Distinguished alum and professor retires

Heidi Kronaizl News Editor


 Sitting at a desk in Yeager Hall room 234, is Professor Frank Klock, sifting through several newspapers, photos and books reminiscing and sorting through 44 years worth of memories as a photojournalist and professor. 

“I am going to get rid of everything,” Klock said as he handed me a picture of himself from several years earlier. 

Like two other faculty members in the journalism and mass communications department, Klock is preparing for his May retirement. On the wall in his office resides numerous awards and plaques. He has one award up for every ten years of achievement. The awards are of various achievements, such as having the “Pet of the Week” at the Argus Leader, an Associated Press award for portrait personality and being recognized as Distinguished SDSU alum in 1997. More than 50 awards rest in the bottom drawer of his desk collecting dust. 

“It’s not about what you did yesterday, it’s what you’re doing tomorrow that counts,” Klock said when looking at the awards. 

Klock earned his bachelor’s degree from SDSU, where he immediately went to work at the Brookings Register in 1972. 


 “I started out just as a writer, I did my internship there,” Klock said. “They hired me right out of college in ’73. They hired me as their photographer and their sports editor.”

After reporting for the Brookings Register, in 1975 Klock decided he was ready to move on.

“I interviewed with a man named Anson Yeager; he was the editor of the Argus Leader,” Klock said. “I started out as half-time writer and half-time photographer. It got to the point we [the staff] were overloaded, and I became a full-time photographer.”

Klock was a part of the Argus Leader staff for 15 years. During his time, he photographed celebrities of all kinds; Bob Hope, Willie Nelson, Gerald and Betty Ford and Phyllis Diller are just a few.

“Before she [Diller] went on stage, I got to sit and talk to her for a half hour. We had a ball,” Klock said.

When photographing Diller, Klock can recall Diller’s hair appearing green in the photographs he took of her, due to the reflection of the lime green walls of the room Diller stood in. Klock recalled Diller laughing and finding the photos funny.

While filming the movie Dances With Wolves, Kevin Costner was photographed by Klock. Klock later sold some of the rights to the photos he took of Costner. The photos started to appear in Europe in magazines. 

Brooks Robinson, a former infielder for the Baltimore Orioles, is a hero of Klock’s. When speaking in Sioux Falls, Klock photographed Robinson. 

“I got to take pictures of my hero and sit and talk to him,” Klock said.

One of the most notable photographs Klock took while working at the Argus Leader, was a photograph of Russell Means. The photograph was of Means being sent to jail after an armed takeover attempt in Wounded Knee. Klock was outside the jail, striving for a good picture, when Means stepped outside his bodyguards and motioned for Klock to come forward and take a picture.

“I was the only one permitted back there,” Klock said. “I got set up. It all just fell into place, it’s all there. That picture I took has won a bunch of awards.”

Despite having several celebrity photo opportunities with the Argus Leader, Klock photographed other subjects as well. One event that lives in infamy with Klock is covering the Flight 232 crash in Sioux City in 1989. 

“They [staff] kept sending me money and clothes and everything,” Klock said. “I didn’t see Sioux Falls for five days.” 

According to the July 21, 1989 edition of the Argus Leader where the story was on the front page, more than 76 passengers died and 33 were missing.

In the same year, Klock witnessed a man falling off the 300 building in Sioux Falls while photographing him. Tom Schettler, 28, was installing a satellite dish when he fell off over the edge of the six-story building. Schettler later died at Sioux Valley Hospital. Having witnessed the accident, Klock was featured in the news coverage on the front page of the Argus Leader. 

“I had a really rough year,” Klock said. 

After experiencing the events, Klock was approached to try something new. Klock was approached by Dick Lee, the former head of the high school press, to teach at SDSU.

“He kept bugging me and bugging me,” Klock said. “I said I am a photographer, not a teacher.”

After being offered a position to teach photography at SDSU, Klock was encouraged to take the position.

“He [his boss] was going to give me a one year sabbatical … he said ‘Here you can have 14 months and you can come back to the Argus Leader’ 24 years ago. The running joke is Frank went to the circus and never came home,”Klock said.

After teaching at SDSU for 24 years, Klock estimates that he has taught over 2,000 students. He can still recall his first day of teaching.

“When I first came up [to teach], I was scared to death,” Klock said.“I had over 60 students in my class in Rotunda. There was a sea of faces. I was telling myself, ‘Run, Frank, run’, but I didn’t.”

For his retirement party, Klock with the help of head of the journalism and mass communications department Mary Arnold will bring back 12 of his best students, along with their best photos.

“I wanted not so much honoring me, but honoring my students,” Klock said.

After putting in his final hours at SDSU, Klock plans on working part-time, but not doing photography.

“I am going to take about a month off just to relax and be with [Wife] Michelle And take care of my three cats,” Klock said. “My sister Jackie and I will be golfing, and she will beat me.”