With great sadness, the School of Labor and Employment Relations announces the passing of beloved former Dean, Walter Franke, on Sunday, July 2.
Professor Franke was the Dean of the now-School of Labor and Employment Relations from 1981 until 1994. A recognized leader in graduate education and research, the School of Labor and Employment Relations (LER) prepares students for careers in human resources and industrial relations. He joined what was then known as the Institute for Labor and Industrial Relations as a faculty member in 1957, and during his tenure led the growth and development of a modern Human Resources graduate program, and supported cutting edge research on Labor Relations.
Prior to joining the School, Franke received his PhD in Labor Economics from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1955. He received a master’s in Economics from the same institution in 1951, and graduated magna cum laude from St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, in 1950. His research interests were in Labor Relations, Labor Markets, Human Resource Public Policy, Manpower Planning and Policy, and Industrial Relations Systems. He taught Investment in Human Resources, Industrial Relations Systems, and a Research Seminar in Labor and Industrial Relations.
His legacy includes initiating an Annual Giving program for alumni, doubling the gifts in the first years of the program. He also initiated and implemented a challenge fund to create an endowment for graduate student fellowships, as well as a named corporate fellowship program that still exists today.
Beyond his college-level contributions, he served campus and the community with enthusiasm. Most notably, he chaired the Athletic Association Board of Directors, the Chancellor’s Employee Assistance Program Task Group, the Employee Assistance Program, and many search committees. He was also a member of the Urbana School Board, and President of the Urban League, the Urbana Chapter of the American Association of University Professors, and the Lutheran Campus Ministry of Illinois.
“Walt was a consummate leader, visionary, and beacon of integrity. His efforts launched decades-long success in providing student scholarship and fellowship support. Hundreds of bright students benefitted from his foresight. Colleagues and friends knew him as caring and hardworking. He always put their interests and welfare before his own,” says Professor Joe Martocchio of the School. Martocchio recently made a gift in honor of Franke’s long-term leadership of the School, naming the Walter H. Franke Dean’s Office.
Professor Franke, is survived by his wife, Patricia, three children, Mike, Ann, and Paul, and several grandchildren. Upon retirement, he lived in Palm Desert, CA, and most recently in Henderson, NV, where he enjoyed retirement and regular golf games.
To honor Professor Franke and his nearly 40 years of service to the School, campus and community, gifts can be made to the LER Building Enhancement Fund at https://go.illinois.edu/LER_giving. Please indicate in the online form that your gift is in memory of Walt Franke.
There will be a memorial program in Franke’s honor at the School this fall, and details will be shared as they become available.