After 37 years of serving as the voice of Sam Houston State University, Frank Krystyniak will enter a new phase of his life on Aug. 31 when he retires.
“Frank has been a wonderful spokesman for Sam Houston State University,” said SHSU President Jim Gaertner.
“The contacts and relationships that he has established through the years with media throughout the state have been invaluable to us. Frank has been a person of integrity and a pleasure to work with in every way. He has done a great job for our university over the years, and he will be missed.”
His knowledge of the university’s history and the evolvement into its modern-day culture is one thing that has been noted by many who know him.
“Frank is a highly respected journalist who has provided his alma mater with dedicated service for more than 30 years,” said Frank Holmes, vice president for university advancement.
“He was enormously helpful to me, especially in terms of providing accurate institutional memory and solid professional advice on how to handle issues,” he said. “He is a wonderful person and colleague who will be missed by many across the entire university.”
Krystyniak has always been proud of his New Waverly roots, where his mother, Clara Krystyniak, still lives in the farmhouse in which he was born.
He first became acquainted with Sam Houston State when he competed in FFA parliamentary procedure and radio broadcasting contests at the university as a high school student.
His team took the state championship in both events.
“We were very well prepared by our agriculture teacher, Rex White,” Krystyniak said. “He was the Bela Karolyi of ag teachers.”
After graduating from high school, he attended Sam Houston State and graduated in two years and nine months with a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism. He would later earn the Master of Arts degree at SHSU.
While an undergraduate student, he was editor of the student newspaper, The Houstonian, and participated in the ROTC program. Upon graduation, he was commissioned as an officer.
He spent two years in the U. S. Army with the 2nd Armored (Hell on Wheels) Division in Ft. Hood as a public information officer. He was also in the U. S. Army Reserves with the 501st Maneuver Area Command, rising to the rank of captain.
After his active duty with the military was completed, he worked three years as a reporter for the Houston Post.
He then went to work for Business Week magazine and covered the space program during what some would consider the program’s peak performance.
“While I was with Business Week, I covered the first manned landing on the moon,” Krystyniak said. “It is one of the highlights of my career, and I’m just sorry I couldn’t have gone along.”
Shortly after that event, Business Week editors asked Krystyniak to consider transferring to one of their larger bureaus --- New York, Chicago, Philadelphia or Detroit.
While he was visiting the Business Week headquarters in New York, he received a phone call from Ferol Robinson, his mentor and college adviser, who had just been named vice president for university services at Sam Houston State. Robinson wanted Krystyniak to come to the university to create and direct a department that would handle marketing, communications, publications, advertising, and media relations.
The idea of coming to Huntsville was much more appealing to Krystyniak than uprooting his family from Texas and moving them far away from their extended family. So in 1971, he became director of Sam Houston State University’s first information services department.
Over the years he has been involved with writing, photography, design, web design and editing, publications coordination, advertising, production of brochures, posters, campus view books, and other materials. He has worked in the administrations of SHSU presidents Elliott Bowers, Martin Anisman, Bob Marks and Jim Gaertner.
He has served on the statewide Texas Higher Education Commission Communications Task Force for implementation of the Texas Academic Skills Program (TASP) and was appointed as SHSU’s customer relations representative for the statewide Compact With Texans initiative. He was SHSU’s representative on the small steering committee that created the General Sam Houston Folk Festival.
He directed the university’s media relations campaign for the General Sam Houston Bicentennial Birthday Celebration, which received coverage by numerous media outlets including the Associated Press, Reuters, Texas Monthly, Texas Highways, Southern Living, USA Today, Texas State Network, and an appearance by the university president on NBC’s Today Show.
He is proud of the work done by his small staff including the creation of the university’s seal and the Today@Sam Web site. He also did research and came up with the phrase “World’s Tallest Statue of an American Hero” for David Adickes’ Big Sam statue on I-45.
His passion for sports is well documented. He played football in high school for the late Bob Hardy and now enjoys a reputation as an award-winning golfer. As a golf columnist for the Huntsville Item in 1986, after a conversation with then-SHSU president Elliott Bowers, he wrote a column proposing a public fee golf course on the property on which Raven Nest was built. He is also an outdoorsman and looks forward each fall to deer hunting locally and fly fishing during the summer months in Colorado.
He served as the university’s sports information director and has volunteered for such activities as public address for football, baseball and basketball. For many years, he has run the shot clock at Bearkat basketball games.
He and his wife, Linda, are life members of the SHSU Alumni Association, and he is an honorary member of the SHSU Lettermen Association.
One of his longest professional relationships has been with radio broadcaster Kooter Roberson.
Roberson met Krystyniak while serving as the public address announcer for Bearkat football games at Pritchett Field when he was a freshman at SHSU.
“At the time, Frank was running play-by-play on a typewriter. We were in very close quarters in a tiny press box with no air conditioning and no heat, and conversations were going on back and forth between everyone who was up there,” Roberson said.
Roberson says he appreciated Krystyniak’s friendly demeanor and how he complemented his own personality.
“Frank observes others quietly,” Roberson said. “He’s not loud and boisterous like I am.”
But Roberson quickly added that Krystyniak has a sharp wit and a great sense of humor.
“During football games, Frank would sometimes be a spotter for me, looking at the other’s team’s roster and calling out names of players who had made a tackle or a catch or some play,” he said.
“One time, the Bearkats were playing a team from a college in Mexico, and the roster they brought was in total disarray,” Roberson said. “Not only was it incomplete and inaccurate, but the names that were listed were hard to pronounce.
“One of their players made a tackle, and I needed to announce the play. However, the player’s number wasn’t on the roster we had. Without missing a beat Frank decided to give the player a name for me to use – Juan Valdez, the name of the fictional character that advertised Colombian coffee. And that’s the name I used when I announced the play!”
Roberson, a local celebrity himself, said that Krystyniak has been a central figure in his career for many, many years.
“I marvel at the knowledge about Sam Houston State University that Frank has in his head,” he said. “I’ve used him as a resource on many occasions. It amazes me.”
In addition to serving as the university’s director of public relations, Krystyniak also taught at SHSU for 28 years, including courses in mass communications, reporting, editing, feature writing magazine editing and production, sports reporting, and public relations. He also secured a chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America for the university, oversaw its reaccreditation, and served for many years as chapter adviser.
One of his former students, Tom Waddill, is the sports editor of The Huntsville Item.
“Frank taught a freshman or sophomore level public relations class, and I remember sitting in the back row in one of those Estill Building classrooms,” Waddill said. “From day one, it was obvious Frank knew what he was talking about. He was a neat teacher who was well liked and also well respected by his students.
“Frank played a major role in putting me on a path toward becoming a sports writer,” Waddill said. “In that public relations class, I met Matt Rogers, the former sports information director at Sam Houston State.
“Matt came to Frank’s class looking for student workers. I raced to his office after class to volunteer. Through that job, I became acquainted with the sports guys at The Item,” Waddill explained.
“One fall, I worked side-by-side with Frank at Moorhead Stadium in Conroe, covering high school football,” Waddill said. “What a blast, covering high school football with someone who really knew what he was doing! On the way home from the games, we listened to high school football scoreboard shows. What an introduction into the frenzy that is Friday Night Lights!”
Waddill is especially appreciative of the lessons in professional ethics that he learned from Krystyniak.
“Frank taught his students to always ‘shoot straight’. It’s always better to tell the whole truth than to tell half-truths,” he said. “Get caught doing that and your credibility is shot.
“I was one of the lucky ones who learned a lot from him as a teacher and also as a professional,” Waddill said. “Frank is one of those guys who teaches a lot by his example.”
Krystyniak has also been involved in a number of Huntsville community activities such as serving as a Celebrity Reader for the Huntsville Public Library Summer Reading Program, an SOS (Save One Student) mentor at Scott Johnson Elementary School, and a member of the Huntsville Chamber of Commerce Leadership Institute faculty. His is a dual member of St. Thomas Catholic Church of Huntsville and St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in New Waverly, where he was an altar boy for many years.
He also coached youth league baseball, softball and basketball and coordinated publicity for the Huntsville Lakers Swim Team and the annual St. Thomas bazaar.
He expects to continue to be active in retirement.
“Linda and I plan to spend a lot of time with our family, especially granddaughters Lucy and Sadie,” Krystyniak said. Their two children, John and Karol, both have degrees from SHSU.
“I will also be doing some free lance writing,” he said.
Apparently, there are some things that stay with a journalist for a lifetime.
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"The measure of a Life is its Service."