Honoring the past, investing in the future
A conversation with Mike and Mary Franco ’81 P’12, both who are serving on the Together for Good Campaign Committee.
Why did you decide to attend Merrimack College?
Mary: My high school guidance counselor called my mother and said, “Are you thinking about college for Mary?” When my mother said that we couldn’t really afford it, the guidance counselor suggested that I apply and said he would help us figure out the financing. Between local scholarships and the financial aid package, Merrimack gave me the best deal. I was the first generation in my family to go to college.
Mike: I’m one of eleven kids and we all went to Catholic schools and colleges. My sister, Anne ’77, was at Merrimack, so my friend and I decided to visit her. We had so much fun that we both decided to apply. My brother, Carl ’86, is also an alumnus of Merrimack.
Mary: And my cousin, Susan Gorham ’90, went there, too.
Mike: It’s just one of those things about Merrimack—entire families or sections of families go there. It’s a very familial place. I think that’s what we loved about it when our son, Mick ’12, went there, too! We’ve always been involved with Merrimack, but when our son decided to enroll, it really brought us back into the fold.
Why is Merrimack special to you?
Mary: I think the greatest thing that ever happened to us is that we met each other at Merrimack. We’ve been together for more than 40 years, married for 34, and have two children.
When my mother passed away my freshman year and my father passed away my senior year, the Merrimack community wrapped around me like a warm blanket and just lifted me up and kept me going. I have such profound love for the place—for my husband, for my friends, for my “sisters,” and for the faculty and administrators who stepped in. That’s why Merrimack will always be so important to me.
After graduating from Merrimack, where did your career take you?
Mary: For the last ten years, I’ve been in hospital administration and fundraising. I’ve also been involved in board governance, public affairs, and government relations. Before my stint in hospital administration, I was in community and government relations at GE Capital and at University of Connecticut, where I worked to build a new university campus in downtown Stamford. I’ve served on many nonprofit boards over the years. I serve on the board of First County Bank in Connecticut, and now, I serve on Merrimack’s board and chair the Advancement Committee. I love it!
Mike: I’ve been a practicing attorney for more than 30 years. Prior to founding Franco & Associates in 1992, I spent seven years as a corporate attorney in the real estate business. Like Mary, I’ve also served on many nonprofit boards, and I’m Merrimack’s Chairman of Leadership Giving. I reach out to alumni who give so I can personally say “thank you.”
Why did you decide to support Merrimack’s Together for Good Campaign?
Mary: The Campaign has helped dramatically improve the campus, and the buildings and facilities now meet the needs of today’s students. The College is far beyond what it was when we were there, but it still has that sense of community and connection to the world.
Mike: The College has great momentum, and it can continue to grow. By getting involved, whether financially or personally, community members and alumni can have a great impact on the school and the students who go there.
Mary and I decided to give to the Together for Good Campaign by naming a meeting room in the Sakowich Campus Center. We were both involved in Student Government, and the pub was located in Sakowich. It’s the same building where we’d meet when we were at Merrimack—and it was the focal point of our lives. While the room that we’re naming is in the Sakowich Center, our gift will be used where Merrimack needs it most. We also made provisions in our will to make sure that we are able to support Merrimack when we’re gone.
How do you stay in touch with your fellow Merrimack alumni?
Mary: We’ve been involved in every reunion committee—either chairing it or just being on it. We only ever missed one reunion because our youngest son, Henry, was a rower and he made it into nationals in his junior year of high school. Our kids always come first, so that was one reunion we had to miss.
I have a very tight-knit group of girlfriends from Merrimack – my “sisters.” There were 10 of us, and my roommate Lisa “Lulu” Lauring has since passed, so there are nine of us now, but every year we still get together at least once or twice. Both Mike and I make an effort to communicate with our friends now and get together whenever we can. We now have a huge group coming to Homecoming every year! It is great to see everyone.
Mike: The friendships we made at Merrimack—and the incredible experiences we had there—have been with us for the last 40 years.