FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Nathanael Franks came to the University of Arkansas in the fall of 2010 as an Honors College freshman and a newly minted member of the Razorback track and field team. Four years later, he has completed bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and physics, a master’s degree in business administration and is set to finish a master’s degree in accounting in May 2015 – not to mention he has etched his name in the Razorback track and field record books.
Franks’ altruistic character and capacity to conquer every challenge that comes his way are both remarkable and endearing. He radiates joy and has a way of quietly inspiring those around him to hold themselves to a higher standard. He is a shining example of the caliber of students at the U of A.
Franks, a Damascus, Ore. native, completed his undergraduate work in two and a half years, posting a 3.96 cumulative GPA, and he finished his M.B.A. with a 3.9. He has been part of NCAA and SEC championship-winning teams, is the fourth all-time points leader in Razorback decathlon and heptathlon history, holds the second-fastest all-time world record in the heptathlon 1,000 meters and was the 2013 winner of the Coach Wooden Citizenship Cup, which is awarded each year to one professional and one collegiate athlete who make the greatest difference in the lives of others.
In addition to his successes in the classroom and on the track, Franks is fluent in multiple languages, plays the Swiss alphorn, was once selected to perform a trumpet solo for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, is a certified private pilot and is a Schwingen wrestling champion – the national sport of Switzerland.
His academic, athletic and personal accolades are seemingly endless. However, those achievements only tell part of his story. More important to Franks than his many accomplishments are the people he has met and the relationships he has formed.
“Life is more about the people you meet and the things you do with them than any personal accomplishments,” he said. “People are definitely my priority.”
Franks’ priority for people is made evident through the many ways in which he gives back to the local, national and even global community. He has spent Friday evenings mentoring special needs children as part of the 99 Balloons rEcess program, helped improve cross-cultural relations in Northwest Arkansas by serving as a core leader for the International Culture Team, spent time volunteering on an Amish farm in Iowa, been a counselor at an adventure camp in Lebanon and once spent part of a summer teaching at an elementary school in Guatemala.
Franks’ selfless nature and desire to help others was shaped in his youth. He was raised on a goat farm, and through early morning milkings and various other responsibilities, he learned that oftentimes the needs of the goats came before his own.
“It taught me that I am first responsible for others, then myself,” he said.
Franks has centered his life on that notion, but believes that, no matter how much he gives of himself to others, he cannot take credit.
“I believe each person is a unique creation of God, and he continues to mold us throughout our lives,” he said. “Many people have poured energy into me and made me the person I am today. It is only natural that I want to funnel that energy back into my peers and the generation of tomorrow’s leaders.”
He is one of tomorrow’s leaders himself, if not a leader of today. By giving of his time and talent, Franks has worked to make small changes for good in the world, but he hopes to make a larger impact in the coming years, as his life-long dream has been to bring medical care to the places in the world without sufficient access.