Mike and Mary Franco '81 P'12MIKE AND MARY FRANCO ’81 P’12

Drawn to Merrimack College by its Catholic underpinnings, Mike ’81 and Mary Gorham Franco ’81 forged lifelong friendships and cultivated a passion for service. But that was not the biggest benefit. “I think the greatest thing that ever happened to us is that we met each other at Merrimack,” said Mary, who married Mike in 1983.

After graduating from Merrimack, Mike became an attorney and Mary pursued a career in hospital administration and fundraising. They have both been active on numerous nonprofit boards and at Merrimack College. In this capacity, Mary serves on the Board of Trustees, chairing its Advancement Committee, and Mike serves as chairman of leadership giving on the College Leadership Council. As two of Merrimack College’s biggest champions, they are also advocates for the Together for Good Campaign, serving as vice chairs on the committee.

“We want people to understand that Merrimack has great momentum, and that it can continue to grow,” said Mike. “By getting involved financially or personally, community members and alumni can have a great impact on the school and on the students who go there.”

“The Campaign has helped dramatically improve the campus,” explained Mary.

“The buildings and facilities meet the needs of today’s students. The College is far beyond what it was when we were there, but it still has that same sense of community and connection to the world.”

An investment in the future

To support the Together for Good Campaign, Mike and Mary chose to direct their financial gift in a meaningful way— by naming the central meeting room in  the Sakowich Campus Center. Not only is the Sakowich Center located at the center of campus life, it holds special meaning  for the Francos.

“It’s the building where we first met, and it was the focal point of our lives,” explained Mike. “While the room that we’re naming is in the Sakowich Center, our gift will be used where Merrimack needs it the most.”

The Francos are also dedicated to helping future generations of students attend Merrimack College. Both Mike and Mary received scholarships and financial aid at Merrimack, so when Mary’s college roommate, Lisa “Lulu” Lauring, died of cancer, they and their circle of friends were inspired to create a Merrimack scholarship in her name. “We also made provisions in our will to make sure that we are still able to support Merrimack once we are gone,” said Mary.

An enduring community

Mike and Mary have been together for more than 40 years, married for 34, and have two children—Mick, a 2012 Merrimack graduate, and Henry. Two of Mike’s 11 siblings also attended Merrimack, and Mary’s cousin is a fellow Warrior. “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, decided to attend,” said Mike.

In college, Mary experienced a series of personal tragedies including the loss of her mother and father. In her time of need, she was able to turn to the Merrimack community for support.

“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—and ‘sisters,’ and for the faculty and administrators who stepped in,” explained Mary. “That’s why Merrimack will always be so important to me.”

It is also what has inspired the couple to give back. “The friendships we made at Merrimack—and the incredible experiences we had there—have been with us for the last 40 years,” reflected Mike. “When I think about Together for Good, I think about how we get together with our friends, but also how we get together to do good.”