A gift from Dr. Edward Franks ’72 endows a permanent fund in memory of Professor of Religious Studies Richard Heaton, in recognition of the late professor’s contributions to awareness of human rights.
The Heaton/Franks Endowed Professorship in Human Rights and Genocide has been established by Dr. Edward Franks ’72 in memory of his former mentor, the late Professor of Religious Studies Richard L. Heaton P’86. The endowment will ensure that the study of human rights, genocide and social justice are a permanent part of the Religious Studies curriculum. In addition, the endowment fund will make certain that the Human Rights and Genocide Symposium, which Dr. Franks started in 1999, remains a permanent component of campus life at HWS.
Dr. Franks was strongly influenced by Professor Heaton, who engaged and challenged him while a student at HWS. He describes his former mentor as “a vibrant contributor who had the heart of life. He participated, was receptive and dedicated to enriching the lives of all he knew.”
Heaton was a professor of Religious Studies from 1961 to 1994 and served as department chair during the 1970s and 1980s. He taught and co-directed the popular Western Civilization course, as well as several other courses that Dr. Franks recalls as being insightful and enlightening. One course, “Prophetic Religions,” focused on human rights.
“These courses awakened many of us and provided a scaffolding to better understand our responsibility to and interactions with the greater society as a whole,” he says.
At the time of his graduation, Professor Heaton and his wife, Elizabeth, invited Dr. Franks and several other students and their families to a gathering at their home. Dr. Franks maintained a close friendship with Heaton for many years afterward.
Dr. Franks turned to Heaton, then retired, for advice on how to initiate a program focusing on human rights and genocide — eventually launched at HWS as the Human Rights and Genocide Symposium. Since 1999, Dr. Franks has underwritten lectures and activities centered on those subjects.
“This professorship is intended to formalize the Colleges’ commitment to social justice,” he explains. “It emphasizes the importance of these topics to students, graduates and future leaders from the Colleges as well as the wider community that the Colleges serve.”
The recipient of the Heaton/Franks Endowed Professorship will be responsible for teaching a full complement of courses in human rights, genocide and social justice, as well as other standard courses in the department. The recipient will also work with students to guide the Symposium, making it more well-known throughout the upstate region, and, through grant-writing and other means, serve as a catalyst for securing additional funding for speakers, workshops, internships and other activities.
Dr. Franks hopes that his gift will inspire others. “My time at the Colleges made me more interested in contributing to the greater good rather than passive support,” he says.
Dr. Franks earned a B.S. in chemistry at HWS, then studied computer science and related courses in graduate school (medical database management systems) before earning a medical degree at Albany Medical College. He had a private ophthalmic practice in Upstate New York from 1987 until his retirement in 2016. Among his professional achievements was serving as a diplomat for both the American Board of Ophthalmology and the National Board of Medical Examiners.
In the photo above, Dr. Edward Franks ’72 signs a Deed of Gift to create the Heaton/Franks Endowed Professorship in Human Rights and Genocide. With him are President Joyce P. Jacobsen and Professors of Religious Studies Michael Dobkowski and Richard Salter ’86, P’15.