From across campus and across the United States, friends of Paul J. Franz Jr. ’44 made their way to Packer Memorial Church on Wednesday, July 31, to pay homage to the man who embodied the university’s heart and spirit through a lifetime of devotion to his alma mater.
Professors and students, alumni and administrators, former colleagues still at Lehigh and those who have moved to distant states – an estimated 750 people joined Franz’s family, filling the pews of the majestic church and standing in its aisles to reflect on the life and contributions of the man known as "Mr. Lehigh" and as "America’s Dean of Development."
The temperature outside exceeded 90 degrees, and the air inside the uncooled church was stifling, but the crowd spurned the "casual dress" of summer, with men wearing suits and ties and women just as formally attired.
Franz, who died July 13, served Lehigh for six decades as a fund-raising officer, starting as assistant to the president for development, rising to become vice president for development and university relations, and, after retiring in 1988, continuing to the end of his life as a consultant to the development office.
During the 45-minute memorial service, Franz was remembered for his steadfast dedication to his family and to Lehigh, for his warmth and sincerity, for the manners and civility he cultivated, for the friends he made and the hobbies he pursued, and for his trademark sense of humor and stories.
"With all due respect for Lehigh’s trustees, its presidents, deans, professors and alumni, no one short of [Lehigh founder] Asa Packer has done more for the university and made a more lasting impact on it than has Paul Franz," said Alexander "Pat" Dyer, a close friend of Franz, who delivered the eulogy.
"Paul Franz lived at the very heart of who we are and what we strive to be," said University Chaplain Lloyd Steffen in the call to worship. "He taught us how to give, and he taught us courtesy, grace and the practical importance of the thank-you note.
"He reflected the best in all of us."
The Rev. W. Nicholas Knisely, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Bethlehem, to which Franz belonged, said Franz was "a man of three ages.
"He was a man of the past, with a courtly style, who wrote wonderful notes and always knew the right thing to say. He was a man of the present who spent his life making friends and caring for them. And he was a man of the future who devoted his life to serving a dream, raising money so that knowledge could be uncovered and shared for generations to come."
In the early 1980s, said Dyer, Franz received an invitation from Harvard University to become its vice president for development.
"The offer really flattered Paul," said Dyer, "but he declined. He said his success at Lehigh was due to the fact that he was a Lehigh man who knew and thoroughly believed in the institution he served."
During the time in which Franz guided Lehigh’s development office, the university raised more than $300 million, much of it from alumni whose names are permanently linked to the buildings and programs they endowed.
One of those donors, Dyer recalled, said Franz "was the only person who could ask me for money and make me thankful that he’d asked."
"My father’s heart," said Franz’s son, Peter Franz, "was larger than life."
Franz’s grandsons Andrew and Mark Franz read lessons from the Bible. The service also included the singing of two hymns, "For All the Saints" and the university hymn, "O God, Our Help in Ages Past." The organ was played by Stephen Williams.
Franz’s dedication to development earned him the love and loyalty of Lehigh’s faculty, which in 1996 voted to honor him with the rank of Professor Honoris Causa "in grateful recognition of his significant and enduring contributions to the university's educational mission." The presentation came at Franz’s final faculty meeting and drew a standing ovation.
In 1989, Lehigh established an award in Franz’s name for a member of the university’s professional staff who combines excellent performance with dedication and devotion to Lehigh.
In 1996, Lehigh again honored Franz by naming a plaza outside the University Center in his honor at the request of Sue and Eugene Mercy Jr. ‘59, a former Lehigh trustee.
Franz earned a bachelor’s in business administration in 1944, and a master’s in history in 1955. In 1980, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.
He is survived by his wife, the former Jean Pope; by his son, Peter, and a daughter, Holly; by six grandchildren, Andrew and Mark Franz, Melissa Franz, and Robin, Ryan and James Nicholas; and by a brother, Richard Franz.
The family requests that donations be made either to Lehigh’s Paul J. Franz Jr. Memorial Scholarship Fund or to Trinity Episcopal Church.
by Kurt Pfitzer