Gordon in the News: last updated 07/17/2014

David L. Franz, Pioneer for American Higher Education

November 6, 2009

Patricia Hanlon
Office of College Communications

WENHAM, MA—David L. Franz, Ph.D., professor of history at Gordon College from 1951–1991 and professor emeritus since his retirement, passed away quietly on Thursday, November 6 at the North Shore Hospice Facility in Danvers, Massachusetts. He was 85 years old, and took his last trip in August of this year.

He will be greatly missed by his family and friends. He was predeceased by his first wife, Doris. He is survived by his wife, Muriel (Radtke); and four children, all of whom are Gordon College graduates: Paul Franz and his wife, Lori; Carol Franz and her husband, William Kremen; Calvin Franz and his wife, Laurel; Rebecca Goss and her husband, David; fourteen grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.  . 

Dr. Franz graduated with a B.A. from Wheaton College (Illinois) in 1948, earned an A.M. from Harvard University in 1951, and received his Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts in 1972. He was a Fulbright Scholar in 1954 at the Free University in Amsterdam,and later at Cambridge University in England. In 1991, at his retirement, he was honored with the Stephen Phillips Chair of History.

In addition to 40 years of teaching history, in 1958 he founded Gordon's European Seminar. The first seminar began with 18 students and several faculty. The team sailed from New York to Europe on a converted World War II troop ship that June. It cost less than $600 per person for eight weeks of traveling, studying and camping throughout Europe. They discovered the Christian roots of the West, entered the medieval world of castles and cathedrals, and traveled the roads of the Protestant Reformation. His work on this global program for students laid the foundation for 35 more years of European Seminars—the precursor of Gordon's current array of Global Education programs.(Read more about Franz's influence on Gordon's European Seminars). 

In 1958 Franz began a lecture series, sponsored by the History Department, that brought distinguished speakers to campus several times a year. The series was eventually named after him and continues today. Gordon Provost Mark Sargent says, of Franz:

"Although David had retired when I arrived at Gordon, his impact was deeply rooted in our campus community and academic programs. He enlarged our vision for international learning, and he did so with a creative, can-do spirit. So many students and faculty told of bus rides, campsites and homemade sandwiches as they traveled and studied on the European Seminar. And then, when I met David and saw his great smile and enthusiasm for adventure, I knew why he was such a beloved guide."

Ron Mahurin, former Gordon political studies professor and now Vice President for Academic Affairs at Houghton College, adds: "Dave Franz was a pioneer for American higher education in establishing experiential learning and international field experiences as a way of deepening students' appreciation for history, art and culture."

A memorial service will be held Monday, November 9, at 11 a.m, at the First Presbyterian Church in Ipswich, Massachusetts, with a reception following. Instead of floral tributes, the family requests that contributions be given to the David Lincoln Franz Fellowship award program at Gordon College to help fund scholarships to international students.Gifts for the David Lincoln Franz Fellowship can be made by mail or online.

Mail: Gordon College Development Operations, 255 Grapevine Rd, Wenham, MA 01984. (Specify Franz Fellowship on the memo line of your check).

Online: https://www.gordon.edu/giving (specify Franz Fellowship). 


Gordon College is a multidenominational Christian college of the liberal arts and sciences on Boston's North Shore. The college offers majors in 37 fields and has graduate programs in education and music education. Leading the way in Christian college merit, Gordon is nationally ranked for its excellence in academics and its role in character building. These achievements recognize Gordon as one of the nation's top Christian Colleges.