National Park Service: The First 75 Years
Biographical Vignettes
National Park Service Arrowhead

Frank Kowski

                                          by David O. Karraker

Frank Kowski

At his retirement party Frank exclaimed, "Isn't it wonderful that a kid from the wrong side of the tracks could fall in with a great bunch of people like this." Three hundred friends were there. Wrong side of the tracks or not, clearly Frank was just what the National Park Service needed. He had energy, imagination, complete honesty, humor, a love for the parks, and a compassion for visitors all rolled into one.

In 1937 he left the Forest Service for the NPS "so he could be in the field all the time," according to his wife, Lois. He spent his first summer at Thorofare Ranger Station isolated in the vast backcountry of Yellowstone National Park. He met Lois Thoreson at Lake in 1937, and they were married three years later. Lois had been a school teacher and a summer employee in the park. Frank championed better training for the ranger force and other employees. In 1951 this initiative took him to Washington, D.C., to become the first training officer of the National Park Service. He was "Mr. Training" for young field people who descended on enormous Washington to attend the Departmental Management Training Program. His kind attention folded them into the seemingly cold city and the awesome halls of the Interior Building.

Frank received training at the FBI Academy. He began to formulate the idea of a National Park Service academy for park rangers. In Washington, he worked untiringly toward this goal. His enthusiasm and planning gained firm support for the Horace M. Albright Training Center which began in 1957 in Yosemite. Following a trial period, the center was moved to Grand Canyon, where it remains a force shaping the careers of Service employees. For outstanding work in employee development, Frank received the Distinguished Service Award. Many viewed "Kowski Kollege" days (he hated the name) as the high point of Frank's career. He was demanding, fun, and innovative, but he exercised great care and affection for the students and staff at Albright.

He became superintendent of Sequoia and Kings Canyon in 1966. Only one year later, he moved to Southwest Region as regional director. He was a key figure in consolidating into one NPS region the parks in the Navajo lands, thus greatly diminishing confusion and increasing cooperation with the Navajo Nation. He appointed American Indians to superintendencies and provided training and employment opportunities for hundreds of Indian young people.

Secretary of the Interior Rogers Morton best described Frank with these words: "someone who never lost sight of the goal of service to the people" and with "a quality somewhat rare in many circles. . . . a willingness to speak the truth when all about you others are ducking for cover." That was Frank.

From National Park Service: The First 75 Years


Last Modified: March 27 2017 02:00:00 pm EDT

National Park Service's ParkNet Home