Billy Francis (B.A. ’86) was inducted to the FSU Alumni Association’s Circle of Gold at the Circle of Gold Spring Induction Ceremony on Saturday, April 14, 2018. The Circle of Gold is reserved for FSU alumni and friends who, through their service and achievements, personify the university’s tradition of excellence.
The date was 11-11-2011 when William “Billy” Francis—still a Colonel in the U.S. Air Force—took on perhaps the most important assignment of his professional career: leading the FSU Veterans Center as its first director. His responsibility is as noble as any in higher education: helping our nation’s veterans transition from their active-duty roles, assimilate to the foreign setting of a college campus, and help them succeed.
By all accounts, Francis and FSU have passed with flying colors. In the national rankings for most veteran-friendly campuses, FSU has reached as high as eighth in the nation. Our graduation rate for veterans has seen double digit increases, and FSU has become a leader in the integration of veterans into the general student body. Francis helped create the Veterans Alliance arrowhead as a visible symbol of how FSU veterans are integrated into the community, featuring more than 60 liaisons across all parts of the alliance.
From FSU, Francis in 1986 earned a Bachelor of Science degree in economics. That same year he went from ROTC cadet to Air Force second lieutenant—the start of a 26-year career of service to our country. After earning his Air Force wings, Francis worked his way up to the F16 fighter jet, as his flight assignments and instructor pilot roles took him from New Mexico to the Balkins. He was twice selected for early promotion and, for eight years, served in command, culminating as Mission Support Group Commander at MacDill Air Force Base. In his MacDill role, Francis was responsible for 2200 personnel and a $50 million budget as the primary support agent for the U.S. Central Command and Special Operations Command headquarters.
In addition to his bachelor’s degree from Florida State, Francis earned a master’s degree in business administration from Eastern New Mexico University, aerospace strategy from Air University and national security strategy from the National War College.
In 2009, Francis returned to the FSU campus as commander of the university’s ROTC program and professor and chairman of the Department of Aerospace Studies.
His role as director of the Veterans Center includes the important work of creating the physical environment necessary for helping our veterans succeed. He has worked diligently to envision a state-of-the-art Veteran’s Center Building, and new ROTC complex, working tirelessly raising funds to make it a reality.
Billy and his wife Lisa have been ardent supporters with their own time, talent and treasure, generously giving to the FSU Foundation and becoming life members of the FSU Alumni Association. Yes, Billy Francis faithfully served our country as a fighter pilot, but in this current role, fighting for his fellow veterans, he has truly become worthy of the Circle of Gold, and the FSU Alumni Association is proud to welcome him into its membership.
The FSU Alumni Association’s Circle of Gold recognizes the accomplishments of notable alumni and friends of Florida State who personify the university’s tradition of excellence. Also honored in the April 14, 2018 induction ceremony were Alicia Crew (B.S. ’69), Odell Haggins (B.A. ’93), Judy Pate (B.M. ’67) and Max Zahn (B.S. ’71).