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George W. Franz, retired Interim Chancellor and an associate professor of history and American studies at Penn State Brandywine Campus, died December 10, following a four-year battle with multiple myeloma. He was 78.Dr. Franz joined what was then named Penn State’s Delaware County Campus as an instructor in 1968. He subsequently achieved the rank of associate professor, and he retired in 2007 after serving as the campus chief academic officer for ten years. Colleagues have described him as an academic lynchpin at the campus for four decades.
He was lured out of retirement in 2013 by the university administration in State College, to serve as Interim Chancellor during a year-long search for a new campus leader. Dr. Madlyn Hanes, Penn State senior vice president and executive chancellor for commonwealth campuses, said: “George Franz was the consummate professor, and a steward and celebrant of the long-held traditions of higher education. No matter the awards and recognition earned – and there were many — George served with humility, without fanfare, and taking little to no credit for his many accomplishments. He was a cherished colleague and friend.”
Family and friends agree that students and some colleagues, upon first meeting, could be intimidated by Dr. Franz’s business-like and stern demeanor. Most would come to discover what his son, David, calls his ‘public persona,’ wherein he revealed himself as a convivial adviser and colleague, and an unabashed cheerleader for both the Penn State football team and the campus humanitarian efforts. To help students raise money for ‘THON, a fund to fight pediatric cancer, he annually endured whipped cream decorations of his head, shaving off his signature beard, and other laugh-inducing indignities, to the delight of students and colleagues who were more familiar with his mostly serious demeanor.
During the last week of his life, he asked a long-time friend and colleague to write his obituary “because I know it will be funny,” he said. His friend replied, “I’ll try. I know you love to laugh, George, but you do know that you are not funny, right?” There was no argument, and the reply generated a chuckle.
At Penn State, he was a member of the University Faculty Senate for 23 years and was its chairman in 1980-81. He was the recipient of multiple teaching and advising awards, including the university-wide George W. Atherton Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. In the community, he was president of the Chadds Ford Historical Society and chairman of its Chadds Ford Days, a committee member of Boy Scouts of America Troop 31, and president of the congregational council at St. Michael Lutheran Church in Chadds Ford.
Post-retirement, he took classes and practiced Ikebana, Japanese flower arranging, and he proudly posted weekly photos of his creations on Facebook. In recent years, several of his arrangements were displayed at Longwood Gardens and at the Philadelphia Flower Show.
Dr. Franz and his wife Kammy were married for 53 years, and lived at Chadds Ford until moving to Cartmel, in Kennett Square. He is survived by son David, of Tucson, Arizona, daughter Wendy Fox, of Allentown, three grandchildren: Branden Franz, and Kendra and Elijah Fox. The funeral is private, and a celebration of life event will be held next year. Memorial contributions may be made to the George W. Franz Advising and Mentoring Award at Penn State Brandywine, 25 Yearsley Mill Road, Media, PA 19063. Arrangements are by Grieco Funeral Home & Crematory, Inc. (484-734-8100)
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