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Frank Telleen '39 was 'epitome of professionalism'

January  11, 2013

Frank Telleen, left, former information director at Augustana, in a 2004 photo with current sports information director Dave Wrath, and former Augustana SID Jim McGrath.
Cassandra Block, Frank Telleen '39 and Ruth (Robinson) Hanna '39 at commencement in 2009.

Frank Telleen '39, described as the "epitome of professionalism each and every day," was Augustana's director of information services from 1958 to 1986. Telleen died Wednesday, Jan. 9, at Trinity Rock Island at the age of 94.

"Frank understood his craft as the public relations spokesperson of Augustana, and he dearly loved the school and what it stood for," said Dave Wrath '80, Augustana's associate director of athletics/media and alumni relations. "Frank checked, double-checked and then re-checked anything that was going out under the Augustana name. With Frank, the right way was the only way to do it, and there were no shortcuts."  

After graduating from Augustana in 1939, Telleen earned a master's from Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University. But it didn't take long for the Cambridge, Illinois, native to move back to western Illinois. He worked briefly for weekly newspapers in Galva and Carthage before joining the staff of the Rock Island Argus. After 15 years as a reporter and state editor at the Argus, Telleen returned to his beloved alma mater, where he worked for more than 27 years under three college presidents: Dr. Conrad Bergendoff, Dr. C.W. Sorensen and Dr. Thomas Tredway. His position included media relations, advertising and publications.  

Wrath remembers a day back in 1981 — his second day on the job as Augustana's sports information director.

"Frank called me over to 'go over' some things on my initial press release," Wrath said. "When he got done, there was more red ink on the paper than black ink. I was devastated, but he was a patient man and he went through every mistake I made, explaining each and every one and his rationale as to why it was wrong. He taught me a lot about how to best represent Augustana, and I cherished our friendship."  

Telleen continued to mentor young professionals at Augustana even after he retired from the college. When Kai Swanson '86 was named the college's public relations director in 1995, fortunately he already was acquainted with Telleen through college and church connections.  

"He never said, 'This is how we used to do it,' or any other 'If I were you...' statements, and yet I learned a great deal from him, perhaps for that very reason," Swanson said. "He embodied what I take to be a distinct part of the Augustana ethos that there is joy in doing well for something greater than yourself. With that comes a kindness and gentility that everyone who knew Frank remembers vividly."  

Frank Telleen's family includes several Augustana graduates, including Nancy Telleen '64 Califf, daughter; William Telleen '68, son; William Califf '90, grandson; and Steve Califf  '94, grandson. Nieces and nephews include James Houghton '71, Jane Telleen '74, Mary Telleen '77 Boster, John Telleen '80 and Thomas Telleen '84.  

He was preceded in death by Anita Telleen '47 Wait, sister; John Telleen '47, brother; Carla Reynolds '50 Telleen, wife; and Philip Telleen '68, nephew.  

Funeral services will be 11 a.m. Monday, Jan. 14, at St. John's Lutheran Church, Rock Island. Burial will be at Chippiannock Cemetery, Rock Island. Visitation will be 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 13, at Wendt Funeral Home, Moline. (Obituary)