Rafting accident claims life of
former SMPC coach Frank Diskin
By TIM WENZL
Southwest Kansas Register
Former St. Mary of the Plains coach and athletic director, Frank Diskin, died June 23 in a rafting accident on the Poudre River near Fort Collins, Colo. He was on a family vacation with his wife, six children, spouses, and grandchildren.
An autopsy conducted June 24 ruled that the cause of death was drowning with complications from heart disease, said Greg Fairman, investigator for the Larmier County Coroners office.
The sheriff’s department said Diskin was in a raft with several family members when the boat flipped in the Mishawask Falls area. Diskin was swept about one and a half miles downstream and was facedown in the water when bystanders pulled him out and began CPR, the coroner’s office said. He died at the scene. A second person broke a leg, two others made it to an island in the river near Mishawaka and were rescued. Those two rafters were not hurt.
News of Diskin’s death spread quickly through the SMPC alumni e-mail address list. His impact and his loss is shared by many across this country.
“Coach Diskin was not only an administrator, a teacher and a coach, but more importantly, he was a man of principle,” stated Sister Diane Leary, CSJ, who followed Diskin as athletic director at SMPC. “He lived the values he professed and passed them on to those with whom he came in contact. Frank seemed very aware that God was directing his life. He let players know that God, family and education were more important than the sport they were playing; and in so many ways he truly made a difference in the lives of others. Coach Frank Diskin will definitely be missed by educators, particularly those associated with athletics. The Diskin family is held in prayer.”
Retired Alumni Director, Janet Kliesen, had this to say about Coach Diskin. “Frank Diskin will be remembered by each alumni that he associated with while being at St. Mary of the Plains. His value of a Catholic education was an impact to each of these people. His commitment to educate followed the philosophy of St. Mary of the Plains:
S - scholastically
M - morally
P - physically
C - culturally
“May Our Lady of the Plains bless Mary and the family.”
Sister Catherine Therese Paulie, C.S.J., former Academic Dean at SMPC. remembers Diskin as a “person of integrity. He was a very spiritual person, morally good – a result of his home and early life plus his Jesuit connection. He lived his values.
“Frank saw education in terms of balls – because his career caused him to be mostly defined as teacher, coach and athletic director. But more, for him, the educated person was well rounded: Be good on the playing field, but be articulate, write well, love music and drama – be whole. This awareness was integrated in Frank’s person whether he was speaking before a crowd, teaching a class, being interviewed, or just telling tales of his beloved “St. Paul, Kansas.” He commanded the attention of his audience.
“Frank cared about people. He gave each person the opportunity to become the best they could -- and he was there to offer encouragement, advice, his ready smile -- or just a nod and a wink.”
Diskin was the football, basketball and baseball coach at St. Mary of the Plains High School from 1967 to 1969 before being named assistant men’s basketball coach at the College. He was named head coach in 1970. In his second season heading up the Cavaliers (1971-72), the team won the Kansas Athletic Conference.
He entered graduate school following the 1971-72 academic year, and secured his Masters Degree in Education from the University of Missouri in 1974. He then returned to St. Mary of the Plains College where he spent the next nine years in a number of athletic and academic roles, many simultaneously.
Different student athletes will remember different things that Coach Diskin said, but he said two things that will be remembered by many. “Never let go of your faith,” and “The next effort’s the most important.”
Diskin served as athletic director at SMPC from 1977 to 1980, and 1981 to 1983. He resigned as athletic director and head basketball coach in 1983 to accept a position as assistant athletic director at Washburn University in Topeka. In 1985, he was named athletic director at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Mo. He retired in 2007 after 22 years as athletic director at Rockhurst, with stints coaching men’s basketball, women’s basketball and women’s volleyball. During Diskin’s tenure, Rockhurst expanded from four varsity sports to 11. He led Rockhurst’s switch from the NAIA to NCAA Division II.
Upon his retirement as Rockhurst AD, he moved his family to Parsons, where he ended up contributing two more years to student athletes, serving as the athletic director at Parsons High School from 2008 to 2010, when he again resumed retirement.
Diskin, a native of St. Paul, Kans., was born Dec. 4, 1941. He and his wife, Mary, became Associates of the Congregation of St. Joseph, receiving their associate pins on May 1, 2011. Survivors include: his wife and six children.
A Memorial Mass was celebrated June 29, 2011 at the Church of the Ascension in Overland Park, Kansas. The Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated, July 1, 2011 at the St. Francis Hieronymo Church in St. Paul, Kans. Burial was in the parish cemetery. For memorial information, contact Forbes-Hoffman Funeral Home, Parsons, KS.
(Some information for this article came from the websites of The Fort Collins Coloradoan, the Parsons Sun, and the Rockhurst University Athletic Department.)