Frank Girard, ’62: Repaying Generosity with Generosity
Since Frank E. Girard made the $2.5 million donation to the school that now bears his name, the Francis E. Girard School of Business and International Commerce has made incredible strides. Now boasting a graduate program; distinguished faculty members; innovative curriculum; career-focused mentoring, co-op, and internship programs; and a growing number of students, the Girard School of Business has made its benefactor proud. “When I look at the Girard School, I am most proud of how much it has grown and the quality of the graduates it produces, says Girard. To me, it’s a place where students work hard, demonstrate exceptional work ethic and determination— seeming to out-achieve many of their contemporaries at other schools.”
Countless Merrimack students have benefited from Girard’s gift over the years—whether through scholarships, better classrooms and curriculum, or an improved ability to attract soughtafter faculty members. It is this last point that really strikes home with Girard, “Faculty is one of the biggest elements to any school’s success. The addition of the graduate program at Merrimack has been extremely gratifying. You can’t accomplish something like that unless you have the right people in place. The faculty I’ve met seem to share an abiding commitment to the College. They see their role as more than a job. Rather, Merrimack is a community to which they belong.”
Mentors make a difference
Girard graduated from Merrimack in 1962 with a degree in business administration, but it wasn’t always clear that he was on the college track. In fact, it took some convincing for Girard to pursue a bachelor’s degree. “I was fortunate enough to have had mentors who gave me terrific guidance. I trained and worked as a commercial photographer while taking evening classes at Merrimack to earn an Associate’s degree. As an employee of Craig Systems, Inc., I worked as a full-time industrial photographer. Erick Kauders, President of Craig, took an interest in me and told me that he didn’t think I would meet my full potential by continuing to work at his company. He encouraged me to go to college full-time to earn my Bachelor’s degree. To help me pay for it, he offered to give me all of the professional photography equipment I would need to work my way through college by doing freelance photography jobs.”
With this generous proposition before him, Girard went to visit Father Smith, Merrimack’s Director of Admissions, explaining that he wanted to move from the evening program to the day program. “Father Smith told me that my high school preparation was not sufficient. I had to convince him to give me a chance and let me in on a probationary semester.”
The rest, as they say, is history. By the end of the first semester, Girard achieved the second-best grades in the business school and went on to become an elected member of student council, News Editor of The Warrior (now The Beacon), and president of his fraternity, Sigma Beta Kappa. In his senior year, Frank was recruited by two major IT corporations, but signed up for active military service. After that, he held many major corporate roles, eventually becoming President and CEO of Boston Technology, and later, Vice Chairman and CEO of Comverse Network Systems.
When asked what he attributes his success to, he acknowledges Merrimack’s role. “Through their guidance and direction, Merrimack’s faculty really inspired me and gave me confidence. Professor Savoy, my economics professor, engendered my love for economics, which I still have to this day. As a freshman, he inspired me in this direction and helped me discover that ‘I do best what I like best’.”
Sharing success. Creating a legacy.
When Girard was leading Boston Technology, an employee came into his office and asked if he know how many Merrimack graduates were working at the company. While he was always supportive of hiring Merrimack students, Girard was surprised to learn that there were 13 Merrimack alums on staff in the home office. “Someone suggested that we take a group photo, which made its way to the College.
Around this same time, our company had just gone public and I’d rung the bell on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock was performing really well and sales were growing rapidly. Let’s face it: the timing could not have been better for Merrimack to approach me about giving back to the school, which I really wanted to do. After reviewing several options, I decided to exercise most of them. I finally had a chance to share my success and that was important to me.”
Asked why he gives, he says, “I can’t think of a better thing to do. Not only is it personally gratifying, but the college has a way of recognizing it, without being overly grandiose, and showing their appreciation in many ways that are not public. Anyone giving to the school— colleagues of mine, people I know well, and friends, all say the same thing—‘we did what we thought was right and we feel good about it.’ Giving back is very, very gratifying, but the payback isn’t in dollars; it’s in good, psychic rewards.”
“The physical campus enhancements are truly impressive. But, underlying this is the change that has come with our new leadership in Dr. Hopey and his untiring determination to make Merrimack an outstanding institution. I understand that we will be entertaining the largest freshman class in history this fall. We will expand the number of graduate degrees and continue to expand our presence in Division I athletics. Most important, we continue to improve our
recognition as a quality educational institution with regional and national recognition. Clearly, I am proud to be an alumnus of Merrimack.”
Now retired, Girard participates in some board activities and enjoys golfing, photography, and traveling with his wife, Henriette. But thoughts of Merrimack are never far from his mind. “My grandson, Chris, is attending Merrimack in the fall and I couldn’t be more delighted. I think he’s going to be a terrific addition.”