It is with deep regret that Wagner College announces the death of Sam Hager Frank, the college’s 16th president, on Dec. 20, 2021. He was 89 years old.
Sam Hager Frank was born on July 23, 1932 in King City, Mo., a tiny agricultural village in northwestern Missouri, to Edward Lloyd Frank and Elmira Louise (Hager) Frank. The Franks moved to Bradenton, on the central west coast of Florida, where Sam graduated from Manatee High School.
In 1953, Frank earned his bachelor’s degree from Florida State University in Tallahassee before serving in the U.S. Army from 1954 to 1956.
On June 3, 1955, Sam Frank married Ellen Wilson Snow in Pinellas County, Fla. Sam and Ellie had met while performing in a production of Victor Herbert’s “Sweethearts” while both were students at FSU. They had one child, Marian Elizabeth “Betsy” Frank.
In 1957 Frank earned his master’s degree in history from FSU with a thesis on the work of his grandfather, “A Kentucky Missionary in Japan, 1893-1940.” While his grandfather was a Methodist, Sam Frank was, himself, an Episcopalian.
From 1957 to 1958, he served as a historical consultant for the Research Studies Institute of the United States Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama.
In 1961, Sam Frank earned his Ph.D. from the University of Florida.
During his academic career, Sam Frank contributed to two books on military history and wrote a number of articles and book reviews ranging in subject matter from the organization of the United States Air Service in World War I to a study of the liberal arts from a university administrator’s point of view.
From 1961 to 1965, Sam Frank was a professor of history and head of the Social Science Department at Tift College in Forsyth, Ga., which today has an endowed chair named for him, the Sam H. Frank Professor of History.
Sam Frank spent a year as a Fulbright professor in India, from 1965 to 1966. He taught at Bhagalpur University in Bihar, gave lectures on behalf of the United States Information Agency, and headed a program at Osmania University in Hyderabad. According to his daughter, this experience fuelled a lifelong passion for overseas travel that took him to six continents and 150 countries.
Following his Fulbright year, Sam Frank joined the faculty at Augusta (Ga.) College as an associate professor of history from 1966 to 1967.
In 1967, Sam Hager Frank first ventured into the administrative ranks of higher education, serving in two successive academic deanships at Florida’s Jacksonville University for the next 11 years.
In 1979, Sam Frank became the chancellor of the Louisiana State University campus at Alexandria, where he served for just two years before succeeding John Satterfield as the 16th president of Wagner College. He was the second non-Lutheran to become Wagner’s president; Satterfield was the first.
During his six years on Staten Island, Sam Frank was involved with several local community organizations, including Bayley Seton Hospital, Snug Harbor Cultural Center and the Staten Island Symphony.
Following his resignation as president of Wagner College, in August 1987, it was nine months before his successor, Norman Smith, took office.
In 1990, Sam Frank became president of the College of Aeronautics, now known as the Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology, at New York City’s La Guardia Airport. Later, he served as dean of the College of Professional Studies at the City College of New York.
In 2001, Sam and Ellie Frank moved to Sugar Land, Texas, southwest of Houston, just down the street from their daughter and her husband. After the move, Sam Frank “unretired” and became a substitute high school teacher in Fort Bend County, Texas.
Sam Frank’s wife, Ellen Wilson Snow, died in 2008.
Sam Hager Frank died on Dec. 20, 2021. He was survived by his brother Bill, his daughter Betsy Frank Fraser and her husband Bill, their daughter Laura Fraser Roberts and her husband Alex.
A memorial service will be scheduled at a later date.
The family asks that memorial gifts be directed to the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation (mhopus.org).