Alumni Profiles     

Karen Peters Frankenfeld, ’59
  Distinguished Alumna,  2001

Park’s Distinguished Alumna Award is music to her ears.  Following her graduation from Park, Karen (Peters) Frankenfeld, ’59 began her career as a high school vocal music teacher.  She also began, as her husband describes, her role as a “professional giver” — one who gives of herself not with thought of reward, but rather with love and caring from the heart.  Robert Frankenfeld, Karen’s husband of 38 years, credits Park as a major influence on her character.  Karen noted that her own experience at Park made her a better person thanks to personal friendships and the caring of her professors. “I needed a boost in my self confidence and I found it at Park,” she said.

Karen grew up in St. Louis, Mo., where she graduated from high school.  After attending a Park College presentation and hearing the Park Singers perform, she decided to visit the campus and was impressed by the people she met and the opportunities for participation in all aspects of campus life that were offered.

After graduating from Park, Karen taught in St. Joseph, Mo., where Park music faculty member Richard Cormier was director of the St. Joseph Symphony Orchestra. He invited her to join the percussion section of the orchestra where she me her husband Bob, who was the timpanist. The couple has two children, Andy and Jenny, and four grandchildren.

In 1969 Karen earned a masters degree in secondary guidance from Kansas State Teacher’s College in Emporia. She served as a high school and junior high school counselor until returning to her first love, teaching vocal music, in 1977. She retired from teaching in 1995, but her voice can still be heard — she is the director of Perfect Harmony, a ladies barbershop chorus, and is a certified director with Sweet Adelines. Karen is also a soloist and Stephen Minister at church in Bella Vista, Ark., where the couple lives.

Wherever Karen has lived, she has been a leader in teaching staffs, in church, and in community vocal and performance groups.  In a letter supporting Karen’s nomination for Park’s Distinguished Alumni Award, Bob wrote: “Throughout her career in the public schools she genuinely cared about the whole student, not just as a music student or cast member or ensemble singer, but as a young person who had worth as a unique individual.  I can remember Karen fretting about choosing students for special groups, concerned what impact not making the group would have on the student.  Often she would find a way to include a student who perhaps didn’t have great talent, but who as Karen liked to say, could really benefit from being in the group.  Her highest goal was to have students share her love of music and experience the joy of giving of themselves to others through their performance.  During her stint as a counselor she was “on call” 24 hours a day.  She was always there for students and parents regardless of the time or situation.”

Caring and sharing are important qualities in Karen’s life. “No matter what I do,” she said, “the people around me are most important. If you can make life more pleasant and interesting for other people, you will receive abundant rewards personally.”  The opportunity each Park student had to participate in college life with no barriers made a lifelong impression on Karen. “The fact that you might not be a great athlete, performer or student didn’t matter. Everyone was accepted equally and encouraged and loved by students and professors,” she told us, adding, “everyone was also required to work at least twelve hours on campus each week, which contributed to the cohesiveness of the ‘family’ of Parkites. The cultural diversity I experienced at Park was a major factor in developing my attitude of acceptance toward people whose heritage is much different from mine.”

Because of Karen’s love of Park, she has encouraged students to attend here — knowing that it’s a wonderful place to grow and be accepted.  Because Karen’s life of giving reflects Park’s spirit of caring, we are delighted to award her our highest honor.