The University of Arizona Honors College became the W.A. Franke Honors College in recognition of a $25 million gift commitment made by William A. “Bill” Franke, his wife, Carolyn, and the Franke family.
Bill and Carolyn Franke made the announcement at a Family Weekend event alongside University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins and Terry Hunt, who is now the inaugural Franke Honors College Dean.
“I want the students from the Honors College to feel they have the leadership skill set to take their natural ability, which has been fine-tuned, and make a difference,” Bill Franke said. “Whether they’re going into science, education or business, there will be opportunities for them to provide a point of view and to help develop perspective with the communities they’re engaged with.”
The Frankes’ gift provides student scholarships, stipends to defray the cost of living in the Honors Village, and funding to help students develop global leadership skills through participation in study abroad. The gift also establishes an endowed chair for the college’s dean and a new Honors Faculty Academy. The academy will provide top faculty members with financial rewards for research and teaching purposes, giving the college a recruitment and retention tool and ensuring honors students can work closely with mentors on research projects.
The Frankes’ gift begins a new chapter in the history of the college, Hunt said.
“We’re at an important juncture. We’re in a new building, and the W.A. Franke Honors College is poised to become a top honors college in the country. This support means we can serve our students well, and they will indeed be very successful,” he said.
The quality of the university’s Honors College is crucial to undergraduate recruitment, according to Robbins.
“The University of Arizona’s mission is multifaceted. In addition to helping students acquire the knowledge and skills they need for their future careers, we are committed to preparing them to be the leaders and problem-solvers of the future,” Robbins said. “We are very proud of what we have built at the Honors Village and this investment from the Franke family will ensure that finances are not an obstacle for bright students who choose to begin their journey in higher education at the University of Arizona. I am incredibly grateful to the Frankes for their generosity, and I am proud the College will bear their name.”
Honors student Jennifer Garnica spoke at the event where the announcement was made. Garnica is a senior majoring in nutritional sciences who plans to become a physician. She met the Franke family as a first-year student when they visited campus during construction of the Honors Village and again as a sophomore when the building was completed.
As a student who has relied on financial aid, Garnica expressed her gratitude on behalf of fellow honors students.
“This will impact a lot of students like me, who are first-generation and low-income. I know it will bring happy tears to them,” Garnica said. “I was lucky to be part of this journey and to have the honor to meet with the Franke family on multiple occasions.”
The naming of the college will also bring more value and prestige to her degree, Garnica said, adding that she’s pleased the gift will help future students with the costs of studying abroad. Garnica was awarded a scholarship to study in Asia and found the experience “life-changing.”
The Frankes’ gift, Hunt said, will help the college achieve a high priority: providing students with more in-depth global engagement through study abroad.
“Study abroad is really an integral part of education in a world that becomes smaller and smaller. It’s important for our students to understand the world we live in and experience it in a way we cannot achieve in the classroom,” Hunt said.
The family is focused on giving to higher education and seeks out opportunities to support first-generation and underserved students, according to David Franke. The Frankes’ intent is to generate a deep level of impact for Honors students, to enhance their experience within the Honors program, and to advance the academic profile of the university.
“Many of the students who graduate from the Honors College will remain in Arizona, start families and build their careers. We believe if we help improve their educational opportunities, ethical framework, life experiences and foundational knowledge, those same students will bring those values into their homes, their lives and the work they do to impact their communities,” David Franke said.
“Hopefully, over time that impact will continue to elevate the quality of life in Arizona, which is important to us because Arizona has become home for many in our family.”
The Franke family is known for philanthropy within and beyond Arizona. The family established the W.A. Franke College of Business at Northern Arizona University and its members are longtime supporters of the Sojourner Center, a shelter for abused women and children in Phoenix. The education center at the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix was renamed the Mayo Clinic Franke Education Center in recognition of a gift from the Frankes. The family’s giving also was recognized with the naming of the University of Montana Franke College of Forestry and Conservation, as well as the Franke Global Leadership Initiative. In addition, the family has made major gifts to the law and business programs at Stanford University, Bill Franke’s alma mater.
“Arizona is fortunate to have this generous and diligent family as residents. This gift has come as a result of many conversations over the last few years. Over the past 18 months, Dave has put in a great deal of time, effort and resources with the college as a committee member for planning the ‘Big Ideas, Grand Challenges’ lecture series,” said John-Paul Roczniak, president and CEO of the University of Arizona Foundation.
Brian Franke is a 1985 graduate of the UArizona Eller College of Management and a member of the UArizona Foundation board of trustees.
“It’s a privilege to work with Brian on the foundation board, where he brings a wealth of knowledge to the investment committee. His service means a great deal, as do the generous gifts Brian and his wife, Clara, have made to the university,” Roczniak said. “To see the entire Franke family uniting on Family Weekend to make a transformational gift to the Honors College is an inspiration. The gift is a deeply appreciated resource for students today and for generations to come.”