Frank Wright

4 August 2017
Frank Wright
Frank Wright

Frank Wright ’50 died on August 4th at the age of 91. Frank worked at Carleton for 38 years, beginning as Assistant Treasurer in 1955 and rising through the ranks to Vice President and Treasurer. He retired as Treasurer Emeritus in 1990, and continued for three years as the Secretary to the Investment Committee of the Board of Trustees.

A 1990 Voice article about Frank called him “Carleton’s own Rock of Gibraltar,” serving as “advisor, confidant, and mentor to six presidents and to countless students, faculty members, and trustees.” Former President Bob Edwards wrote then: “Frank has also been the conscience of the College, defending its highest values. He taught me an important truth for a college president to absorb. It is that academic freedom is dependent upon sound financial management. Faculty are intellectually constrained if they cannot constantly improve the quality of their instrumentation, journals, and library collections. They cannot be open-hearted and generous teachers if their personal financial situations are insecure.” Much of Carleton’s success then and now can be credited to Frank’s dedicated work of building a secure financial foundation for teaching and learning. 

A memorial service is planned for November 4, 2017, at 2 pm in Skinner Memorial Chapel, with a reception to follow in Severance Great Hall. In lieu of flowers, gifts in memory of Frank may be made to Carleton College or to a charity of your choice. A more complete obituary is below.

Please keep Ann and all of Frank’s family, friends, and former colleagues in your thoughts and prayers.

“Fireball” Frank Irving Wright passed away peacefully in Northfield, Minnesota on August 3, 2017, surrounded by family. He was born in Austin, Minnesota on January 14, 1926, to Art and Florence Wright and was the youngest of four siblings, Sylvia, Bill and Steve, all of whom preceded him in death.

Frank was a blessed man who liked to say he had “four loves of his life.” His first love was his mother, Florence. She raised her four children as a single mother after the death of her husband in a biplane accident. His second love was his wife, Louise. They married in 1950 and had seven children: David (Deborah Smith-Wright), Martha Winston (John), Clifford, Catherine Kromer (Todd), Gregory (Jeanne), Douglas Lochner-Wright (Cheryl), Stephen (Paula), 15 grandchildren and one great granddaughter. After Louise passed away in 1989, he met and married the third love of his life, Ann McElroy Follansbee. For a quarter of a century, they traveled the world together and treasured their large and extended families.

Carleton College was not only Frank’s alma mater and lifetime employer, but also the fourth love of his life. Returning from the navy after World War II, he entered Carleton’s class of 1950. During college, Frank lettered in three sports, formed lifelong friendships, and proposed to Louise. Three years after graduation, he returned to help build Larry Gould’s vision of Carleton as a “Cathedral of Learning.” He worked at the college for 38 years, beginning as Assistant Treasurer and rising through the ranks to Vice President and Treasurer. He retired as Treasurer Emeritus in 1990, and continued for three years as the Secretary to the Investment Committee of the Board of Trustees.

A memorial service is planned for November 4, 2017, at 2 pm in the Carleton College Chapel, with a reception to follow in Great Hall. In lieu of flowers, gifts in memory of Frank Wright may be made to Carleton College, Gift Accounting, One N. College St, Northfield, MN 55057, or to a charity of your choice.

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  • 2017-08-04 17:49:04
    Wayne Eisenhuth

    Simply put, one of the finest men I have ever known!

  • 2017-08-06 12:00:00
    Eric Hillemann

    Frank long held a spot near the top of any list I might have made of my favorite people. He was retiring from the post of Carleton Treasurer just as I was being hired as Carleton Archivist, and I think my first interaction with him -- many, many more were to follow over the years -- was when, for a speech he was making in connection with his retirement -- perhaps when he was given a Carleton honorary degree that year? -- he wanted help tracking down the text of a memorable speech by his personal hero, Larry Gould, on the theme of "noblesse oblige." Years later, when I was writing Gould's biography, and taking an awfully long time about it too, Frank was terrifically eager to read the result, and invariably patient about the wretched slowness of my pace. (Though he did once allow himself to observe, "Eric, I'm not going to live forever!") He boosted my morale about it considerably at one point when, after I shared a draft of my introductory chapter with him, he called me at home one evening to ~gush~ about how much it had pleased him, and how he could hardly wait for the whole book! Frank was such a fine gentleman, and such an ardent supporter of all things Carleton. I imagine if one were to have opened his veins, you would have found his blood flowing entirely Maize and Blue. A star athlete and star scholar as a member of the Class of 1950, he returned to his alma mater just a few years after graduation, and spent the rest of his life at the school, improving it immeasurably with his sound financial acumen. (As Treasurer he advised six Carleton presidents; altogether he knew 9 of the 11.) From the perspective of one quite familiar with the whole scope of Carleton history, I can attest that Frank Wright also holds a spot near the top of any list I might make of those who had the greatest positive impact on Carleton's "pursuit of excellence" over the years. His passing is truly the end of an era.

  • 2017-08-07 08:08:25
    Corey Pulju

    Frank will be missed. I enjoyed his visits to our office very much over the years for small print jobs he needed done. It was always a joy to visit with him. Thank you for all you've done!!!!

  • 2017-08-07 10:14:46
    Mikki Showers

    Frank was an inspiration for so many, and will surely be missed at the top of the bleachers in West Gym!  I've kept the score book for home basketball games for over 20 years and will miss him coming down at half-time to make sure our stats and score matched his stats and score!

    It was an honor to work with him in the Business Office and having him work-out regularly @ The Rec. Center.

    He was the Wright Way!

  • 2017-08-07 10:24:37
    Kathie Galotti

    Frank was and is a Carleton icon. It is hard to imagine this community going on without him.

  • 2017-08-07 12:27:39
    Liz Baumgartner

    Frank and his wife were loyal supporters of the women's basketball team and, as a result, a part of the basketball family. We will miss him!

  • 2017-08-07 14:11:43
    Steve Knutson

    There are certain people that stand out as I remember my time at Carleton and Frank was definitely on that short list. I graduated in 2001 so there was a bit of an age gap between me and Frank. But when we worked out at Chan rec center at the same time, you would hardly know Frank wasn't in his early 20s if you didn't see his grey hair. What an inspiration and role model for youth as they begin to realize the importance of health and wellness. Great guy. Will be remembered fondly by many whether he ever realized it or not.

  • 2017-08-10 15:08:04
    Jennifer Edwins

    Frank was always a favorite among library staff. When he visited the library he would take time to talk with the student employees at the circulation desk, asking them questions about their major, what classes they were taking, where they were from, etc. - all to engage them in discussing his favorite topic, Carleton, while getting to know each of them. He spread optimism and good cheer among all of us!

  • 2017-08-15 15:32:09
    Lauren Soth

    One day, Frank and I were walking up the hill behind Leighton.  We came upon some litter:  I walked on; Frank stopped and picked it up.  I thought, here was a man who really loved Carleton.

  • 2017-08-29 15:43:12
    Stephen Kelly

    I was fortunate to serve on my first Carleton committee with Frank in my second year at the College. More than anyone else he demonstrated over and over what it was to be a citizen of the College.

  • 2018-03-15 17:24:38
    Matthew Finucane

    I was saddened to hear of Frank Wright's passing. I remember Mr. Wright fondly from serving as a student representative on the Administrative Policy Committee, which he chaired as Carleton's Treasurer. I was arguing in the committee against a proposed tuition increase much of senior year (1973/74), yet Frank was always warm and gracious, ensuring the student representatives had an equal voice, and taking time to chat when we would run into each other on campus. A special memory though involves an event unrelated to the committee. I was biking into the arb one evening, turning off Division street into an unpaved entry road, when I suddenly found myself slowed then stopped by an invisible force on my chest. It was a single strand of barbed wire strung across the road, which I had to pry off. Wanting to see the wire removed, I stopped by Mr. Wright's office the next day to report it. He immediately said, "why don't we walk up there and take a look?" So we strolled to the arb and looked at the wire, which he promised would be removed. On the way back, he asked, is there anything I can do for you, are you sure you don't need medical attention? I said I was fine, just some minor cuts, but mentioned that the wire had ruined my sweater. He insisted we go to Willis where he bought me a new one. Not long after we were back debating the tuition issue in committee, and our informal talks continued, in that wonderful Carleton way.

  • 2019-03-23 06:51:39
    Robin Ingenthron

    Frank Wright always asked me to keep this in confidence, but he secretly told me that my concerns about tuition rising 4X the rate of inflation were not falling on deaf ears. It was at a time I felt really alone (as CSA President) for protesting the inflation-college-debt spiral. Today, the $1.5+ Trillion dollar student debt is a crisis. I felt incredibly alone in protesting tuition increases, and while Frank advised me on both sides (that higher tuition supported more financial aid), he said to stick to my guns on the debt. I did. His secret support (asked me not to 'out' him to the top brass) is one of my fondest memories. Robin Ingenthron '1984