Remembering Professor Francis

William P. Francis, age 81, died Friday, September 3 at his home surrounded by the love of his family following a year long struggle with complications from heart disease. Bill was born March 15, 1940, in Columbia, Missouri.

Bill spent his early years living in many different places both in and outside of the United States during his father’s service in the Air Force, graduating from Ramsey Abbey Grammar School in England in 1957. He received his bachelor of science degree in physics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and his Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Cornell University. He was briefly employed at Bell Labs in New Jersey prior to working at the University of Windsor in Ontario as a post-doctoral researcher. Bill joined the faculty of Michigan Technological University in the department of mathematics in 1970 where he taught math, physics and computer science for 35 years retiring as professor emeritus in 2005. While a member of the math department, Bill served as acting department head, coauthored a calculus textbook still used in classrooms today, and was instrumental in the establishment of the math department computer lab. He served on many department and university committees, and received numerous academic and service awards, including the state of Michigan Teaching Excellence Award. He was the principal investigator on a government contract at the Keweenaw Research Center conducting mathematical modeling of laser reflection imagery of military vehicles.

During his teaching career, Bill tutored and counseled thousands of students, many who have reached out with gratitude. He was always willing to meet with students to assist with math problems, or discuss their career goals. He is especially remembered for encouraging students to pursue the career they envisioned for themselves and not what was expected of them by others.

Bill stayed active following his retirement working part time as vice president of Shafi, Inc, a company specializing in vision guided robotics programming solutions at the Houghton Innovation Center. He was also involved with many of the volunteer programs through AARP, receiving the President’s Volunteer Service Award for his work as an AARP Tax-Aide volunteer for 19 years.

Throughout his life Bill enjoyed participating in sports including handball, racquetball, squash, tennis, softball and hockey. He received the intramural distinguished athlete award from Michigan Tech in 1998. He worked out on a daily basis and played handball several times a week until the age of 80.

Bill’s great passion was music. He was a member of the Michigan Tech Concert Choir, Copper Country Choral, Studio North Opera, Pine Mountain Music Festival, Maple Sugar Folk, and the Copper Country Chords barbershop quartet. He performed for many charity events and enjoyed singing the “old” songs at senior homes.

Bill performed with the MTU concert choir on international tours of Mexico, Eastern Europe, Russia, China, the Baltics, South America and the Adriatic coast. Bill and Cindy cherished the memories and friendships developed during these trips.

Bill was preceded in death by his parents Justin and Marjorie (Oliver) Francis and a sister, Serrye Roy. He is survived by his wife Cynthia (Pike) Francis, his children Catherine (Todd) Wielinski, David Francis (fiance Casandra Nuques), Laura Francis (Myckey McNutt), as well as stepsons B.J. Whipple and Terry Bartlett. Bill is the proud grandfather of Victor, Quinn and Stryker McNutt, John Santiago, and Matthew Bartlett. He was previously married to Judy (Davis) Spahn, the mother of his children.

The family would like to thank the dedicated medical personnel at Marquette ICU and Cardiac Rehab, the Covenant LTAC Hospital of Saginaw, and Portage Health Systems. We will be forever grateful to the nurses, staff and volunteers at Portage Home Health and Hospice who were our constant companions in providing compassionate care for Bill.

Bill requested that in lieu of flowers contributions be made to the Milton Olsson Endowed Scholarship at The Michigan Tech Fund.

Obituary courtesy of O’Neill Dennis Funeral Home


2 Comments on "Remembering Professor Francis"

  • Bruce Rukkila
    September 15, 2021 at 5:33 am

    I am so sorry to hear of Bill’s passing. For years I worked out at a mutual time with Bill at the SDC. We talked while exercising on adjoining ellipticals or in the locker room. We mostly discussed books. I had inherited several hundred books and Bill, I believed, read a few of and them. I so admired his patience for listening and sharing his thoughts about all the things we talked about. I will miss his presence and think of him in when I am working out. God bless Bill and his family.

  • Linda Hagopian
    September 16, 2021 at 9:32 am

    I have fond memories of Dr. Francis. He was responsible for giving me the gift of participation in a recorder orchestra! I have retained all the music from that time. There were 2 “Shakespeare Faires” in which the orchestra participated while I was at Tech. I have the printed handbill from Faire #2. Bill conducted the madrigal singers, and the recorder orchestra. I wish I could attach photos of the handbill, which lists all participants, including the famous Jon Davis of Library fame! Grateful for all the memories. (Should the alumni office desire jpgs of the handbill, I’d be happy to oblige.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.