When the Franke family was invited on a hard-hat tour of the Honors Village during its construction in 2019, they were there to see the bricks and mortar of the Honors College, but they wound up connecting with the heart of the college — its students.
The family’s father, Bill Franke, says he was impressed by the energy and freshness of the students he met that day, as well as their inquisitive attitudes. He was inspired by his conversations with these students and saw the potential to nurture these traits by assisting them with their educational goals.
After attending high school in Brazil, Bill became a scholarship student at Stanford University. He says his education provided a tremendous foundation for reaching his life aspirations. Once he was in a position to give back, he was convinced that others should have the same kinds of educational opportunities that had made a difference in his life.
Bill and his entire family believe in the importance of education and, through their actions, open doors for underrepresented students. By supporting first generation and minoritized students, they help enrich student populations with a diversity of perspectives.
Bill’s commitment to philanthropy in education with an eye toward equity began decades ago, when he divided the benefits of a life insurance policy among Northern Arizona University, Arizona State University and the University of Arizona. “I have an interest in protecting the state and offering Arizona the opportunity to take advantage of the creativity and energy of the next generation,” he says. “I focused on Arizona because in my career I had the opportunity to speak to the stu-dents at all three schools and was impressed by them.”
The Franke family also had ample opportunity to spend time with University of Arizona students and faculty when Bill’s son, Brian Franke, became a Wildcat. Brian earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration and is now a trustee on the UArizona Foundation board. Brian may be a Wildcat for Life, but the Franke family’s interest goes well beyond Wildcat pride to a deep appreciation for university leadership and the mission of the Honors College.
“I’m impressed with Dr. Robbins, who has an energy level and attitude that is noteworthy in the academic community,” Bill says.
Brian’s brother, Dave, shares the family’s passion for reducing student financial burdens and supporting meaningful student experiences, especially when it comes to international learning through immersive study abroad experiences provided by the Honors College. The Frankes' are especially focused on cultivating students with a global perspective, says Dave. “The world is getting smaller every day — you need to know how to work in a global context.” The visionary generosity of the Franke family established the W.A. Franke Honors College in October with a historic $25 million gift, but Bill Franke will be the first to tell you that this gift is not about seeing his name on a building. “It’s just about improving the excellence of the program, so that when students graduate, they come away and say, ‘That meant something. I am different. I see the world differently. I have a good core value base and I know how to go out and meet the problems of the world.’ That’s what excites us.”
Removing Barriers and Enhancing Excellence
The Franke naming gift will strengthen several areas of support for honors students. Dean Terry Hunt of the W.A. Franke Honors College is quick to note that beyond the tremendous financial resources it offers, the recognition that comes with the naming of any college is invaluable. “It demonstrates local and national recognition that will really propel a college forward,” Hunt says. “You can’t measure that kind of impact, but we know it’s important.”
The Frankes' Support Will:
- Remove barriers to educational access with scholarships and housing awards for the new Honors Village.
- Establish an Honors Faculty Academy in which faculty members will be recognized and receive financial awards for excellence in teaching and mentorship.
- Create global fellowships and expand the college's existing study abroad programming