Francolini turns eyes to communities

Graduates must reach out beyond their personal and professional lives into their communities and strive to make a difference, said community activist Joan Francolini.

Francolini, an alumna of Brescia University College and past chair of Brescia University College Foundation, spoke to 467 graduates from the Faculty of Health Sciences, Brescia University College, Huron University College and the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies at the Monday, June 18 afternoon session of Western’s 299th Convocation.

Western conferred an honorary Doctor of Laws, honoris causa (LL.D.) upon Francolini in recognition of her leadership in the community.

“All the work that went into earning your degrees will provide you with the wisdom and the belief in yourselves to make good decisions and to think collaboratively and creatively and to make a difference in this world,” Francolini said.

Francolini came to London to attend Brescia, and it was here she met her husband, Geno, when they both served on the Students’ Council at Western. The couple married in 1956 and went on to raise six children. A past chair of Foundation Western, she was the inaugural executive director of the Lawson Foundation for nine years and, through that role, was able to encourage and support innovation through countless funded projects.

Over the years, she has been involved with numerous organizations and charities – donating her time, treasure and talent to enhance the quality of life in our community. She has volunteered for the London Community Foundation, YMCA and the United Way of London and Middlesex, just to name a few.

In addition, she is committed to supporting health care and has served on the Medicine Advisory Committee at Western, the Tillsonburg District Memorial Hospital Board, the Tillsonburg Hospital Auxiliary, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, Ontario Hospital Association and the Board of St. Joseph’s Health Care. Francolini currently sits on the selection committee for the Order of Ontario.

“Service means involving yourselves and giving back to the communities in which you live and in which you work,” Francolini said.

In her citation, Brescia professor Colleen Hanycz said Francolini has served London and beyond in innumerable ways, working to improve our city and helping to promote education, health care, scientific discovery, the arts and the broader community.

“Joan’s passionate engagement in city and university life is an example for our students, our alumni and her fellow citizens,” said Hanycz, adding Francolini is “a woman who has dedicated her life to being a remarkable citizen, an exemplary volunteer and a philanthropic leader.”

Francolini said life experiences will continue to train graduates for a life of service, giving them opportunities to see where they should and could contribute.

“What you will learn, going forward from today, is to give service to your community through experience and what you’ve learned from family and friends, and what you will learn from your career experiences in the years to come,” Francolini said.

Also during the ceremony, Brescia Sociology professor Steven Kleinknecht was presented with the Brescia University College Award for Excellence in Teaching while Huron Political Science professor Alfred Chan was presented with the Huron University College Faculty of Arts and Social Science Award for Excellence in Teaching.

The status of professor emeritus was also conferred upon Huron Economics professor David Williamson.