Richard R. Francis, Former Faculty

Richard Reid Francis passed away on July 8th, 2023 with his wife Marilyn by his side.

Rick was born in Middletown, Connecticut in 1934 to Paul and Ruth Francis. He graduated from Choate School in 1952 and Wesleyan College in 1958. He spent 2 years in the Army from 1955-1957. While at Wesleyan he lettered in Football, Baseball and Track and earned Little All-American in football.

Rick joined the Faculty of Williston Academy in 1958 where he became the head football coach and a math teacher. He later added Basketball Coach and Athletic Director to his titles. Rick worked at Williston for 42 years, retiring in 2000.

Rick married Marilyn Koch on September 2nd, 1961 and they remained married for almost 62 years. Rick has two children; Jeff ’81 and Todd ’83. He has 5 grandchildren; Brooks, Chase, Grant, Sam and Sasha and 3 great grandchildren; Anthony, Cody and Caden. Rick was predeceased by his parents and his bother Paul “Frosty” Francis.

Rick was elected to the New England Prep School Football Coaches Hall of Fame, New England Basketball Hall of Fame and the Williston Northampton School Hall of Fame. Rick served as the President of both the Western Mass Chapter of the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame and the New England Prep School Athletic Council.

Rick began attending Camp Monomoy (Cape Cod Sea Camps) in 1945 as a camper. He remained there as a camper and a counselor and eventually became the Program Director. This is where he met Marilyn, as her father Grant Koch, was the Director of Camp Monomoy. Rick retired from “Camp” in 2012.

Rick (and Marilyn) were avid sports spectators watching as many of their sons’ and grandchildren’s games as they possibly could. In their retirement, Rick and Marilyn moved to Cape Cod and travelled the world extensively for as long as they could.

There will be a Celebration of Life at Williston Northampton School on September 30th, 2023 at 1:00 PM. Donations in Rick’s name may be made to the Rick and Marilyn Francis Appreciation Fund at Williston Northampton School.

57 thoughts on “Richard R. Francis, Former Faculty”

  1. Rick was a pillar of both school communities and cultures. His stature spoke of firmness yet underestimation and understatement of kindness and respect. A beacon of stability, hope, encouragement, talent, guiding hand through the teen years and a fair man. WNS loses another great individual! Always a team player – students, coaches, colleagues, alumni, neighbors and friends. Who in New England did not know and respect Rick (and his brother – Frosty at Suffield Academy) Francis! He and Marilyn have a beautiful family. His legacy lives on in all who knew him!

  2. I loved Coach Francis. He went to college with my dad. And was always so warm and kind. The day I was accepted at college, my mom called in to his office and asked him to go find me. He gave me the biggest hug when he heard my news.

  3. Mr. Francis was a wonderful, kind man. He will be missed. I am grateful for the support he provided to me during my years at Williston. I wasn’t a football
    player at WNS, but it didn’t matter. To Jeff, Todd and Mrs Francis, please know we wish you well as you mourn the loss and celebrate the life of your father and husband.
    Be well,
    Bob Hazen

  4. Larger than life. My feelings toward him I am sure are echoed by all who knew him. When my daughter first enrolled at Williston–her first time away from home–she told me she felt safe because Rick lived so close to her dormitory room. Not many can say they have had a profound, positive influence on thousands of people. Rick did.


  5. Coach Francis was a pillar of Williston. excellent teacher and even better coach. He will truly be missed.

  6. Rick was always an inspiration to me and many others. He was what good coaching and teaching was all about. I never heard him yell at a kid or his teams and he always was kind and understanding as an AD. I went on to teach and coach at Millbrook for 40 years and was AD as well. My career path was much the same as Rick’s.In fact as fellow ADs we chatted many times and Millbrook plays Williston today because of Rick and me. When the boys hockey world was escalating in quality I convinced Rick that the old days of walk on players were gone and he needed to move up to DI in order to compete. I shall miss him and wish his wonderful family well. We lost a good Rick there aren’t too many of us around anymore.

  7. Although I did not play for Rick, I still remember him very fondly. He was always friendly and supportive while I was here and whenever I came back and saw him on campus. We always had a good chat especially since I was at Cornell and a big lacrosse fan and his son played for us (and the great Richie Moran) in the late 80’s. I wish his family all the best. He was great.

  8. I first encountered ‘Big Rick’ Francis as a young boy at Camp Monomoy on Cape Cod when he was a college student and had taken a summer job there as a counselor and cabin master. In this role he displayed kindness and understanding, and was always approachable, while his athleticism served as an inspiration to many, all features that would become familiar to Williston students years later when he arrived at the school. His place in our hearts and memories lives on.

  9. Mr. Francis was a very kind man and patient teacher. I was one of his least gifted math students for sure. His unity and team spirit was felt by the whole community even those of us who never stepped on an athletic field. My thoughts go out to his family.

  10. Coach Francis was a guiding light for me. He was always supportive, enthusiastic, and helpful. It was Coach Francis that gave me the confidence to tackle anything I wanted, whether on the football field or in the classroom. He and Marilyn frequently had the welcome mat out to a hungry kid for a meal in their home and a spirited conversation.
    Rick and Marilyn meant the world to me while at Williston and he will be greatly missed but fondly remembered.

  11. I remember Rick as one to admire for his teaching, coaching. love of sports and joy at having young people to teach in all those areas. Will never forget the day returning from upper fields and football practice was finishing uo on the playing field “down below”. Rick was throwing 100 yard bombs and the receivers were trying to catch them Some could but they were going like a rocket as they came down! RIP Rick. Well done!

  12. Mr. Francis was always the first person I would see when I walked into the gym. He always had a smile on his face and was genuinely interested in how I was doing. A truly wonderful man! My thoughts and prayers to Todd and the family.

  13. I will always have fond memories of Coach Francis. He was so much more than a coach & faculty member. He genuinely cared about all students and their well being. My thoughts go out to Jeff & Todd as well as Mrs. Francis.

  14. So sad to hear. What a legacy !
    Mr. Francis brought so much joy to the WNS community with his smile and laughter.
    He was one of my favorites!!
    My thoughts and prayers to Jeff , Todd and Mrs. Francis

  15. I have fond memories of both Rick and Marilyn.
    Really great people! First memory-seeing him launch the football almost the length of the field as a first year student with Montgomery at my side.
    I am so sorry for all his families loss,

  16. A good man has been taken from us. Coach Francis was a guiding light at Williston and helped me in many ways throughout my life journey. While my path took me far from Easthampton, his influence had no boundaries. My heartfelt condolences to his family and community, may his legacy live on!

  17. I have very fond memories playing for Coach Francis. I always admired him, particularly for his steadfast values, great smile, kindness and wonderful coaching and style. He was so committed to helping others and the school succeed. He will be missed, but always remembered.

  18. With deepest sympathy to the Francis family and all who knew and loved “Coach”. He was a gifted coach and teacher, wonderful man, and fantastic ambassador for Williston. What a blessing to Williston and Rick that he spent his entire career at Williston!

  19. I came to Williston Academy as a French teacher in the fall of 1970, and in the summer of ’72 found myself named as Director of Admission … a youngster working with Rick through a challenging time the the school’s history. He gave good and wise advice to this rookie, for which I will always remain grateful, even these many years later.

  20. Coach Rick Francis’s illustrious career as an athlete, educator, coach and leader among all, is well documented and celebrated. However, I personally, will forever remember him for his kindness, heartfelt advice and emotional support he provided me as a very young student- athlete throughout my time at Williston (and to many, many others over the years). My deepest sympathies to Marilyn and sons, Todd and Jeff, and family. You have lost a wonderful husband , father and grandfather. We have lost a wonderful person and will remember him always.

  21. No one who spent so little as a year at Williston would not have been memorably touched by the presence of Coach Richard Francis. Although I had no classes with, nor was even coached by Mr. Francis during my three years at the school, I nevertheless retain many awe-inspiring remembrances of this gentleman at sporting events, in the dining hall, and even in the academic arena, e.g., in the absence of, or in addition to Phillips Stevens, he would sign off on monthly report cards, always with a kind word regarding progress or temporary set-backs regarding grades. He is a man never to be forgotten. May he rest in peace.

  22. As a PG, I spent only one year playing for Coach Francis but what a great year it was! How many Coaches drive their players to visit Colleges with game film (reels) in hand. Coach did just that for me and I will never forget those times we spent together and his kindness. He truly cared about his student athletes. What a great Coach and even better person. My thoughts go out to the Francis family.

  23. I was so, so far from being an athletics-oriented student in high school…and Mr. Francis was perceptive enough to see that, and, in a school where daily afterschool athletic participation was required, steered me into team managing where I could #1) avoid daily humiliation and #2) actually contribute something worthwhile to the athletic program, and learn a great deal about sports in the process. He was kind and helpful to me, and I will remember that.

    – David Nurenberg’94

  24. Sorry to hear about Rick. I was the left guard on his first year coaching in the fall of 1957. He was so supportive of his team members and had a way to get you fired up. Good coach and a good guy

  25. My Coach.
    Our mentor.
    We were always so well prepared! We were good because he made us good.
    We won football games. Football was a week to week journey. The script was authored by Coach Francis and I can still hear his voice.
    Man… it was fun!
    Thank you Coach and Marilyn and the boys for sharing him with us.

  26. I was a hopeless, helpless eighth grader in 1961 when Coach tapped me on the shoulder and wondered if I would ever want to try football. I’m not sure what I would’ve done without Rick and Marilyn’s gentle support for the next five ( Yikes!) years except to keep looking for the “Brooks Brothers” whose name I heard frequently in my early, terribly homesick days at Williston. I have never been sure about an afterlife, but I am sensing a blizzard of footballs wherever Coaches gather to calculate the length of those impossible throws into the end zone he threw after practice.

  27. More than an AD, more than a coach, more than a teacher … Mr. Francis was a wonderful friend to my family. I know I speak not only for myself but also for my three brothers (Mike, Gary and Mark) when I say we are truly grateful for our time under Mr. Francis’ watchful eye. Williston was a transformative time in lives of the four Timm boys from central Illinois. And our relationship with Mr. Francis was pivotal in that transformation. Thank you Rick, Marilyn, Jeff and Todd for welcoming us into your lives. Our lives are so much better for it.

  28. I am very sorry to hear this news. He meant a great deal to me and has had a lasting impact on my life. I spent a post graduate year at Williston and a lot of that time was with Coach Francis. He made me better at a lot of things. So grateful to have known him. Rest easy Coach.

    Condolences to Tod, Jeff and Mrs. Francis….

  29. So much to say about Rick . . . he was one of those people who had a transformational impact on my life. I arrived on the Williston campus in the Fall of ’75 as a PG, not all that interested in playing football (after enduring some terrible public school coaches), but Rick made it fun for me again. Our team was not very good, but that didn’t really matter. He was always ready with a humorous quip and an insight about how to get better. When I returned to WNS in 1981 as a faculty member, he was a mentor once again, teaching me the ropes of coaching and life in general. He was a great man – one of Williston’s best and I will never forget him. My condolences to Marilyn, Jeff, Todd and their families.

  30. I can still hear vividly Coach Francis’ big, booming voice echoing across the football field. He was quick witted, fair, caring and, in many ways, a father figure to many of us who had the privilege of playing for him. I was a tall, skinny 9th grader who had only started playing football a few years before I arrived at WNS and, by my own admission, I wasn’t particularly good at the game yet. I remember I was one of only a few freshman who came to campus early to “experience” two-a-days before classes began. Coach Francis held our little group close, this was, for most of us, our first time being away from home and he knew we all had some level of fear. But he watched us, counseled us, and helped us understand what it took to succeed. He humored me my first season as I had not played any other position than the line, but I wanted to be a tight end hahaha! Sophomore year, when I got to camp, he told me my future was on the offensive line, he saw me as a center, the leader of the line and after a few practices I saw he wasn’t wrong, I hadn’t hands of stone, I was great at snapping the ball, not great at catching it. I loved every day I played for Coach Francis, he pushed each of us hard, he demanded greatness, but he also knew way more about our potential than we ever did at the time. He saw in each of us who ran across the bridge spanning the pond (you run over it, always) our potential as athletes, scholars, and young men. He taught us on and off the field, in the classroom, the hallways, and in quiet moments in his office when tears would sometimes outnumber words as we struggled with something, his big voice quieting as our minds searched for the words to explain our pain. His legacy lives on in each of us who walked those grounds, but it runs a bit deeper for those of us who wore the uniform and went to war for him on Saturday afternoons on football fields across New England. He was a special man, a great coach, and a fantastic mentor. Rest easy Coach, thank you for all you did for me and the lessons you imparted. My condolences to Marilyn, Jeff, Todd and their families. Thank you for sharing Coach Francis with all of us.

  31. Rick was one of those Williston greats. During the difficult period of the merger and the changing times of NE prep schools, he was able to put his best feet forward – expanding athletics on a meager budget, raising a family at Williston and teach – none of those easy tasks, even today!

    I was never an athlete, but that didn’t mean he didn’t find a place that worked for me. It was easy to respect him, because he respected you, found your strengths and helped guide you through that period of your life. I’m the person I am today, because of the sacrifice that he and others made and continue to make at and for Williston.

    My condolences to Marilyn, Todd, Jeff, and their families.

  32. I think Coach Francis could see me, an undersized Middler playing DB, shaking before our first game against the perceived behemoths from Vermont Academy. He probably was addressing the entire team but I felt his words were directed to me and me alone .
    “They put on their jock strap the same way as you, one leg at a time.” Those words made all the difference for me. Fifty-nine years later I remember them as if it was yesterday.
    Thank you coach.

  33. I think Coach Francis would see me as a third world soccer player. I was just that. However I enjoyed playing third world soccer A Lot! And that was OK with Coach Francis. He knew I was on the field and that was the important part. And so, for a coach who knew the important part was to be On The Field, God Bless him!

  34. My condolences to Marilyn and the family on hearing the sad news and a blessing to have been in your presence as a five year student, ‘64, far away from Georgia. Coach Francis expressed his insides through his outside expressions, his smile radiates warmth, kindness, understanding , patience, and support with a sense of humor and joy. Your pulling guard/center linebacker and friend pray you rest in peace which peace you surrounded me with far away from home.

  35. I suspect I speak for many when I say Coach Francis made my time at the WNS transformative. As a coach, he helped me fit in to a prep school environment as a junior with his equanimity, a sardonic sense of humor and an occasional well deserved order to take a lap. He was the only coach I ever had who had the wisdom to say, after a bitter loss, to Taft, “Son, it’s only a game.” Coach Francis was also responsible for persuading Wesleyan to take a chance on me, drawing on his star quarterback status there. Thank you, Coach, and rest in peace.

  36. Rick Francis, as everyone who has posted (and many, many more) all know was a good Man.

    In fact, he was better than that. Coach Francis was great.

    I don’t go to college without Coach Francis’s math class. It’s that simple. I needed to pass his class to be eligible by the NCAA, and Coach worked with me, was patient with me, taught me, in class, and out of class, and I won’t ever forget it, or him.

    May His Memory Be a Blessing Always!

    Thank you Coach Francis.

  37. Coach Francis was my math teacher and I was the manger for the boys football team. I was completely hopeless as a manager. When he realized I didn’t know anything about football he had me do two jobs. One was bring the water out to the field (I couldn’t do that because it was too heavy) and give the ball to the quarterback and I never learned who that was and would give the ball to random guys. He tried to fire me as manager but it was too late into the season to be replaced. Lol he was stuck with me even though I never learned he still was kind, patient and found humor in it. I really valued him as a teacher and coach. Sending his family love.
    Coach Francis your kindness made an impact on me and I’ll always remember you. Rest in peace.

  38. I remember distinctly the moment I met Coach Francis. It was arriving for early football camp 1969 at the Theatre building. He held out his hand to shake mine and it seemed to this 16 year old that his hand wrapped around mine 2x. My knees went weak and my life changed then and there. He was a hero figure, commanding respect and admiration. I’m so grateful he was there for all of us who needed the kind of man he was.

  39. I admired the big guy , I never played for him as we both decided football could add to my concussions. I did work one summer at his camp , monomoy on the cape. Got to see a different man . He was the real deal . Blessings to his family.

  40. Coach Francis was a great guy and very memorable. My condolences to Todd and the Francis family.

  41. I was only at Williston for one year as a post-graduate, but Coach Francis made a lasting impression on me during that short time. His guidance and leadership on and off the basketball court were much appreciated and have long been remembered.
    Thank you, Coach.

  42. I had MR Francis in algebra 2. And he never forgave me. I tell ppl if I hadn’t had my football coach for algebra 2 i’d still be at Williston.

    At practice one day we were doing the Notre Dame Box drill. It’s a brutal drill where you’re in the middle and players attack you from all angles in turn. One after another.

    I had just finished my turn in the middle. MR Francis growled, “ Stay in there.” I did. And after another series of collisions, he told me to “stay in there”.

    I’m beginning to feel sorry for myself. And realizing I’m not getting out until I kick some serious butt. What followed was me going nuts. Smacking kids who came my way. Sending kids flying here and there. Finally going after kids in the circle who weren’t even involved!

    It was an epiphany for me in football. It’s not like MR Francis made a man out of me. But he made a completely different player out of me that day.

    In 50 years of coaching, I have used all sorts of forms of that kind of challenge 100 times. To pull things out of kids they had no idea they had in them.

  43. I taught at Williston for only one year (’78 – ’79), so I didn’t get to know Rick nearly as well as the others who have commented so far, but well enough to respect him as a decent and fair man who was easy to work with. Truth be told, he was much like the rest of the Williston faculty.

  44. My 3 years at Williston were the most informative years I can think of. The one person, teacher, coach, friend that made life at school fun was that of Rick. I will cherish all the memories. Thanks coach you will be missed

  45. My Dad and I toured Williston in the Spring of 89′. Once my Dad met Coach Francis our search of schools ended. My Dad knew he was the rarest of coaches that embodied all the values a young man needed to see and hear from a teacher/coach/leader. He knew his coaching went well beyond the football field and it did. He was a giant in my mind. Coach had that rare talent of being firm and tough when needed.

    I was far away from my home and parents in St Louis. Coach made me feel safe and incredibly fortunate to find he and Williston.

    To the Francis Family…thank you for sharing your husband, Dad, and Grandfather with us. All of us are better men and women because of him.

  46. Williston is a special place precisely because of people like Rick and Marilyn Francis. They never looked at their work at Williston as just a job. It was their community and their way of life. And we students not only benefited, but learned life lessons from their example. Marilyn, I want to send a special thank you to you for taking me into your home every week to be own personal physical therapist helping me with my new scoliosis treatment during my first year at Williston. I still do all those exercises you taught me to keep my back strong;) It’s a perfect example of how you and Rick truly cared for all of us. Your Williston family is very grateful. I hope the beautiful lifetime of memories you have bring joy and peace to your entire family.

  47. I had one experience with Coach Francis that I always replay in my mind with great fondness and some degree of pain.
    Coach had started a new requirement that all football players had to be timed by him personally in the 40-yard dash, prior to leaving for summer vacation.
    I went to his office, first door on the right in the old gym, and after having played hockey all winter and lacrosse in the spring, I confidently announced, “Coach, I am here to be timed in the 40-yard dash.” His response; “Just a second, let me grab the calendar.” It still hurts after all these years but reminds me of his sense of humor and ability to get to the point in a hurry.
    Forever grateful to Mr. & Mrs. Francis and to Todd & Jeff for sharing your parents so they could make WNS such an amazing experience.

  48. I will always be grateful for the support that Rick Francis offered me, as my first Athletic Director, at the start of my 44-year career as a teacher-coach. As a “rookie” at Williston-Northampton in 1978-79, and for eight years in total, I was given a ton of responsibility—in the classroom, in the dorm, and during my seasons of coaching soccer, basketball, and golf. To complement that responsibility, Rick was always positive and encouraging when offering much needed advice, whether leaning in to my ear to make a constructive point while observing one of my team’s games or practices or regularly sharing his wisdom during coaches’ and faculty meetings. His legacy lives on–as does the goodness permeating his entire family. Condolences to Marilyn, Jeff, Todd, and their families.

  49. I believe we were one of the only teams (1993-94 school year) to win a New England Championship for Coach Francis. Our team was a mix of kids that attended Williston throughout high school, repeat juniors and a bunch of PG’s. Being part of the PG contingent, we only had the privilege of playing for Coach Francis for a year, but we knew right out of the gate that he was a legend and we all wanted to win one for him after that first week of practice. We made it our goal and got the job done for a man who had the adept ability of reading strengths & weaknesses in a kid and knowing when to press versus knowing when to lay off and let nature take its course. That is a very difficult thing to do as a high school coach of any sport, but he was a master and our society could use a lot more intuitive coaches like him guiding our youth. I will always remember him fondly as a great coach, devoted family man and an all around good dude. RIP Coach Francis and congratulations on a life well lived.

  50. Rick Francis was such an insightful coach, in that he was so good at knowing how to motivate players, but more than that he was a warm and sympathetic person who was always there to listen and help in any way he could. My respect and admiration for him only grew as I thought of him after my year at Williston. When I returned for a school reunion, he was the first person that I wanted to speak with. He was truly an inspiration to all students, and when I think of Williston, I think of Coach Francis. He will be missed by all.
    Lew Davis ’62

  51. I remember the day that I went in to see Coach Francis to quit football. Little did I know that I was the fourth guy to quit that day. In his own special way, Coach Francis would not accept my resignation. I remember that I hated football until at mid-season Coach Mansau gave me a pep-talk. I started the next four games and was elected “Most Improved Player” by my teammates. It was the only trophy I have ever won. I could never thank Coach Francis enough for pushing me out of my comfort zone. He changed my life in a positive way, and I am forever thankful to him.

  52. Sorry to hear of the passing of Coach Francis – During my time at Williston I spent a lot of time with him. He shaped boys into men – and established the Williston athletic program as one of the best .. The impact that he has on so many people cannot be measured…
    I was at a reunion a few years back, Coach Francis called my name from across the quad… I stopped, turned around and Coach was pointing at me with the “Two Fingers”
    I almost had a heart attack.
    God Bless and Thank You for all you did for me and so many others.

  53. Few can have a lasting impact on so many. Coach, thank you for your support, trust and belief that everyone could play. Not everyone was a starter, but there was always a place for us to learn and develop. Heartfelt sympathy to the entire Francis family. I’m sure he’s watching us now – or he’s watching film. Godspeed coach! It’s 1st and 10 and we will always play on in your honor.

  54. I have just finished reading all of the comments by students and others so accurately describing Rick . I only knew him as a fraternity brother at Wesleyan and and as a bench sitter who had plenty of time to observe him as a really fine quarterback who led on and off the field by being someone whose approval was something everyone wanted. All of the special attributes so well related by former students and faculty colleagues were evident when he was a very young man in college. Almost 70 years since we last met, I remember him as being an all round best of the best. We have lost a real life living mentor.
    And, by the way, he really could throw a perfect spiral from one end zone to the other. I was just never fast enough to be there when it arrived.

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