksters, resplendent with parents, sister and brothers, cousins (first, second and beyond) aunts and uncles (great and not). Carol spun her tales and all present would be wrapped in love and humor.  – Sharon Elteto, Library

To know Carol was to know one of the warmest hearted persons one is ever likely to meet.  Always self-deprecating, she was unfailingly generous in her praise of others.  I have forgotten most of her wonderful Ollie and Lena jokes, but I will never forget her deep chuckle as she told them. For Carol’s voice was memorable.  I think that no one ever heard her shout or even express anger, but with her soft speech she commanded attention whether in the classroom, before an audience, or simply over coffee.  It was not just her voice of course.  She had a deep love and understanding of language and particularly of writing and the skill to impart that knowledge to others.

In my seven years as her department head, it was frustratingly difficult to get her the kind of appointment in terms of both job security and benefits that her skill and contribution to the department deserved.  She, however, never complained and always gave herself generously to her students in whatever course was assigned to her.  It was a privilege to know her. – John Cooper, English

I don't know of anyone she disliked.  She had a larger mental encyclopedia of jokes than anyone I've ever known, and she told them gleefully.  She enjoyed life more than anyone I have known. – Shelley Reece, English

Carol continued to teach on-line after she “went home” to North Dakota.  Her dream was to open a bookstore and establish a publishing house and community for writers.  She opened her bookstore—Bibliokatz—shortly after moving to Park River.    

When I think of Carol, I think first of her sense of humor—often self-directed.  In the days before she died, she made jokes about the effects of her chemotherapy, spoke of making it through the eighth week of teaching, mentioned that her wig made her look like a sheepdog, and complained that the bookstore cat loved to destroy flowers, so that she had to whisk them out of sight whenever the cat came in.  Meanwhile, she said, the cat hummed “Where have all the flowers gone?”  These are the last sentences she wrote to me a few days before she died:  “The fragrance of fresh-cut tulips and lilacs is drifting around the book store.  Very pleasant.”

In Memoriam,

Deeanne Westbrook