Frank C. Dukepoo - 1943-1999
Frank Dukepoo was the first member of the Hopi tribe to earn a Ph.D. Growing up on First Mesa on the Mohave Reservation he became interested in genetics while listening to his father, a farmer, talk about where to plant seeds. In an interview, he said that he "conducted a few controlled mating experiments with a myriad assortment of animals just to see what would happen." One of eleven children Dukepoo credited an older brother with being his role model.
He entered Arizona State University in 1961 with several scholarships but lost them when his grade point average fell to 1.2. However, with the encouragement of a professor who took an interest in the young student, he pulled up his grades to 4.0. After completing his bachelor’s degree he continued his education and earned a doctorate in genetics in 1973.
Joining the faculty of Northern Arizona University Dukepoo taught biology and led a National Science Foundation program to encourage Native American students to stay in school. Under his leadership, every student in the program stayed in school. He also founded the National Native American Honor Society in 1982.
Dukepoo conducted research on the study of birth defects in Southwest Native Americans, albinism (lack of normal pigmentation) among the Hopi and inbreeding among the Hopi of Northern Arizona. His work did not go unnoticed and he received numerous awards, including the John Hay Whitney Fellowship, the Ford Foundation Fellowship and the Iron Eyes Cody Medal of Freedom Award.
An amateur magician and saxophone player, Dukepoo played with various musical groups. Married and the father of two daughters, Frank Dukepoo’s work was cut short in 1999 when he died suddenly of natural causes.