When the Franke family was invited on a hard-hat tour of the University of Arizona Honors College Village in 2019, they were there to see the bricks and mortar, but they wound up connecting with the heart of the college — its students.
The family’s father, Bill Franke, was impressed by the energy and drive of the students he met that day. Bill and the family found the students’ stories inspiring, which elevated their desire to understand how the family could support students in the program.
The visionary generosity of the Franke family established the W.A. Franke Honors College in October 2021 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.”
In addition to naming the college, the gift will provide scholarships and housing stipends, funding to expand study abroad programs, and support to competitively recruit faculty.
Honors student Jennifer Garnica, who spoke at the Honors College naming event, 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.”
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.”