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 side.
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.”
Franke’s accomplishments 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 2011.
Franke strengthened 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.
“Terry 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 became his.”
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.
“Terry’s efforts 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 relations.
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.