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Will Frank, Professor Emeritus of History, Dies

Willard Chabot Frank Jr., professor emeritus of history at Old Dominion University, died Friday, Sept. 2, 2011, in Norfolk. He was 75 years old.

Frank received a bachelor's degree from Brown University in 1957, a master's from the College of William and Mary in 1962 and a Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh in 1968. A veteran of the Navy, he joined the ODU history department in 1963, where for 48 years he taught a wide range of courses with a particular focus on the Spanish Civil War. He published many scholarly papers and articles and was the editor of several books about Spanish, Soviet, German and Italian military-political history.

Additionally, he wrote about international relations, the American Revolution and religious freedom in America. As a yet untenured professor, Frank was called an "irresponsible sensationalist" for championing the controversial cause of academic freedom. Despite this label, he led reflective, philosophical and ethical discussions focused on the troubling issues of segregation, nuclear weapons, communism and the importance of freedom of expression and civil liberties in American society.

Later, as a senior professor, Frank extolled the emergence of ODU as a large, multi-ethnic, international university that served as a forum for the free interchange of ideas where students learn to think for themselves and gain knowledge, discernment and compassion for the purpose of making tough decisions facing our society.

Although he retired in 2004, he continued to teach classes at ODU and at the Naval War College.

"Will Frank combined a dedication to scholarship with a love of teaching and a commitment to his community," said Douglas Greene, professor and history department chair. "I am privileged that he was my colleague and friend."

Frank became a member of the Unitarian Church of Norfolk in 1958 and he researched and wrote extensively about the church's 200-year history, organized two denomination-wide conferences and coordinated several programs on African American Universalism. His political activism included the effort to desegregate Norfolk public schools in 1959 and later he became an outspoken champion of the anti-Vietnam War movement.

Frank was a devoted appreciator of the arts and culture, with a particular love of music. He and his second wife, Mary Ranger Scripp, a musician herself, were regular attendees of the symphony and the opera. In addition to his wife, he is survived by Peter Frank, his stepsons, Lawrence Scripp and Kenneth Scripp, and his beloved step-granddaughters, Ashima Scripp and Miranda Scripp.

A memorial service will be held at the Unitarian Church of Norfolk on Saturday, Nov. 5.

This article was posted on: September 15, 2011

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