When Walt Francis signed up for an international relations course at Aims Community College nearly 40 years ago, he never expected the profound impact the experience would have on the rest of his life. He was just a college kid then, suspended from the University of Colorado for poor grades.
"When I came back to Greeley, I was thrilled to get another chance at Aims," Francis said.
That chance, or opportunity, delivered a mentor into his life: Aims' Political Science Professor Frank Gordon.
"His class was one of the hardest I took in all of my education, Francis said. "On the first test, I thought I studied pretty well, and I got a C. Frankly, I was not happy."
On the next test, he did better.
"I saw him studying on campus, Gordon said. "He would outline the text, then he outlined the outline, and outlined the outline of the outline. He had it down cold."
The next test? An A. Francis still has the documentation to prove it. Two blue books, the pages yellowed with a few dog-ears marked by the scratchings of an eager undergrad. "So he challenged me to do better, Francis said.
Francis completed the Aims Police Academy in 1975, earned his bachelor's degree in Sociology from the University of Northern Colorado and his master's in Criminal Justice from the State University of New York at Albany. This summer, he retired from his professorship at Western Nebraska Community College after teaching college for 20 years.
Now, Francis is ready to give back to those who helped him along the way. He's established a scholarship and an endowment in honor of Gordon. The Frank Gordon/Walt Francis Award will be given annually to an exemplary student studying history or political science at Aims. The Frank Gordon/Walt Francis Endowment will provide an additional scholarship, also for students studying history or political science.
"Frank challenged me and taught me how to study, which prepared me for the rest of my life, Francis said. "And Aims saved my life. Aims got me back to college, and I might have never gone on."
Gordon said he remembers Francis as an A student.
"One of the things I tried to teach my students was to learn how to study," Gordon said.