Frances Bronet arrived in Eugene ten years ago, as a candidate for dean of the School of Architecture and Allied Arts, and we’ve been friends from the moment we met. Perhaps it was the way that Greta took to her immediately, and was sitting on Frances’s lap within five minutes. (We figured that anyone who could handle a shy three-year-old was the right person to run a design school.) In her years as dean (and one year as interim provost), Frances was a leader, a visionary, an indefatigable schmoozer, and a great representative and advocate for our school. She is the hardest working person I’ve ever known; I recently surprised a university gathering by mentioning that I had once seen her take a few days off. She accomplished all this without losing her perspective or her joie de vivre, and she left behind a school full of colleagues who regarded her as a friend and not just a boss.
Frances began her new job as provost at IIT this summer, and even breaking her collarbone hasn’t slowed her down there. We spent the week staying in their fantastic apartment in a Mies building on Lake Shore Drive (to which Frances would return briefly to sleep when work allowed) which is furnished with two barstools, and an air mattress in every room – she hasn’t had any time to even think about furniture. The contrast of the view was great: leave the hustle and bustle of the big city, and return to your aerie where you see only the primal elements.
Jeff arrived from Eugene while we were there, and it’s likely that with his final move to Chicago, their lives may return to a higher degree of domestic normalcy. We will really miss Jeff and Frances and their children in Eugene, but it was satisfying to see them starting to settle into their new lives.
2018 update: Frances has now moved on to being the president of Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Our main concern was whether the president’s house had a driveway where we could park our trailer the next time we visit.