Frank Koch: Founding Scientist
On Friday, June 10, Gateway to Science and our entire community lost a great friend when Frank Koch passed away. Frank was often referred to as our founding scientist, but he was so much more than that. He was a true “Renaissance Man” with interests that ranged from academic (e.g. science) to artistic (e.g. woodcarving). Frank had a deep appreciation for learning. In fact, daughter Nancy Koch-Durow recently shared an important life lesson from Frank: “You won’t know if you don’t ask.”
Frank shared his passion for science with students of all ages, first as a teacher at Center, Edgeley and Mandan, and later as a Bismarck State College professor of chemistry for 35 years. While at BSC, Frank started an annual family chemistry day with his students demonstrating fun, hands-on experiments for kids to explore. This event was so well-received that after several years Frank convinced the Gateway Mall management to provide a small space for a permanent science center. He then gathered together a small group of science professionals and members of Junior Service League to open Gateway to Science in November 1994.
We’ve come a long way since that time when Frank would draw exhibit plans on paper napkins (literally) to our current plan to build a state-of-the-art science center in the near future. Throughout the past 20+ years, Frank and his wife Kay, who recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, were always at the forefront of volunteers making it happen. Frank served as an original member of the Board of Directors, and most recently as Board President (2014-2016).
Gateway to Science began with Frank Koch’s vision of a place where families and children could immerse themselves in fun science-learning activities. Through continuing support and participation from families, schools, and other regional institutions, Gateway to Science has grown into a much-loved, well-respected, and integral asset of Bismarck, its surrounding communities, and all of North Dakota.
Frank will be missed for his kindness and generosity, as well as his witty sense of humor. Frank & Kay’s son Rob Koch summed up the loss we are all feeling, “North Dakota’s best woodcarver and most inspirational chemistry teacher is on his way to Heaven this Friday night.” He was more than our founding scientist – he was, and will continue to be, the spirit of Gateway to Science. It’s now up to us to continue his legacy as we carry Frank’s vision forward.
~Beth Demke, Executive Director