by UAF Alumni Relations Staff
For this year’s UAF Distinguished Alumnus, Caroline Tritt-Frank ‘90, ‘01, the challenges faced while earning her degrees were extreme by any measure. She wore a headlamp to complete her correspondence courses because her family’s Arctic Village cabin didn’t have electricity at the time.
Online classes weren’t an option, so each of her professors mailed her lessons and assignments. Handing in homework meant either walking a mile each way to the post office or sending a fax one page at a time.
When Tritt-Frank walked across the stage at her commencement in 1990, she didn’t know she was starting a movement. Her example inspires those around her to realize that they could make their dreams of a college education a reality. Her husband, daughters and best friend, as well as more than a dozen of her former students, have followed in her footsteps by earning degrees from UAF.
A decade later, Frank-Tritt crossed the stage again, this time to receive her master’s degree in education. Her daughter Crystal Frank, who nominated her for the UAFAA Distinguished Alumnus award, says her earliest memories are of her mother working on her college studies.
“Whenever I felt discouraged in school, I thought of my mom,” Frank said. “My mother always thinks of others before herself. She’s a hard worker, very studious. I think that she deserves the space to be celebrated. I want her to know that it’s okay to stop and be celebrated once in a while.”
Tritt-Frank graduated from Mt. Edgecumbe High School in 1972. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education in 1991 and a Masters of Education degree in 2000, both from the University of Alaska Fairbanks including her teaching certificate.
The first Gwich’in woman from Arctic Village to receive a graduate degree, Tritt Frank has spent the past forty years translating and transcribing, often teaching bilingual education in the Gwich’in language. She’s known for her work in immersion curriculum development. She’s taught in Arctic Village, Venetie, Circle, Fairbanks and Scammon Bay and has also served as principal.
“I became a teacher because I don’t want to lose my language,” said Tritt-Frank, who was a member of the Gwich’in panel formed by the state Division of Elections that translated voting and election materials from English into Alaska Native languages.
Tritt-Frank has spent her entire career in rural Alaska. She is originally from Arctic Village, Alaska. The eldest daughter of the late Rev. Isaac Tritt Sr., and the late Naomi (Peter) Tritt of Arctic Village, she’s married to Kenneth Frank 96’ (cert.) and has two daughters Crystal Frank 11’ (M.A.) and Tisheena Frank 15’ (B.A.) and her late adopted son Isaac Ray Tritt.
She values higher education and language. Some of her studies include language immersion in the classroom, curriculum development and writing children stories in the Gwich’in language. She has been a role model for many others in higher education and language learning.
Tritt-Frank is also a member of the Native Village of Venetie Tribal Government and is currently working as a lead teacher for the Fairbanks Native Association. She resides in Fairbanks with her husband. They recently celebrated their 34th wedding anniversary.