It wasn’t the unfamiliarity of a new city or the intimidation of a new faculty position that stood out to Fräncille Bergquist when she first came to Vanderbilt in 1977. The new professor of Spanish was taken aback by the rolling hills and green trees of Middle Tennessee—a stark contrast from the dry, flat landscape of Lubbock, Texas.
“There were so many trees and hills, I couldn’t see where I was going,” Bergquist says with a laugh. “But I trusted that this new opportunity was a good one.”
Bergquist’s path to Vanderbilt wasn’t always clearly mapped. After graduating from high school, Bergquist thought she wanted to go premed, but immediate struggles with math and chemistry left her questioning that choice. With only one Spanish class under her belt, she found herself in a Colegio Mayor in Barcelona, where her love for the Spanish language blossomed. Bergquist completed her Ph.D. several years later, and then spent 35 years as a professor of Spanish at Vanderbilt and 30 years as an associate dean in the College of Arts and Science.
Bergquist advised and mentored thousands of students—students whose own paths were determined by unexpected opportunities and challenges. After her retirement Bergquist began to think about how she wanted to support Vanderbilt over the long term. “I’d given 35 years of my life to Vanderbilt. I couldn’t imagine not continuing to give. Education allows opportunities, and, if you have opportunities, the sky is the limit.”
In addition to being a popular emerita faculty member who leads international alumni trips, she endowed the Fräncille Bergquist Scholarship as part of Opportunity Vanderbilt. Bergquist also has documented a bequest that will add to the existing scholarship. She has enjoyed meeting and hearing from the first Bergquist Scholar, Sam Cho, and looks forward to connecting with future Bergquist Scholars.
“Words cannot express the gratitude I feel for Dean Bergquist,” Cho says. “Her support for me transcends that of merely paving a way for opportunities and touches even the academic and personal aspects of my Vanderbilt experience. There is a certain twinkle in her eyes that just fills you with warmth and confidence and makes you want to strive harder and make her proud.”