Eco Pioneer

December 13, 2023

By Rob Humphreys ’16MBA

Rollins alum Ann Francis ’01
Photo by Scott Cook.

The Hamilton Holt School helped Ann Francis ’01 make a midlife career change, and Rollins has never been the same since.

It was the mid-1990s, Ann Francis ’01 was 20 years out of college, and life as an accountant just wasn’t adding up. She wanted something more, a place where she could follow her dreams, complete her degree, and start pursuing a more “sustainable” career.

Francis found that place at Rollins, where she enrolled at the Hamilton Holt School a year after joining the College as a business services assistant in 1996.

After graduation, an administrative job became available in the Department of Environmental Studies. A few years later, she earned a promotion to coordinator of Rollins’ Recycling Program—later renamed the Sustainability Program—ushering in a new era of environmental awareness on campus.

Under Francis’ leadership, Rollins would go on to implement multiple sustainability initiatives—becoming Florida’s first designated Fair Trade campus, launching a bike-share program and urban farm, and installing campus-wide hydration stations that have saved more than 2 million plastic water bottles over the past decade. Before retiring in July 2021, Francis also co-founded the Florida Chapter of the Green Chamber of Commerce and co-chaired the Colleges and University Steering Committee for Fair Trade Campaigns.

Throughout her tenure, Francis’ gentle, behind-the-scenes approach to service touched the lives of countless students and staff. “Innovation, creativity, initiative, and contributions in support of fellow employees made Ann one of the most respected staff members on campus,” says former greenhouse manager Alan J. Chryst ’93. “Through her guidance, encouragement, and mentoring, many students left Rollins being able to provide great worldly stewardship, now and for future generations.”

For her exceptional leadership to Rollins and the greater Winter Park community, Francis received the 2023 Alumni Service Award—an honor she doesn’t take lightly.

“Winning this award really is overwhelming because all my life I’ve had a lot of respect for this college,” says Francis. “I never thought I’d have the opportunity to work there, much less get my degree from there. I’m so thrilled with the last 25 years of my life. It was a great way to have a wonderful career and be part of an incredible school.”

Francis’ environmental impact at Rollins was felt well before her time as sustainability coordinator. As a Holt student, she helped resurrect the EcoRollins program, a student-led initiative that continues to this day. Later as program advisor, Francis helped organize annual awareness events like e-waste drives, coordinated lake cleanups, and linked classes to environment-focused service projects.

Drawing on her finance background, Francis was a master at finding ways to supplement her budget and help offset expenses by organizing fundraisers that included textbook collections for Habitat for Humanity, swap and shops, and, most notably, the bike rental program.

Launched in 2009 by students, the Rollins’ bike-share program not only promoted alternative methods of transportation on campus, but it also funded the Sustainability Program through fines from overdue rentals. By the time Francis retired two years ago, the fleet had grown from eight to 46 bikes, with a new bike house behind Olin Library.

Looking back on her time at Rollins, Francis segments the conversation into two parts: life as a student and time on staff. Some of her favorite professors at Holt included James Hulbert, Laura Turner, Bruce Stephenson, and Barry Allen. As a staff member, it was all about working with students and colleagues to make the College greener, which included five years chairing the committee on environmental and sustainable issues.

“I’m so proud of the love and respect I have of the students and staff I worked with over the course of 20 years,” says Francis. “Those are the things that mean the most to me.”

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