7 minute read

Phil Franklin ’73

Moving The CHAINS

As A Longtime Volunteer At Xavier, Phil Franklin ’73 Never Stopped Giving Back

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Five times a year, Phil Franklin ’73 gets in his car and drives 275 miles to Xavier High School to join his friends on the Xavier football chain gang.

Long drives, cold nights on the football field, hours spent helping the next generation of Xavier students.

It is nothing new for Franklin. Since he graduated 47 years ago, Franklin has never stopped finding ways to give back to the school that gave him so much.

“There’s a seed that gets planted when you come here and that seed grew in me,” Franklin said. “Walking into this building, there’s something special about it.”

This past fall, those long road trips from his home in Bartlett, N.H., were postponed temporarily as the state continued to deal with COVID-19, but the minute the next Xavier football schedule is released, you can rest assured – Franklin will be there for the home games. Although he moved to New Hampshire six years ago, Franklin has continued to make the drive to Middletown for every home game where he works the lines with his son Ryan, a 2003 graduate, and a group of close friends. Then once the game is complete, he will often stay the night at a local hotel and head back the next morning for New Hampshire.

“I have enjoyed doing it for a lot of reasons, but one of the reasons was it just helped the school,” said Franklin.

As the Xavier community continues to find new ways to come together during a pandemic, Franklin’s years of volunteering remain a model of commitment to the mission, and the relationships he forged at Xavier.

Throughout the last four decades, Franklin has taken on a wide array of volunteer jobs and tasks for the school. He has been the president of the Alumni Association. He has served on the Board of Directors. He has helped lead several campaigns and ceremonies. And, of course, he has been on the chain gang for 17 years, a job he volunteered to do to help then Athletic Director Tony Jaskot ’69. However in the end, his reason for taking on each task is usually the same – Xavier gave him much more than an education as a student. More than 50 years later, Franklin can still remember walking into school that first day as a student.

“Coming in the door there was an expectation built into you of discipline,” Franklin said. “It was a special school because you were different. You came to school and you were taught by a great number of Brothers, you dressed differently, you wore a tie and a jacket …. There was a certain level of maturity that came out at Xavier.”

At a young age, Franklin craved that type of focus. Despite Xavier still being a new school at the time, he was all in.

“I wanted to be here,” Franklin said. “It was not a question of me arguing with my folks to go to a public school. I wanted to come here, and there was no question in my mind that this was going to work out.”

It certainly did. At Xavier, along with all the lifelong friendships he made and the set of values he developed, Franklin also got his first date with his wife of 42 years, Sue.

At a Xavier Homecoming event

At a Xavier Homecoming event

Phil, with the Xavier football chain gang.

Phil, with the Xavier football chain gang.

“It was incredibly meaningful for me to stand up as a representative of Xavier High School and as an alum and tell parents, ‘This is where you want your kids to go.’ ”

Phil and Sue (Mercy, Class of 1973), at Kylemore Abbey, Ireland

Phil and Sue (Mercy, Class of 1973), at Kylemore Abbey, Ireland

“It was a Xavier football game in 1972,” Franklin said.

The couple, who were in the same first grade class together in Cromwell, had been friends their entire life, but it was not until Xavier and Mercy that they eventually started dating after Sue asked Phil to the Junior Ring Dance. Now they have two grandchildren: Amelia and Gabriel.

Phil, with his wife Sue (Mercy, Class of 1973), and their grandkids.

Phil, with his wife Sue (Mercy, Class of 1973), and their grandkids.

In 1981, Franklin’s Xavier experience ultimately led him back as a volunteer.

“[Former Alumni and Development Director Rich Feitel] called me one day and told me he was putting together a group of class representatives and asked me to me come so I went,” Franklin said. “I stuck with it because I kept seeing that it was something rewarding. It made me feel good to be able to do things for the school.”

As a volunteer at Xavier, no job was too big or too small for Franklin. Whether he was serving his second term as the Alumni Association president, or buying legendary Cross Country Coach Bob Michalski a wheel to measure the cross country course (yes he did that!), Franklin enjoyed getting the job done for the school. And he did it all as he was working for Aetna Life & Causality as a senior management administrator and later The Hartford, where he was a program director/ project manager.

“It was never about me,” Franklin said. “It was always to help Xavier have a good light shown upon it. I just felt that it was something that I could do to give back to the school.”

When he was volunteering, Franklin had a phrase he used.

“I used to say ‘alumni helping future alumni,’ ” Franklin said. “People would say, ‘Oh, you’re an alum.’ but I’m not working for alums. I’m doing this for Xavier High School, and I never lost sight of that.”

Left: Phil and Sue with their children and their spouses at the top of Mount Willard in the White Mountains of N.H.; Crawford Notch is in the background. Left to right, daughter, Jackie (Franklin) Rivard
(Mercy Class of 2006); her husband, Adam Rivard, Sue and Phil, Trisha (Harris) Franklin and her husband, Ryan Franklin (Xavier Class of 2003).

Left: Phil and Sue with their children and their spouses at the top of Mount Willard in the White Mountains of N.H.; Crawford Notch is in the background. Left to right, daughter, Jackie (Franklin) Rivard (Mercy Class of 2006); her husband, Adam Rivard, Sue and Phil, Trisha (Harris) Franklin and her husband, Ryan Franklin (Xavier Class of 2003).

Years ago, Franklin partnered with two other alums to pay for a student to attend Xavier.

“There were just so many things I did for the school that I wanted to do,” Franklin said. “I wanted to help parents see this was a great place to send their 13-year old sons.”

Over the years, that often meant helping with lots of events. Trips to business expos, golf tournaments, social events – Franklin did them all. But despite the work and the hours, he always said yes because he felt it was necessary for the success of the school.

“It was incredibly meaningful for me to stand up as a representative of Xavier High School and as an alum and tell parents, ‘This is where you want your kids to go,’ ” Franklin said. “I had so many positive experiences at the school, and afterwards as well. … I wanted to do something for the school and I wanted to do it well.”

Enjoying some down time sitting on a boulder in the middle of Razor Brook in Bartlett; this mountain stream flows through the Franklin’s property.

Enjoying some down time sitting on a boulder in the middle of Razor Brook in Bartlett; this mountain stream flows through the Franklin’s property.

As much as he loved his run as alumni association president, Franklin knew he needed to step back, so nine years ago, he went to then Headmaster Brother Brian Davis, C.F.X., and told him he was going to step down. Still, he has not lost his love for volunteering.

In Bartlett, Franklin has turned his attention to another community, and a new set of relationships. He is now the president of the town’s historical society and served as the chairman of the planning board for three years.

“When my wife and I moved here, we said we wanted to a part of this community,” Franklin said. “We’re not just moving to Bartlett to be here – we’re moving here to a part of the community.”

Since joining the historical society, Franklin has spearheaded an effort to renovate a historic Catholic Church in town, which is listed on the New Hampshire State Register of Historic Places. Behind his leadership, the historical society, which has grown from 70 members to over 200, has raised more than $250,000. And if he did not have his hands full enough, has also kept himself busy by writing historical articles for the Mt. Washington Valley Vibe Magazine, where he has detailed

Stained glass windows from the former St. Joseph Church building in Bartlett, NH. Originally installed in 1890, these windows are in great shape today and will be a part of the future museum. the history of Snow Rollers and Snow Trains in New Hampshire to name a few stories. Not surprisingly this past August, he was also part of a crew that helped replace the old roof on the church. But for Franklin, who has always been interested in learning from the past and has traveled to famous historical spots around the world, the historical society and the writing allows him to do what he has always enjoyed doing – contribute to a community he cares about.

“I always feel it is important to give back and do something,” Franklin said. “I could have easily moved to Bartlett, New Hampshire and done nothing. But that is just not me. I just cannot do it that way. I felt the need to be a part of something.”

In front of the future Bartlett History Museum. The building is under renovation. Phil is leading the fundraising effort for the renovation project.

In front of the future Bartlett History Museum. The building is under renovation. Phil is leading the fundraising effort for the renovation project.

This snow roller is part of the collection of local artifacts owned by the Bartlett Historical Society. Phil was a part of the crew that completed the renovation of the roller in 2015.

This snow roller is part of the collection of local artifacts owned by the Bartlett Historical Society. Phil was a part of the crew that completed the renovation of the roller in 2015.