Associate professor and Kresge Humanities Librarian was a vital part of the Oakland community for 29 years


Friends and family are mourning poet, scholar and mentor Frank Lepkowski, who died on Tuesday.

Frank Lepkowski Sr., associate professor and humanities librarian at Kresge Library, died October 28 at the age of 59. The cause of his death is unknown according to his son, Frank Lepkowski Jr.

Frank was a vital part of the Oakland community for 29 years, holding titles such as associate dean of the library, coordinator of instruction and Writing 160 instructor.

“Frank was passionate about higher education, and he was passionate about Oakland,” read the Kresge Library tribute to Frank.

He taught several courses within the library instruction program, including the library instruction for Spanish classes.

“His knowledge of Spanish dictionaries was so extensive and deep, he made them come to life for me,” Dominique Daniel, humanities librarian for historical and modern languages, said.

He also held a Master of Arts in English from Oakland.

“He offered a guest presentation at our most recent department meeting, in fact, and dazzled us all with his wit, intelligence, and helpfulness,” Kathleen Pfeiffer, professor and chair of the English Department, said.

Lepkowski was a compassionate person with a curious nature and love of the English language, according to friends and colleagues.

“He would regularly continue to look into and read about a topic that he had helped a patron with at the reference desk, just because he was curious to learn more,” said Associate Professor and Coordinator of Instruction Beth Kraemer.

Those who worked with Frank spoke of his ability to hold a great conversation through his knowledge and friendliness.

“He could talk on just about any subject you’d imagine,” Shawn Lombardo, Associate Dean of Kresge Library, said.

His colleagues said he was passionate about teaching and being able to provide students with whatever they needed.

“The students came first to him. He was constantly thinking about new databases and services and how the students would benefit by them,” said professor and Coordinator of Research Services Kristine Condic.

Lombardo described a time while she was working at the reference desk and needed Frank’s help.

“A student came to the desk with a question, it was a Spanish question, and I didn’t know the answer and we couldn’t find it anywhere, it was about some slang term, and I called Frank and he came running. He wanted to talk to the student and give the answer. He was just so excited to share that with the student,” Lombardo said.

Frank is survived by his wife Annie, his children Karina and Frank and stepchildren Avery, Keelin and Cameron Greene.

His son, Frank Jr. described him as “an academic and a family man.”

“The times he was happiest he was with his family,” he said.

Frank Jr. said his father had a special love of music, especially Bob Dylan.

“That was just about his favorite artist,” he said.

His father had anxiously been awaiting the release of “The Basement Tapes” by Bob Dylan and The Band.

“The way he put it was like it was the Holy Grail,” Frank said.

Frank said he was pleased and thankful to see all those who came to the service at Wm. Sullivan & Son Funeral Home this past weekend.

“It was great to have the support of the OU community,” he said. “It’s awesome to see a lot of other people appreciated him at work.”


A tribute from Alex Cherup, Special to The Oakland Post and friend of Frank

The first words I spoke to Frank were at a Bob Dylan concert at the Masonic Temple in Detroit in 2005. I had recognized his strong voice from a lesson on research he had delivered to my writing class booming behind me at the concert. This time the voice was encouraging the opening act, Merle Haggard, to play an encore. I approached him during intermission, and we agreed to meet the following week to compare notes on the concert. This started a decade-long friendship.

 We attended countless Dylan and other concerts, listened to hundreds hours of music together and probably, as a pair, had the enigmatic poet laureate of rock ‘n’ roll figured out more than anyone else. One of my fondest memories at Oakland University is a presentation Frank and I developed for the Meeting of Minds about one of his favorite songs, “Jokerman.” Set as a Platonic dialogue between student and teacher, the scholarly work was an accurate portrayal of our diverse conversations.

 Frank was admired by so many at OU over the nearly 30 years he worked here. We all loved him and his devotion to the truth, his learned wisdom and his poetic approach to life. He left his mark on the world, which now lives on through his positive influence on those close to him. Like so many others, I loved Frank and will miss him terribly. As I listen to any new Dylan or Brian Wilson song – especially Dylan’s official “Basement Tapes” that we had been so excited about – I will work at imagining Frank’s thoughtful reaction with the twinkle in his eye.

During one of the last times I saw him, Frank gifted me a portion of his collection of music, some of the rarest and most seminal recordings of rock ‘n’ roll from over the past half century. This was, to the two of us, like the passage of important artifacts of humanity.   

My thoughts and prayers extend to his family who he loved so dearly: his wife Annie and his son Frank and his daughter Karina, and his stepchildren Avery, Keelin and Cameron Greene.