On February 24, the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso (TTUHSC El Paso) announced a historic $10 million gift from L. Frederick “Rick” and Ginger Francis that will endow the university’s graduate school and advance the future of biomedical sciences. As part of the Francis’ gift, and in honor of their unwavering commitment and dedication to health education, TTUHSC El Paso’s graduate school has been named the L. Frederick Francis Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.
Rick Francis is executive chairman of El Paso-based WestStar Bank and served on the Texas Tech University System board of regents from 2003 to 2019, which included two stints as chair. He is the current chair of the TTUHSC El Paso President’s Development Council.
“Once in a lifetime, one has the opportunity to be a part of an idea that can have a profound impact on the community. I’ve been fortunate to be part of such an endeavor in the Borderplex—the campus that is now TTUHSC El Paso,” Francis says. “Ginger and I are proud to endow the Francis Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and help make history as TTUHSC El Paso reaches yet another milestone. From the beginning, fellow community leaders and I recognized this school’s key role in creating a world-class health sciences university. The discoveries made by students and faculty are instrumental in the care we’re able to provide to residents in our binational region. It is our hope that this gift is another step in creating that educational, research-based university where our best and brightest can learn to improve the lives of people here and around the world.”
As part of the mission of the Francis Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, educators provide a dynamic research environment that focuses on conditions directly impacting the residents of this region and other rapidly growing Hispanic populations. World-class research is also a driver of economic impact, influencing major corporations to set up additional facilities, grow biomedical manufacturing, incubate start-up companies, and create high-paying jobs. As of 2021, 129 students have graduated from the Francis Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. Most graduates attend medical or dental school or pursue their Ph.D. after graduation.
TTUHSC El Paso is the only health sciences center on the U.S.-Mexico border and serves 108 counties in West Texas that have been historically underserved. It is one of only two health sciences centers in the nation designated as Title V Hispanic-Serving Institutions, preparing the next generation of health care heroes, 48 percent of whom identify as Hispanic. TTUHSC El Paso’s total estimated economic impact on the region is $634.4 million per year.
“This historic endowment will have a large and lasting impact on our graduate school and the students in our region, empowering talented individuals to achieve their dreams of careers in the field of health sciences,” says Rajkumar Lakshmanaswamy, Ph.D., dean of the Francis Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. “Thanks to the generosity of Rick and Ginger Francis, we can look toward the future and begin conceptualizing plans for a Ph.D. program, while also recruiting world-class faculty researchers who will mentor our students and positively shape the future of biomedical research.”
Francis, along with government and business leaders in the community, worked tirelessly starting in the 1990s to advocate for a health sciences center in El Paso—first with the vision of establishing a four-year medical school in the Borderplex region. “Rick and Ginger Francis were among the earliest and most ardent supporters of TTUHSC El Paso before shovels even broke ground on our campus,” notes TTUHSC El Paso president Dr. Richard Lange, M.D. “One look at our campus today is a reflection of their love for El Paso and belief that our health sciences center could make a difference in our own community and beyond county lines. Thanks to their vision, we’re taking major steps to reverse the health care shortages affecting this region, and influencing our community to take power into their own hands to transform health care and higher education for future generations of El Pasoans. Today is a celebration, not only for Rick and Ginger, but for the entire community, because it’s one step closer to our mission of changing the life trajectories of families in this area.”
The Francis’ $10 million gift comes as TTUHSC El Paso prepares to celebrate its 10-year anniversary as a standalone institution in 2023. In 2019, Rick and Ginger Francis contributed $3.6 million to endow four deanships, as well as the endowed chair for the TTUHSC El Paso president, named in their honor. That gift was matched by TTUHSC El Paso, doubling its impact for a total of more than $6 million. TTUHSC El Paso is the only university in the Texas Tech University System and only health sciences center in Texas to have all its deanships endowed.
Rick and Ginger Francis have long given of themselves to various organizations and causes in El Paso. In 2007, they were honored for their philanthropy by being named El Paso’s “Philanthropists of the Year” by the Association of Fundraising Professionals. In addition to his role at WestStar Bank, Rick Francis has served on several local and national boards. He is currently chairman of the board of the Medical Center of the Americas Foundation and a member of the board of directors for the El Paso Electric Co., Paso del Norte Community Foundation and the Hospitals of Providence.
Ginger Francis was named one of the “Women of Impact” in 2011 by El Paso Inc. She previously served as president of the Junior League of El Paso and board president of the El Paso Museum of Art. Currently, she serves as a board member of the J. Edward and Helen M.C. Stern Foundation. Her service on the board recently resulted in a $1 million endowed professorship in the department of psychiatry at TTUHSC El Paso. She is also a member of the TTUHSC El Paso art committee, which is responsible for curating public art on the campus.
Established in 1990, WestStar Bank services El Paso, Las Cruces, New Mexico, and northern Mexico area—collectively known as the Borderplex region.