Celebration of life set for Brescia’s Joan Francolini

The Western community is mourning the loss of Joan Francolini, 80, Brescia University College chancellor, who died Sunday, June 22, following an extended illness.

Tributes have been flowing in since the news became public.

“In my life, I have rarely encountered such a unique combination of integrity, grace and commitment in one person and I am deeply grateful for the time that Joan spent with me personally as I have navigated my path at Brescia and within the broader London community since my arrival in 2008,” Brescia Principal Colleen Hanycz said. “I know of no better single example of leadership through service than Joan – a quality that is central to Brescia’s mission and to fully appreciating this remarkable woman.”

A private family funeral and interment has taken place. The family would like to celebrate her life and achievements and invite you to join them at that celebration from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, June 28 at The Mercato at Brescia, with family remarks at 11 a.m.

Francolini came to London to attend Brescia University College, and it was there she met her husband, Geno, when they both served on the Students’ Council at Western. She graduated in 1955; the couple married in 1956.

While raising six children with her husband (five of those children earned degrees from Western), Francolini volunteered for many organizations, including the London Community Foundation, YMCA and United Way of London and Middlesex. In addition, she has served on the Medical Advisory Committee at Western, Tillsonburg District Memorial Hospital Board, Tillsonburg Hospital Auxiliary, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, Ontario Hospital Association and Board of St. Joseph’s Health Care. She was also on the Selection Committee for the Order of Ontario.

Among many distinctions, she was awarded the Order of Ontario in 2009 and was honoured as one of YMCA’s 2009 Women of Excellence awards.

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.

In 2001, she was recognized with the Dr. Ivan Smith Alumni Award of Merit, the highest honour a Western graduate can receive.

In 2012, 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 told graduates that day.

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

In February 2013, Francolini was appointed chancellor for Brescia University College by the Council of Trustees of Brescia. She began her inaugural four-year term in this honorary position on July 1, 2013.

“It’s been a great place for me over the years. I came to Brescia when I was 18. My mother had died that year and the nuns kind of took over, overseeing my behaviour from then on,” Francolini told Western News in February 2013.

Francolini wanted students to know before them are endless opportunities, ones their Brescia education is preparing them for. “What I would impart to them is they’re in the best place of their lives. In numbers, it’s small. In scale, Brescia is small, But its size lends itself to being much more amicable to be in,” she said. “And get involved. There’s always something you can do.”

Francolini is survived by her husband, Geno; children Lezlie (Don), Geoff (Wendy), Sara (Doug), Tony (Angie), James (Lisa) and Mark (Clair); and grandchildren Kursten (Brooks), Alex, Spencer, Isabel, Rebecca, Graeme, William, Joanna, Sydney, Madison and Adam.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to The Francolini Leadership Fund at Brescia University College in care of the Brescia Foundation, 1285 Western Road, London, Ont. N6G 1H2.