Fran Robertson was born in Germantown in 1944. Her paternal grandfather was a preacher, but also an artist – he illustrated his Bible. Her maternal grandfather was a carpenter/cabinet maker. Her father was an advertising artist and a painter. As a child, she drew and visited many museums. She thinks artistic talent is probably inherited but also takes work. She took classes at the Philadelphia Art Museum as a child and took a lot of art classes in high school.
Moore was the only college Fran applied to; she felt comfortable there. She liked the fact that it was an all-girls’ college and felt that she could concentrate. She learned about interior design as an undergraduate and became drawn to the field. George Skalar, a 3-D design teacher, and Louise Stahl were two professors she remembers as being inspirational. Fran, like Louise, has a particular interest in color. She graduated in 1966. Fran’s daughter Laura is a member of the class of 1993. Laura chose Moore for the same reason as Fran – she felt very comfortable there.
Fran’s first job was as an intern with Strite & Company, an interior design firm, with whom she got a job after she graduated and where she worked on AT&T Corporate Headquarters, Bell Laboratories, Gallaudet College, and many other facilities. She also worked at Kling Interior Design, the largest architectural firm in the city, as a senior designer. Fran says a good designer is someone who can talk to and listen to the client and present his or her needs in an attractive manner. Her designs are characterized by simplicity. She also focused on where the client’s art hangs – she would often buy art for their clients, which was a really fun part of the job.
Fran freelanced and then later started her own design company, Graham Interior Design, when she began raising a family. She works on hospitals and executive suites. Fran is also a watercolorist, painting landscapes and still lifes.
She got re-involved with Moore during an annual fund phone drive. She joined the Moore board in 2001 while her daughter was a sophomore at Moore. Fran felt that it was time for her to start giving back to Moore. As a board member, Fran hoped to bring what she knew of Moore and what her daughter was experiencing to help with the student experience. Moore is exciting to Fran because it’s growing: the campus is in great shape; the teachers are wonderful; the school is more visible. Moore educates women in the arts with skills that enable them to go out and earn a living with their degrees. Students have opportunities now to take cross-disciplinary courses and to travel more. Another thing that she loves about Moore is how involved the students can be in the functioning of the school. Students can suggest something and see it happen.
Fran spearheaded the fund raising effort to renovate Stahl Hall. This was the first time that alumnae raised a lot of money for a project at Moore. Because so many people knew and loved Louise Stahl, it was an ideal project for people to rally behind.
Fran has also been very involved with the Visionary Woman Awards, which began in 2003. These are awards that are given to women who have made real impacts on the arts. The money raised during the evenings of the awards goes toward scholarships for Moore students, which is very meaningful to Fran. Fran also was involved with the actual design of the award that is given out to the Visionary Woman Award winners. Moore students are involved with the Visionary Woman; several are chosen each year to create original works of art that are given to the award recipients.
There is also a Fran Graham scholarship, which she gives because she had such a positive experience at Moore – a wonderful career, and it enriched her life so much. She wanted to share that with others.
Fran’s legacy will be Stahl Hall and the Visionary Woman Awards. She is also working on starting a lecture series. Stahl Hall was particularly exciting because so many alumnae became involved. Artists do not always given financially, but this was a project that everyone could get involved with.
Fran doesn’t think of herself as a leader but she said that if you are passionate about something, you find ways to get it done. She says that you teach leadership skills by setting an example and by getting people involved in what you are doing. “There are so many ways for people to get involved at Moore. Because it is a small school, you can see real results from your efforts.” The Art Shop is another way for people to be involved in the school. “There are a million ways for you to be involved.”
Says Fran, “You need to show others how important it is to give back to something, and not just to take. There are so many ways for people to give back – anyone can do it.