Awards Program to Highlight Franklin College Homecoming and Alumni Weekend
Events and Lectures

Franklin College will recognize nine honorees during the Hail to Franklin Alumni Awards Presentation and Reception on Friday, Oct. 7 at 6 p.m. in the Napolitan Student Center’s Branigin Room. Guest registration is required at

This annual awards program is a highlight of Homecoming and Alumni Weekend and honors individuals for their outstanding professional and/or community achievements as well as service to the college. Honorees are selected from nominations reviewed by the Alumni Council, which established the awards program in 1954. The 2022 award recipients include the following Franklin College alumni and friends:

The late Christopher T. Gonzalez, class of 1986, is the winner of the Distinguished Alumni Award in recognition of his leadership and advocacy on behalf of LGBTQ+ youth. As a counselor for the Gay and Lesbian Switchboard in Indianapolis in the 1980s, Gonzalez became aware of an alarming number of teens who were suicidal and/or homeless due to circumstances surrounding their gender identity and/or sexual orientation. Their stories weighed heavily on his heart and inspired the idea of giving LGBTQ+ youth a gathering place where they could be authentic without risk of harm or judgment. That place materialized in 1987 as the Indiana Youth Group (IYG), which Gonzalez co-founded with his partner, Jeff Werner, Franklin College class of 1987. IYG still offers youth a safe gathering space and also provides a pathway to housing, medical/mental health, education and legal assistance. IYG exists today because Gonzalez raised a hand to help LGBTQ+ youth at a time when few others would. In recognition of the positive, lasting impact he made in the Indianapolis community through IYG, United Way of Central Indiana named Gonzalez one of its centennial celebration heroes in 2018. Additionally, the Chris Gonzalez Collection, a permanent display in the Simon Reading Room at the Central Library in downtown Indianapolis, furthers his legacy of care with a curation of more than 7,000 books and other items illuminating LGBTQ+ history, culture and people of interest.

The Hail to Franklin Award goes to a family of four who shares a passion for Greek life and philanthropy. Mike Phillips, class of 1996 and a Kappa Delta Rho member, and his spouse, Mary (Helton), class of 1997 and a Zeta Tau Alpha member, and their children, Jim Phillips, class of 2018 and a Lambda Chi Alpha member, and Becca Phillips, class of 2021 and a Zeta Tau Alpha member, cherish their Franklin College experiences and sense of belonging found within the Greek community. The Phillips family recognizes that while Greek membership can be very rewarding, it also can be costly for students to sustain. To help those involved in the Greek system who have experienced financial hardships, they established the Phillips Family Greek Student Emergency Fund Award in 2019. Funds are allocated at the discretion of the college’s director of student involvement and Greek life to assist students overcome unexpected obstacles. The non-endowed fund continues to grow with additional support from donors who share the same enthusiasm as the Phillips family. In addition to being founders of the fund, Mary and Jim are recent recipients of Franklin College Greek Life Alumni Volunteer of the Year awards for their continuing contributions to programming and activities.

The Young Alumni Award recipient, Erin (Ashbrook) Davis, class of 2004, has been leading the “Love More” community-building effort since 2016 to help bring people together through positivity, peace, kindness and justice. Besides uplifting spirits, the effort raises funds through the sales of Love More merchandise. The proceeds are generously redistributed to love-assisting organizations to help further their good work throughout the community. Proceeds and donations also have enabled The Love More-Youth Empowerment Fund in collaboration with the Johnson County Community Foundation. The fund aims to help deserving youth who otherwise do not have opportunities for extra classes or camps that can help to realize their potential and worth. In addition to overseeing daily operations for Love More, Davis works with her parents at their family-owned graphics and printing business. Further, she volunteers widely for such organizations as Johnson County Public Library, Johnson County Community Foundation and Franklin Education Connection. She also mentors Franklin Community High School students involved in senior projects and has team-taught Franklin College courses on social justice. Davis has hosted several Franklin College interns through the Love More effort, and she was named a Woman of Distinction by the college community in 2020.

Associate Alumni Award winner Jack Borgerding is a steadfast Franklin College friend and donor. He is retired from a finance career with Eli Lilly and Co. and gives generously of his time, talent and treasure to a variety of community organizations in Indianapolis. Over the years, he also has supported a variety of music, mathematics and computing, swimming and diving, and football programs at Franklin College. He championed the Campaign for the Sciences and the renovation and expansion of the Science Center, which was dedicated in 2019. His support also helped enable the completion of the Napolitan Student Center and improvements to the Napolitan Alumni House. Together with his spouse, Christine Fields, class of 1974, he is a member of the Franklin College Gold Key Circle giving society.

Associate Alumni Award winner Sandi Huddleston is an educator at heart, having earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education and taught fifth and sixth grade. Over the years, her passion for teaching extended to Franklin College, where she was highly involved in coordinating political debates which brought the late Ind. Sen. Richard G. Lugar and former Ind. Gov. Mitch Daniels to campus. Their visits enabled students pursuing majors in journalism, political science, history and more to be involved in significant engaged learning opportunities. It is noteworthy that Huddleston served 12 years as executive director for Richard G. Lugar Excellence in Public Service, Inc., and today is an honorary governor on the board. Huddleston’s involvement in the Republican party at the local, state and national levels has been extensive over the last 30 years, including numerous leadership and committee roles. Within the greater Franklin community, she serves on the Johnson Memorial Health Board of Trustees, including 10 years as past chair, and the Johnson Memorial Hospital Foundation. For her many civic efforts, Huddleston has amassed such notable honors as the Indiana Sagamore of the Wabash and Distinguished Hoosier Award. Together with her spouse, Steve, she is a member of the Franklin College annual giving leadership society, the President’s Circle.

Associate Alumni Award winner Cindy Prather has demonstrated unwavering support for the Franklin College community for four decades. Beginning as a public-school cooperating teacher who helped mentor elementary education interns and student teachers, Prather then taught on a part-time basis and then full time in the elementary education department. Her 23-year commitment to that work culminated in being department chair and licensing adviser. She was instrumental in building and sustaining an elementary education program at Franklin College that was widely regarded as the “gold standard” among small private colleges in Indiana. She left Franklin College in 2018 to pursue independent consulting in college education program accreditation. She graciously returned to Franklin to help address an accreditation crisis and successfully coordinated the effort which restored the program’s Indiana state recognition and allowed the proud legacy of excellence in teacher education to continue. She continues to serve on a special assignment basis as director of teacher education and teacher licensing adviser while also fulfilling her role as the First Lady of Franklin College. Often described as a “teacher of teachers,” Prather was an Indiana elementary teacher for 14 years before beginning her career at Franklin College, which has now spanned more than 25 years. Her teaching expertise is in undergraduate elementary education pedagogical skill and content knowledge areas with specialization in children’s literacy, reading instruction and professional development. She holds a bachelor of arts from DePauw University and a master of science from Purdue University.

For more information, contact Franklin College’s Office of Communications at (317) 738-8185.

POSTED Sep 20, 2022