Lawrence University is mourning the death of John Ellerman ’58, a Board of Trustees emeritus who has been actively engaged with the university for more than six decades.
He died Aug. 20 in Phoenix, Arizona, at the age of 84.
Ellerman, an economics major at Lawrence who went on to great success as a leader and innovator in the insurance industry, joined the Lawrence Board of Trustees in 1983 and continued to serve in various leadership capacities for nearly 40 years. He was elected trustee emeritus in 2016.
“Throughout this remarkable time of service to his alma mater, he provided thoughtful counsel to all as one of Lawrence’s most passionate supporters,” President Laurie A. Carter said.
Cory Nettles ’92, chair of the Board of Trustees, called Ellerman’s enthusiasm for all things Lawrence palpable.
“There never was a more committed Lawrentian than John,” Nettles said. “His passion for Lawrence knew no bounds.”
Ellerman served on several Board and Reunion committees and was a champion of the Lawrence Fund.
He brought his insights to the Building and Grounds Committee and Subcommittee, the Committee on Trustees, the Committee on Business Affairs, the Recruitment and Retention Committee, and the Finance Committee, of which he served as vice chair in 2011 and 2012. He also was a longtime member of the Lawrence Corporation of Wisconsin, the Investment Committee, and the Development Committee.
Ellerman played big roles in multiple Lawrence fundraising campaigns. He served on the Campaign Steering Committee for three comprehensive campaigns: the Lawrence Ahead Campaign, Lawrence 150, and More Light! Those campaigns raised a cumulative $268 million, supporting students, bolstering academic and artistic programs, and helping to fund important building and renovation projects across campus.
His desire to support Lawrence never waned. Most recently, he was part of the leadership team of the Full Speed to Full Need endowed scholarship campaign that was launched as part of the just-concluded Be the Light! Campaign.
Throughout, he led by example.
Philanthropic gifts from him and his wife, Judith, frequently supported the Lawrence Fund, as well as campaigns to bolster Bjorklunden and the arts. He also was a member of the Lawrence-Downer Legacy Circle.
“His personal outreach efforts have strengthened relationships with the university’s most generous donors and inspired others to give back,” Carter said. “John was one of the university’s most passionate supporters, and we are grateful for the thoughtful and candid counsel he has shared over the years with Lawrence trustees, presidents, and staff members.”
After graduating from Lawrence, Ellerman forged an impressive career in the insurance industry, first with Northwestern Mutual and later with his own firm, Ellerman Companies Inc., which specialized in estate planning, business insurance, and executive compensation programs. He served for a time as board chair of the Management Compensation Group.
Carter, who began her tenure as Lawrence’s 17th president on July 1, said she is saddened she won’t get a chance to spend more time with Ellerman. But she can already feel the impact of his loss.
“All speak of his gregarious nature, thoughtful insight, and love of Lawrence,” Carter said. “Many people referred to John as Lawrence’s most enthusiastic cheerleader. … I will miss having the opportunity to learn from John and feel his immense passion for Lawrence.”
Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Evan Williams ’10 was elected as a Recent Graduate Trustee while Dan Busiel ’84, Tamika Franklin ’05, and Susan Long Hall ’76 each were elected as Term Trustees.
The Recent Graduate Trustee is a three-year position filled by an alumnus within two to 10 years of graduation. A Term Trustee position is for a three-year term, with eligibility to be re-elected for up to four consecutive terms.
“We are thrilled to add four outstanding new trustees who bring tremendous expertise in investments and risk management, non-profit fundraising, music education and performance, and pedagogical and instructional development,” said Board Chair David Blowers. “At this critical moment for higher education, I couldn’t be more appreciative for the diverse group of individuals who are giving so much of their time and talent as trustees to ensure that the college continues to distinguish and differentiate itself.”
Evan Williams is a composer and assistant professor of music and director of instrumental activities at Rhodes College. He graduated from Lawrence with a bachelor’s degree in music theory and composition and holds a DMA in composition with a cognate in orchestral conducting from the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati and a masters of music in composition from Bowling Green State University. Williams’ music has been performed across the country and internationally by members of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the International Contemporary Ensemble, Quince Contemporary Vocal Ensemble, Fifth House Ensemble, among others. He has received a number of awards and honors, including serving as the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s inaugural Classical Roots Composer-in-Residence in 2018.
Dan Busiel is senior vice president and chief investment officer at Trustmark, a national employee benefits company. Prior to his current role he served as head of the Portfolio Management Group at Allstate Corporation. Earlier in his career, Busiel held assorted derivative-related positions including rate trading, research, and sales at various J.P. Morgan subsidiaries (First Chicago, Bank One). He earned a bachelor’s in philosophy from Lawrence in 1984 and an MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management in 1989. He has served as a non-trustee committee member of the Lawrence University Investment Committee since 2017.
Tamika Franklin serves as director of development for the Preuss School UC San Diego. She is responsible for fundraising efforts, alumni engagement, marketing, and volunteer management. Previously she served as director of development for physical sciences at UC San Diego focused on major gift strategy. She played a leading role in developing UC San Diego’s Black Alumni Council and Asian Pacific Islander Alumni Council, serving as an advisor to cultivate active participation among diverse alumni. She graduated from Lawrence with bachelor’s degrees in government and philosophy. She served the Lawrence University Board of Trustees as a Recent Graduate Trustee from 2016 to 2019.
Susan Long Hall is the founder and president of the 95 Percent Group, a mission-driven organization dedicated to ensuring success for struggling readers. Prior to founding 95 Percent Group, she was a consultant to a number of school districts and state departments of education. She has authored seven books including the award-winning Straight Talk about Reading and Parenting a Struggling Reader. She graduated from Lawrence in 1976 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She earned her MBA from Harvard University and her doctorate in education from National Louis University. She and her husband, David, have served as members of the President’s Advisory Council. Her daughter, Lauren, graduated from Lawrence in 2012.
J. Terrence (Terry) Franke ’68, an impactful
leader who helped guide Lawrence University through transformative changes and
served as a mentor for past and current students, passed away Tuesday, Jan. 21,
at the age of 73 with his wife, Mary, his three children, and siblings at his
Franke, of Evanston, Illinois, served as the chair
of Lawrence University’s Board of Trustees from 2011 to 2015, a capstone to five
decades of service in which he provided calm and insightful leadership and
mentored countless students, alumni, and fellow trustees.
As Board chair, he delivered steady guidance during
a time of great transition, leading to the 2013 appointment of Mark Burstein as
the University’s 16th president.
“Terry’s passion, unbounded energy, and strategic vision have carried Lawrence successfully forward,” Burstein said. “His investment in countless student interns and persistent support of many aspects of our learning community has had an extraordinary impact on the University. I know many Lawrentians join me in remembering moments when Terry’s advice provided exactly what you needed to hear to be the best version of yourself.”
as chair of the Board were preceded by his long service to the University as a
trustee, beginning in 2002. He also served an earlier term as an alumni trustee
from 1995 to 1998.
Among other leadership efforts, Franke led the
Board’s Investment Committee, stewarding the endowment through the Great
Recession of the late 2000s.
He transformed the Investment Committee shortly after
becoming chair, bringing in alumni who had expertise in the areas of private
equity and real estate and opening the conversation to a wider range of voices.
That had never been done before, and it reinvigorated the committee, bringing change
that would pay off in a big way when the markets collapsed in and around 2008.
“I can remember being in a meeting in March of 2009, which was within a few days of the market low, and the endowment had fallen from about $200 million to something in the $130 million range,” recalled David Knapp ’89, who now serves as the Investment Committee chair. “We were unsure of where we were going to go from there. And Terry was calm and had a long-term view, and helped lead the conversation in a way that kept us all from panicking. What followed was a decade of sustained growth of the endowment through appreciation and new gifts that has brought it over $350 million today. … He stewarded the endowment through the roughest financial period of our lifetimes.”
Knapp took over the lead role on the
Investment Committee when Franke was named chair of the Board of Trustees in
the Board of Trustees while chair, recruiting and welcoming new Board members
with wide ranges of experience and diverse perspectives, expanding the depth
and breadth of the Board.
always answered the call of his alma mater with talent, energy, and passion for
the Lawrence community,” said David Blowers ’82, the current Board chair. “He
led the Board of Trustees during a critical period in Lawrence’s
history. His ability to orchestrate a seamless presidential transition put
the University on the successful path it enjoys today. I know that I speak on
behalf of the entire Board when I say we will greatly miss his wisdom, energy,
and, above all, his loyal friendship.”
It was during Franke’s time leading the Board of Trustees that Lawrence launched its Full Speed to Full Need campaign to support student scholarships. When he stepped down as chair of the Board in 2015, Franke received a surprise announcement: The establishment of the Terry and Mary Franke Scholarship Fund, courtesy of a $1 million gift from an anonymous donor. The money was put toward the Full Speed to Full Need campaign, to be used exclusively for endowed scholarships to help meet students’ demonstrated financial needs.
That was fitting because Franke’s commitment
to Lawrence ran so deep, as did the respect for him among his fellow alumni.
When he asked others to engage, the answer was most often a yes.
A committed mentor
Franke spent most of his professional career
at Hewitt Associates, where he was a senior partner. He also served as a senior
consultant for Productive Strategies Inc., a management and marketing
consulting firm based in Northfield, Illinois, and Franke Associates.
He was a dedicated member of the Lawrence community from the
moment he stepped on campus as a student in 1964. Since graduating in 1968, he has
fostered and maintained connections, sharing his time and knowledge with alumni
as well as current and future Lawrentians. Franke was ready to lend a hand as
an event volunteer, admissions volunteer, and as a member of reunion committees
and class leadership teams. He took particular joy in mentoring the student
interns at his workplace, supported by the Franke Scholarship Fund.
A proud member of the Delta Tau Delta fraternity, Franke
connected often with past and current fraternity members.
Jake Woodford ’13, special assistant to the president at
Lawrence, first connected with Franke while a student in 2010. Those
connections continued, and Franke proved to be a mentor and supporter as
Woodford moved into Lawrence’s administration.
“One of the hallmarks for me was how much Terry cared about
people and how much he kept track of people,” Woodford said. “He knew the
projects they had going on. Their relationships and their passions in many ways
Franke would meet with fraternity members whenever he was on
campus for Board meetings.
“He was always mentoring,” Woodford said. “That was a really
special part of who he was.”
Henry Chesnutt ’14 was among the nearly 20 Lawrence students
who served as interns over the past decade in Franke’s office.
“Interning with Terry was an apprenticeship to a life of
integrity and hard work,” he said.
Chesnutt recalls struggling through much of his internship,
but Franke was there to guide him along and prep him for his launch into the
workforce. With Franke’s gentle prodding, he eventually found his bearings, and
is now thriving as a software engineer with Bain and Company.
“You might think that after his 15th intern he
might have stopped, relaxed, and rested on the fruits of his altruism,”
Chesnutt said of Franke. “But even up to his passing, he was still mentoring
students and offering internships to do all he could to pay it forward.”
In Lawrence’s Center for Career, Life, and Community
Engagement, Franke long set an example of how alumni can positively impact the
lives of current students. It’s those kinds of connections the office is
striving to enhance.
have helped countless students over the past decade, and have advanced the
lives of individuals now working in health care, consulting, finance, and more,”
said Mandy Netzel, assistant director of the CLC for employer and alumni
In honor of his lifelong commitment to his alma mater and its students, Franke received Lawrence’s Presidential Award in 2018.
Details on a Lawrence gathering to celebrate Franke’s life will be announced at a later date.
Derrell Acon ’10 stood shoulder to shoulder earlier this month with Antron McCray, one of the five New York City teenagers — now men in their 40s — wrongly convicted in the 1989 rape and beating of a Central Park jogger.
The Lawrence University alumnus was days away from performing as McCray in The Central Park Five, an operatic retelling of the emotionally charged criminal case, set to open in an opera house in southern California. An ACLU luncheon brought Acon and his castmates and the five men they’d be portraying into the same room for the first time.
“It gave me a little more weight in terms of the
responsibility I had to give an accurate picture to the audience and to be true
to how I explored and continue to explore that character,” Acon said of meeting
The Central Park Five story of the coerced confessions, the guilty verdicts, the Donald Trump call for the death penalty, the vacated judgments 13 years later, and the eventual settlement that set New York City back $41 million is getting plenty of renewed attention on the heels of the recent release of Ava DuVernay’s Netflix mini-series, When They See Us, the intense retelling of the case that dominated headlines 30 years ago.
While the Netflix series is getting the bulk of the attention, the jazz-infused opera production from composer Anthony Davis — more than three years in the making and separate from the DuVernay series — has drawn its fair share of looks as well. The New York Times and Los Angeles Times previewed the Long Beach Opera production in the days before it opened on June 15, and opening night saw reviews from both newspapers and the Wall Street Journal, among other outlets. The New Yorker is working on a story as well, according to a spokesperson with the opera.
Two more performances are scheduled for this weekend at the
Warner Grand Theater in San Pedro, California.
“I wasn’t really anticipating any particular response,” Acon said after getting an enthusiastic welcome on opening night. “I was more aware of my own responses, understanding that it would be a very emotional process for me. As a young black man in America, you know, a lot of these topics are very close to my own experience, and these struggles are very mirrored in my own life.
“I think a lot about the rehearsal process, tending to all
of these emotions, letting them out, having a lot of beautiful discussions with
my colleagues, especially the five of us in the lead roles.”
The timing is coincidental, Acon said, but that the opera arrives amid heightened attention on the Central Park Five case is certainly beneficial to the public conversation. An earlier effort by Davis to debut the opera — since retooled and renamed — in New Jersey drew little attention. But that was before the Netflix series arrived.
“I’m a firm believer that everything is happening when it needs to happen,” Acon said. “All of these things are happening at once. It’s almost because our society is so resistant to the truth being revealed that you almost need it to be thrown into the mix as an atomic bomb for people to really put their ears up and understand how important this is, how terribly, terribly unjust this was.”
A journey to Long Beach
After graduating summa cum laude from Lawrence in 2010 — he was a double major in voice performance and government — Acon went on to earn a master’s degree and a doctoral degree in 19th-century opera history and performance from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.
He spent the next two and a half years on the road, performing, lecturing and studying. The schedule began to wear on his voice. Ten months ago, he relocated to southern California, drawn by what he calls the area’s “laid-back culture” and the plethora of arts opportunities.
He connected immediately with the Long Beach Opera, which was in the midst of a season based on issues of injustice. The casting for The Central Park Five was just getting started.
“I sang for them and was invited to join the cast,” Acon said.
He was working with people he didn’t know while immersing himself in the West Coast arts scene. He jumped into the mix as the opera company’s manager of education and engagement, organizing and facilitating community conversations in the months leading up to the opening of The Central Park Five.
“The journey began there,” Acon said. “It was kind of a
crash course in introducing me to the classical music scene here. I am someone
who has spent a lot of time in the Midwest and on the East Coast, so the West
Coast scene was new for me, and this was just a beautiful introduction to that
The well-attended community conversations gave people a chance to speak their mind, to share with others in a very public and very cleansing way. To do it with the arts as an avenue to positive discourse on an emotionally charged topic was beautiful to see, Acon said.
“The key word is community,” he said. “The arts have this
ability to create a community. Especially something like opera, where what
you’re hearing is so visceral, it’s so emotional, so loud, as some of the
younger people who have seen my work would say. You don’t really have an
opportunity to do anything but listen. It’s so in your face, it’s in your soul,
it’s in your heart.
“You may not always agree with the topic being put forth, but you are put in a position of contemplation, of consideration, and that is a communal experience. … Having the community of the opera house and the guidance of the voices and actors on stage may be enough to spark the conversation and the courage needed to really dig into some of these topics.”
Opening night arrives
As the June 15 opener drew closer, the performance of The Central Park Five was being described as both emotional and powerful, with Acon and the other lead actors often singing in unison, a singular and pained collective character.
“I think operas work on multiple levels, and certainly a visceral level is one that I’m very concerned with,” said Davis, who created the production in partnership with Richard Wesley. “I want the audience to have an emotional experience that involves identifying with the characters and putting yourself in their place.”
After the opera opened, reviewer Mark Swed of the Los Angeles Times wrote: “Most of the opera, which is in two acts, follows the five through their arbitrary apprehension, inappropriate questioning, dubious trial, conviction and harsh sentencing. The boys react much of the time in quintet, voices blending in disbelief and outrage. The most effective operatic innovation is the creation of the Masque, who is less a character than the embodiment of white racism, be it the police, a reporter or various others.”
The reviews from opening night have been mixed, with reviewer Zachary Woolfe of the New York Times suggesting that the tone and the angst was spot on but having the five leads often sing as a Greek chorus means they “never have the chance to come to life as individuals, either in music or words.”
complaint, Acon said, that he also heard from a high school student who was
part of a group he brought to a dress rehearsal. It’s a legitimate perspective,
he said, but one he doesn’t necessarily share.
believe the opera is very effective in the way it keeps the five in unison, for
the most part,” he said. “In a way, it’s saying this experience is not
individual. This experience happens to so many young black men and other men of
color in this country, so much to the point that we can sing the same words at
the same time, in a metaphorical sense, because we all have these same
sentiments as it relates to the American criminal justice system.”
Acon’s next chapter
When The Central Park Five performances conclude this weekend, Acon, a bass-baritone, said he’ll turn his attention to new opportunities in southern California.
The arts as a vehicle for education and understanding will almost certainly be part of that journey.
Acon, who serves on the Lawrence Board of Trustees as a Recent Graduate Trustee — a position established for alumni within two to 10 years of their graduation — earned multiple regional and national honors as a student and already has more than two dozen operatic roles on his resume.
His deep thinking on issues related to the arts, race and public policy was plenty evident during his time at Lawrence, and Brian Pertl, Lawrence’s dean of the Conservatory of Music, isn’t surprised that Acon is seeing early career success.
“At Lawrence, Derrell was already an outstanding scholar and stellar performer,” Pertl said. “The performance he created in association with his honors project, Whence Comes Black Art?: The Construction and Application of ‘Black Motivation,’ stands as one of the most important and compelling student productions I have seen in the past 10 years.”
Ten months after landing in southern California, Acon said he feels like he’s found his artistic groove. The work with Long Beach Opera is just the start of some promising things.
“I’m excited to see what comes next,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of opportunities, and they keep coming in. It’s very encouraging.”