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The Faces of Opportunity Vanderbilt
Photo of Francille Bergquist

Fräncille Bergquist

Fräncille Bergquist Scholarship

It wasn’t the unfamiliarity of a new city or the intimidation of a new faculty position that stood out to Fräncille Bergquist when she first came to Vanderbilt in 1977. The new Spanish professor was taken aback by the rolling hills and green trees of Middle Tennessee—a stark contrast from the dry, flat landscape of Lubbock, Texas.

“There were so many trees and hills, I couldn’t see where I was going,” Bergquist said. “But I trusted that this new opportunity was a good one.”

Bergquist’s path to Vanderbilt wasn’t always clearly mapped. After graduating high school, Bergquist thought she wanted to go pre-med, but immediate struggles with math and chemistry left her questioning that choice. Then, with only one Spanish class under her belt, she found herself in a Colegio Mayor in Barcelona, where her love for the Spanish language blossomed. Several years later, Bergquist completed her Ph.D., before spending 35 years as a Spanish professor and 30 years as an associate dean in the College of Arts and Science.

“I’d given 35 years of my life to Vanderbilt. I couldn’t imagine not continuing to give.”

In her role as a dean, Bergquist advised and mentored thousands of students—students whose own paths were determined by unexpected opportunities and challenges. Like the student who was a better fit for Arts and Science than the School of Engineering. Or the students who thought they had to forego study abroad opportunities for paid work. Or the one who was intent on pursuing a career in finance despite his passion for writing.

After her retirement, Bergquist began to think about how she wanted to support Vanderbilt over the long term. “I’d given 35 years of my life to Vanderbilt. I couldn’t imagine not continuing to give. Education allows opportunities, and if you have opportunities, the sky is the limit.”

In addition to her role as a popular emerita faculty leader on international alumni trips, she endowed the Fräncille Bergquist Scholarship in 2015 as part of Opportunity Vanderbilt.

Bergquist died Nov. 17, 2019 at the age of 74, but thanks to a bequest to add to her existing scholarship, her memory will live on through the scholars her gifts will support. Prior to her death, Bergquist enjoyed meeting the first Bergquist Scholar, Sam Cho.

Sam remarked, “Words cannot express the gratitude I feel for Dean Bergquist. Her support for me transcended that of merely paving a way for opportunities and touched even the academic and personal aspects of my Vanderbilt experience. There was a certain twinkle in her eyes that just filled you with warmth and confidence and made you want to strive harder and make her proud.”

Chancellor Emeritus Zeppos is fond of citing this adage when speaking of those who invest in the university through endowment: “It takes a noble person to plant a seed for a tree that will some day give shade to people they may never meet.” As it turns out, the young woman from flat, dry Lubbock was quite the master gardener, planting seeds that will provide for generations of Arts and Science students.