Track Legend Keith Francis '76 Passes Away
Aug. 1, 2011
Chestnut Hill, Mass. - Boston College Trustee and Varsity Club Hall of Famer Keith Francis '76 passed away on July 26 in his New Bedford home following a long illness. The Eagles track legend was 56.
"Keith didn't have any qualifications for you to be a friend of his," Career Center Associate Director Janet Costa Bates said, who became acquainted with Mr. Francis while growing up in New Bedford. "He had a talent for bringing people together, for connecting people to opportunities or to each other. That is his greatest legacy."
As an athlete, Francis was an extremely talented middle distance runner. During the 1975 outdoor season, the seven-time All-American was ranked as the No. 2 half-miler in the nation. Francis went on to claim the 1,000-meter NCAA Championship in 2:08.4 that indoor season. Of the nine records he set at Boston College, five remain as the standards for the track and field program: the outdoor 800 meters (1:46.18), mile (4:00.8), 4x800-meter relay and sprint medley relay and the indoor 800 meters (1:50.2) and 1,000 meters (2:22.4). During the height of the Cold War, Francis represented the United States in international meets against the Soviet Union and China and competed in the 1976 U.S. Olympic Trials. Just five years after graduating from BC, he was inducted into the BC Varsity Club Hall of Fame.
Larry Rawson '63, the "Voice of ESPN" for more than 30 years of track and field coverage, described Francis' running career as the greatest Boston College has ever seen.
Francis continued to excel after graduating in 1976. During a 30 year career in Washington, D.C., he worked his way up from a superior court probation officer to become a senior intelligence analyst for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. In 2008, Francis chaired efforts for Reconnect, the first-ever AHANA reunion at BC, which drew over 600 attendees. He recently completed the 2010-11 term as a member of the Boston College Board of Trustees.
"If I sent a student to Keith, he would always lend a helping hand," Bates observed. "When he spoke to students on campus, he'd say, `If you want a job in government, I should be your first contact.' He was always willing to make a phone call, walk a resume over, just do whatever he could to open the door for a young person."
Francis was a native of New Bedford, Mass. The parishioner of Our Lady of the Assumption Church is survived by his companion, Gail Oliveira; daughters Nichelle Santors, Karly Francis '10 and Tiara Louise Francis; brothers Kenneth and Jaime Ramos; and sisters Adele and Mary Lyn Ramos.
Services were held for Francis early on Monday, August 1. The overwhelming turnout had attendees limited to standing room only.