Celebrating a decade of impact: How one family changed the lives of 29,504 NAU students

Bill Franke

By Carly Banks
NAU Communications

Since their $25 million pledge in 2007, more than 29,500 Northern Arizona University students have benefited from Bill and Carolyn Franke and the subsequent business college in their name. Senior Eric Hughes is one of them.

Born and raised in Flagstaff, when it came time for college, Hughes chose to attend NAU, but did so for more than just convenience.

“I love Flagstaff,” he said. “But I chose NAU because I thought The W. A. Franke College of Business would allow me to develop both the personal and professional skills required for me to succeed after graduation.”

And that it did, but not before providing Hughes with life-changing experiences he didn’t expect like traveling abroad for the first time, earning a prestigious internship and meeting Warren Buffett.

A finance major, Hughes says he enjoys working with numbers and people, and the business college allowed him to do just that. He attended NAU on a full-ride Lumberjack Scholarship and also was named a Franke Scholar—a scholarship awarded to first-generation college students, in support of traditionally underrepresented groups. Over the last decade, 175 business majors have been awarded more than $1 million.

Eric Hughes
Eric Hughes

“These scholarships allowed me to spend less time at work and become more involved on campus,” Hughes said. “This played a direct role in my being so successful in college.”

He took advantage of as many resources the business college offered as he could: The Business Communication Center, Pathways, supplemental instructors, the school’s academic advisers, professor office hours—all of which played a part in his success.

“The Career Development Office has been extremely beneficial for me. I have done a few mock interviews, and the practice and feedback from recruiters have drastically improved my interview skills.”

Those interview skills helped him land the internship of a lifetime. After graduating in May, Hughes will intern at Indigo Partners—a private equity fund focused on air transportation for which Bill Franke is the co-founder and managing partner.

“I would not be where I am today without the generosity of the Frankes,” he said. “And after this summer, I know I’ll have a lot more to thank them for.”


Celebrating a decade of impact

David Franke and President Cheng converse
David Franke (left) talks with President Cheng.

Last week, to commemorate Bill Franke’s $25 million gift, Bill and David Franke visited campus to meet with President Rita Cheng, business students, faculty, staff, Dan Goebel, dean of the W. A. Franke College of Business, and Ramona Mellott, dean of the College of Education.

Cheng gifted the Frankes a book, that reflects the initiatives, services and lives affected by their donation.

“Over the past decade, your leadership and generosity have transformed The W. A. Franke College of Business at Northern Arizona University,” President Cheng said in a letter to Bill Franke. “The impact of your philanthropic investment extends beyond your pledge. Your name, your trust and your leadership have elevated our brand, our degree programs and our students’ success.”

NAU Communications