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H. Thomas Francis

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H. Thomas Francis Obituary
H. Thomas Francis

AGE: 66 • Wilmington, Del

Tom Francis, 66, peacefully passed away embraced by the love of his family on March 6, 2016 at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia following a long illness. Tom came into this world through Chicago via the Women & Children's Hospital on May 16, 1949. He was a fragile preemie and an unexpected gift to his scientist parents, Drs. Howard and Arista (McCormick) Francis who had adopted their bright-eyed daughter a couple years before. Tom grew into a tall robust young man in Park Forest, IL, where they were among the first "pioneer" homeowners in this planned community made famous by William Whyte's book The Organization Man (1956).

Tom definitely did not fit the stereotype of an organization man, though he appreciated his hometown. He sought an innovative liberal arts education at Kalamazoo College in Michigan where he served as student body president and earned the B.A. in Economics with a concentration in African Studies. Tom spent two semesters studying at historic Fourah Bay College in Freetown, Sierra Leone, and he traveled extensively throughout North and West Africa while there. He later completed a master's degree at Western Michigan University in Counseling and Student Personnel (post-secondary). A dedicated advisor and administrator, Tom Francis spent his professional career guiding students at Kalamazoo College for ten years and then at Swarthmore College, where he served as Director of Career Services, for eighteen years.

In 1972, Tom volunteered to serve in West Africa with the U.S. Peace Corps and energetically assisted farmers with grain storage in Dahomey (now Benin). The Peace Corps experience reinforced his belief in service to others, the innate goodness of people, and the importance of experiential education. That legacy lasted a lifetime as did the impact of a life-threatening tropical parasite in 1974, which forced his evacuation to an Army Hospital in West Germany and later to Walter Reed Hospital and the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD. Tom confronted his many health challenges with a gentle strength over the decades, but his heart finally failed him.

Tom was predeceased by his parents. Tom leaves his wife Susan Dion (Wilmington, DE) and children Brett Dion (Margaret Crocker) of Croton-on-Hudson, NY, and Raena (Dante) Iocona of Pennsville, NJ; and his beloved grandchildren Gabrielle, Livia, and Joseph Iocona, at home, Pennsville. He was adored by his grandchildren who renamed him "Da." In addition, he leaves his sister Louise of Scranton, PA; his sisters-in-law Barbara and Nancy Dion of Connecticut; and his brothers-in-law, Robert Dion (Rita) of Florida, William Dion (Robin Philbrick) of Vermont, and Ron Dion of Wisconsin. Tom was a favorite relative among Susan's large extended family, but nephew Willy Dion-Tollman (Connecticut) held an extra special place in his heart.

Final arrangements are private. In his parting gift, Tom Francis donated his body to benefit medical research and education at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Medicine. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that you make a contribution in Tom's memory to the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, University of Delaware - Wilmington, 2700 Pennsylvania Avenue, Wilmington, DE 19806. (Checks payable to: University of Delaware, with memo "Osher - Wilm., Renewing the Dream.") Tom enthusiastically volunteered and attended classes at this vibrant dynamic institution. He will be deeply missed.
Published in The News Journal on Mar. 13, 2016
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