Show of support: Earl Franklin

A lawyer who almost chose psychology supports students who take the other path.

In 2006 Earl Franklin, AB’65, established the first summer research fellowships for College students. The Earl R. Franklin Research Fellowships provide up to $4,000 for students majoring in psychology or comparative human development to do research the summer before their fourth year. This research usually becomes part of the student’s honors thesis.

Franklin, who majored in psychology at the College, went on to law school and had a long career in the legal department of Eaton Corporation, a power management company based in Cleveland. “I loved it, and never regretted that decision. But I did regret that I didn’t have a chance to leave my mark in psych at the University,” he says. “These fellowships are a way for me to leave my mark.”

Why did you major in psychology? Did you consider pursuing graduate work?

When I entered the College, I was aiming toward a career in law. My whole family are lawyers, including my mother, which in those days was very unusual. I also knew that when I applied to law school, my undergraduate major wouldn’t really matter. So I chose psych.

The courses that I took covered a pretty good array, from rats hitting levers to social psychology. I especially enjoyed clinical psychology. For our exams, we would be given short descriptions of what a patient told the counselor and had to say what we made of it. Wow. It was real-life stuff.

By the time I finished applying to law school, I was asking myself if I should have a career in psychology. Fortunately, one of my psych professors, Fred M. Zimring, had a law degree and a couple years of experience in legal practice. His advice was, you know a bit about psychology, but you don’t know law yet. See how that experience suits you, and then decide to come back to psych if you want to.

I spent 40 years in law. I retired in 2008. But throughout my legal career, I never lost my appreciation of psychology. You can’t be a successful lawyer unless you have a pretty good handle on psychology.

Why did this giving opportunity appeal to you?

For starters, it really satisfies my desire to give back to the University. My time here really put me on a whole different track, as far as the doors that would be open to me and the critical thinking I acquired.

Secondly, this giving opportunity associates my name with academic excellence in the fields I love the best, comparative human development and psychology. In my student days, comparative human development was included in the department of psychology.

The fellowships you endowed are merit-based, not need-based. Why was that important?

The Franklin fellowships provide a really nice credential for superior students who don’t qualify financially for need-based scholarships. Need-based scholarships are awarded to students who have both extraordinary merit and financial need. Students with extraordinary merit but no financial need don’t qualify. As a result, those students miss out on the prestige that comes with scholarships. The Franklin fellowships, being strictly merit-based, avoid that problem.

Dean Boyer suggested the idea of a summer research opportunity, and it was just perfect. So psychology and comparative human development were the first departments to have this kind of summer fellowship.

Have any of the students’ papers particularly resonated with you?

The quality of the papers has been really remarkable, but the one that’s the most memorable to me is the first one: “Racial Bias in Police Shootings: An Analysis of US Police Shootings from 1980 to 2004,” written by Kendra Clark [AB’07]. She and I had a correspondence by snail mail for a while. She graduated summa cum laude and went on to graduate work in investigative psychology at the University of Liverpool.

When she graduated, I wrote to her in a letter of congratulations, “Honestly, if the field of investigative psychology had existed at the time I was choosing between graduate psych and law school, it would have been no contest.”

Did you do any independent research as an undergrad?

I did some research for several of my psych courses. In Psychology of Religion, I met with Sunday-school students from kindergarten through high-school age and asked them, “Tell me about God.” I was interested in how their views became more and more sophisticated as they grew older and were exposed to more religious training. I wrote a paper on that. I still have it.

Your father, Arthur Frutkin, PhB’29, JD’31, went to school here under a different last name. When did you change it?

When I was a student, my last name was the same as his—Frutkin. It’s Russian. As a matter of fact, when I was here, I asked the head of the Slavic languages department what it means. “Frut” is fruit, and “kin” is a common Russian suffix.

I got married at the end of 1968, and Barb and I decided to change it to Franklin. That was a name my mother was lobbying for with my dad also, but she never persuaded him to go along.

My only problem with Frutkin was that it is tricky to pronounce and spell. I’ve met several other people over the years called Frutkin. I feel a kinship with them, literally. Of the ones I have met, as many of them pronounce it FRUTT-kin as FRUIT-kin. I met a Bill FRUTT-kin in law school, and he’s still cursing me because just about the time I had trained all the faculty to say FRUIT-kin, he came along and tried to get them to say FRUTT-kin.

You lived in Pierce, right? It must have been brand-new then.

Yes. The top two floors are Shorey House, as you know. To this day, I’m continually bumping into people who were in Shorey House. When I joined the College Visiting Committee in 2010, at my first meeting I met four people who also had lived in Shorey House. They were thrilled to find out I was also a Shorey resident. I don’t know what it is about Shorey House.

You worked at Eaton Corporation for most of your career. Did you intend to stay at one employer for so long?

Not really. But I found it extremely interesting and challenging, and I decided to stay on until things got boring. Before I knew it, 36 years had gone by. My last title at Eaton was senior vice president and corporate secretary.

Long service isn’t unusual at Eaton. The first guy I hired to report to me in 1975 just retired after 38 years.

What did you like so much about it?

The culture. The top management has always, always, always been very strong on ethics. We were expected to act in a way that would make our mothers proud. No one ever had to worry that their boss would expect anything different. And that has always made for a comfortable and gratifying work climate.

The result was that everybody was very proud of what they did. That’s the reputation of the company. Plus there were a lot of thank-yous along the way from everybody, including the CEO: “Hey Earl, you did a great job on that.” It’s better than money. But I didn’t want to tell him that.