Those who knew Frank Ragulsky probably heard him say, “I went to the bank,” when he arrived at work at seven in the morning.
Typically, that meant he had already caught a few rainbow trout on an early morning fishing trip before heading to Oregon State University, where he worked as a dedicated adviser for The Daily. Barometer and director of Student Media from 1982 to 2009.
A loving husband, father of two and grandfather of five, Ragulsky died peacefully of cancer in Corvallis, Oregon on June 30 with his wife, Jane Ragulsky, by his side.
Jane first met Ragulsky in the fall of 1966.
“I was a freshman in college and he was a junior,” Jane Ragulsky said. “He was in my biology class and he noticed me. I had noticed he was in student government, wore a school blazer on student government days, so Frank stood out from the other guys. He called me on my 18th birthday.
Ann Robinson, former assistant director of Student Media from 1982 to 2012, worked for Ragulsky during her time at OSU. Later, when they both retired, she became close friends with him and his wife.
“It seemed a bit old-fashioned,” Robinson said.
“He always wore a tie and a jacket, never jeans. He took his job seriously. He always arrived early for everything. He was a good listener and a great storyteller. When I first met him he was in his thirties and had two young children. These children are now in their forties and have children of their own.
Just before Ragulsky retired, Robinson said he and his wife built a house in Homer, Alaska, and bought a boat.
“They both had navigation and instrument training so they would be highly qualified to go out into the ocean trolling for salmon or catching halibut,” Robinson said. “I had the privilege of learning to fish for halibut and salmon on his boat and on the nearby Soldotna River. I might never have visited Alaska without Frank and Jane.
Ragulsky was inspired to be a journalist by a high school experience, according to his wife.
“He had a journalism class and he was on the newspaper staff and went to a Catholic high school, and there was a nun there who just inspired him,” Jane Ragulsky said. “She walked into a room and said, ‘I want you and you come with me,’ and that’s how it started, and he just liked it from that age.”
Frank Ragulsky’s love of students and teaching led to his success, according to Kami Hammerschmith, who first met him when he was 17 at a yearbook camp at the ‘OSU. Years later, she continued to work with Ragulsky as deputy director of Student Media from 1995 to 2016.
“I ended up going to OSU and he was my adviser while I worked for the Beaver Yearbook,” Hammerschmith said. “If a student made a mistake, Frank supported them and made it a learning experience. He has helped many students to find an internship or a job. He was president of the Western Association of University Publication Managers – a national organization of student media directors – twice and had contacts with the media across the country. In 2007, a colleague from The Oregonian asked him to bring the High School Journalism Institute to OSU, a week-long summer camp for underrepresented students in the media. The camp came to OSU in 2008 and still exists today.
The HSJI will be held this summer from July 30 to August 6 at OSU’s Corvallis campus, after a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
From 1997 to 2001, Scott Johnson worked at Barometer as a student journalist under Ragulsky and later worked with him again at Hewlett-Packard, commonly known as HP.
“The first thing that’s easily remembered about Frank is his huge smile,” Johnson said. “He was optimistic and could always put a positive spin on a situation.”
According to Johnson, Ragulsky understood that college is a place of learning for students, and he knew that sometimes that meant failing to improve.
“I appreciate that he really let the students run the newsroom without being too heavy handed, but he was always there if you needed advice,” Johnson said. “He was a great guide and mentor because he never told you exactly what to do, but rather presented scenarios and let you make a decision.”
Steve Clark, vice president of academic relations and marketing at OSU, said he spoke frequently with Ragulsky when Clark was a newspaper publisher in Oregon from 1983 to 2011.
“He was a wonderful, warm, happy and caring person.” said Clark. “He loved teaching and supporting student journalists. I am very sad that he passed away. Frank will long be remembered by many journalists working across the country and even around the world.
According to Hammerschmith, Ragulsky had a 27-year impact on student media and OSU.
“For some of his years there was no journalism or media degree program, but Frank worked with students to continue a daily newspaper, yearbook, literary magazine, and radio and television station” , Hammerschmith said. “They all continued with great quality through Frank’s trainings because students couldn’t learn it anywhere else on campus.”
In a March 2021 interview for the Barometer’s 125th anniversary issue, Ragulsky said he and other counselors offer help whenever students ask for help, but let them go on their own — their only requirement. was for students to be accurate and responsible.
“We let them go because they were the best at reporting,” Ragulsky said during the interview last year.
Matthew LaPlante, an associate professor of journalism at the University of Utah, was on the Barometer team as a student journalist in 2001, when the paper won national awards with Ragulsky as its journalism adviser.
“Frank, let’s be us,” LaPlante recalled.
“When we failed as journalists and students – and, alas, sometimes as decent human beings – he allowed us to recognize our mistakes, learn from public criticism and apply those experiences to tomorrow, next week and next year. We often failed, and he was there to listen to us when we felt overwhelmed by those experiences, to remind us that failure is part of being a student, and to tell us to cheer up, get back to work and strive to make better decisions.. But he didn’t protect us from the consequences of our actions, and he didn’t tell people they were wrong about us criticize when we screwed up, which often happened.
In their “much less mainstream” hits, LaPlante recalled Ragulsky allowing student journalists to bask in the moment.
“When I called him from the Society of Professional Journalists conference in Fort Worth, Texas to tell him that I had won the National Feature Writing Award and that our paper had been named the best newspaper academic in the country, I said, ‘Congratulations, boss,’ and he replied, ‘I’m not the one who should be congratulated,’ LaPlante said.
“In the days and weeks that followed, as we were praised by school officials and reported by reporters who cover journalism, Frank never sought or took credit for what happened. Today, I’m a college professor whose students sometimes win national awards, so I’ve had plenty of opportunities to think about how remarkable this was: Frank was an adviser to a newspaper in a school with no journalism curriculum and very few journalism classes, and which somehow managed to produce amazing journalism and win national awards, but it didn’t take credit for it .
Ragulsky’s innate humility and generosity were traits other colleagues frequently mentioned when sharing stories about him.
“He wanted to have an impact on students, but never for personal recognition,” Hammerschmith said.
The most Ragulsky did was get a bunch of mugs made, LaPlante recalls — white with an orange Barometer logo and, below, the words “Best Student Newspaper in the Nation.”
“I know he kept one on his desk,” LaPlante said. “I still have one on my desk, and I’ve often thought about putting it away somewhere where it won’t accidentally get broken, but I didn’t because I like what it reminds me of. ”
“When students are allowed to truly feel their failures and rejoice in their successes, amazing things can happen. Me LeaI learned that from Frank, and I’ll always be grateful for that lesson.