Wesley E. Franklin ’61
Deceased February 19, 2010
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Armed with a degree in English and extra-curricular management experience derived from running an unruly fraternity as its elected president, Wes entered the post-Amherst world of 1961. He took a position as Executive Director of a state tuberculosis association before becoming Director of Admissions at his former secondary school, Wyoming Seminary. Thus began a lifelong career in academic administration, which led to a Master's degree from Syracuse University and to many years in public service, most notably to eight years on a District School Board and four on a Borough Council, all of this in northeastern Pennsylvania.
Wes served as Assistant to the President of Williamsport Area Community College and Assistant to the President of Luzerne County Community College (LCCC), followed by a number of leadership roles in projects and offices of LCCC. Community colleges serve a variety of populations.
At one point in his career, after being unable to get a single teacher to accept a writing class in a prison, one with a tough reputation, Wes took on the assignment himself, albeit nervously; but he came to enjoy this atypical teaching and the label the prisoners gave him of Mr. Red Pen. Wes taught English composition to more traditional students at LCCC from time to time, maintaining the title of Associate Professor of English for his entire time at LCCC (1978-1998).
His final position at LCCC was as Executive Director of the new, Advanced Technology Center, which was built to bring technology expertise and training opportunities to an area of Pennsylvania that had been lagging economically. Taking the responsibility “scared the hell out of me,” he admitted to the local press. He retired in 1998, in part because of professional disagreements, because, as his wife Carole relates it, he could not bring himself to go along with a firing that he believed unjustified. Wes was a Republican, a patriot, a hunter who donated regularly to the NRA and other charities, a reader of Yeats and of Native American poetry, and a collector of Zen koans. His views wavered little but were never doctrinaire, and he always enjoyed open-minded discussions with friends with whom he tended to disagree, including former classmates. He was an intellectual with a sense of humor, “the funniest of us all,” as several classmates remember him, quick to concoct “stump-lifters” and to identify friends with hapless wooers in Chaucer.
Early retirement gave Wes the opportunity to play a major role in daycare for his grandchildren. In recent years, Wes had to cope with limited mobility due to pulmonary fibrosis. Early in 2010, his condition worsened suddenly and he died on February 19th. At his funeral, his sister, daughter, and two sons, described his great sense of humor, his generosity, and his emphasis on moral behavior tempered by unconditional love and support for all of them whenever they faltered. At the wake, his offspring were at first somewhat shocked, but then pleasantly surprised to hear stories of Wes’ rambunctious activities at Amherst, including a road trip from Houston, Texas that brought him and a couple of classmates back to college eight days late after a wrong, or possibly right turn that led them through a corner of Mexico and New Orleans. Such stories were no surprise to his wife, Carole, who visited Amherst while Wes was in attendance, charming all of us who got to meet her.
Wesley Franklin had a full and loving existence. And in the process he put his Amherst education to good use.