Like many families, Lucy Franklin cherishes her family’s traditions, those special experiences shared among generations that help to keep them connected.
This fall, Lucy is carrying forward one especially meaningful family tradition — becoming a Blugold. The new freshman is the fourth generation in her family to attend the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
“My parents, grandma and great-grandmother before me moved on to lead very successful lives after graduating from UWEC,” Lucy says. “I look up to all of them greatly, and it makes me feel inspired to try my best and work hard here to make all of them proud.”
Lucy’s parents, Beth and Nathan Franklin, are both UW-Eau Claire graduates. Beth earned a degree in English education in 2000, and Nathan earned degrees in economics and political science in 2001. Her grandmother, Christy Linderholm, who graduated with a nursing degree in 1969, was in the second class of nursing students to graduate from what was then Wisconsin State University-Eau Claire.
“As Lucy was making her final decision about which school she’d attend, it occurred to me that she’d be a fourth-generation Blugold,” Beth says. “Deeper consideration made me realize she’d be a fourth-generation female Blugold, which I imagine is somewhat rare.
“In Lucy’s generation, it seems more likely for girls to be second-gen college educated. So, for there to be a third- and even fourth-generation college-educated female in our family is something special. For all to attend the same campus makes it even more unique.”
Finding the right fit
Carrying on her family’s Blugold legacy wasn’t always part of her plan, Lucy says. As a kid, she dreamed of being a Badger.
“It wasn’t until the college search became more serious that I realized UWEC was the right choice,” says Lucy, who is from Westby. “I toured UWEC and UW-Madison and felt so much more at home in Eau Claire; it matched the vibe I was looking for. I was struck by the wide range of major and minor options and for how LGBTQ+ friendly the campus is. After touring campus, it was clear to me that I would be a Blugold.”
While her parents didn’t pressure her to attend UW-Eau Claire, they always believed Lucy would thrive at their alma mater.
“I tried to stay out of it because I didn’t want her to feel like we wanted her to attend UWEC just because we went there,” Nathan says. “We knew that if she made that choice, she’d be getting a great education at a great campus in a great city, but we wanted her to come to that conclusion on her own.
“There certainly is a lot of satisfaction knowing that she’s going to be walking the same campus and having similar experiences as we did over 20 years ago. It was the right choice. It always felt like the best fit for her.”
While her first semester at UW-Eau Claire is just getting underway, Lucy already feels connected to the campus thanks, in part, to the many college stories her parents and grandmother shared over the years.
“My parents talk a lot about their time together on campus — walking to class, studying in the library, eating at Hilltop and hanging out in their dorms,” Lucy says. “I think they were inseparable. My grandma reminisces about hanging out with her friends in her dorm and playing guitar for them.”
Her grandmother’s stories are even more special now that Lucy is living on the same floor in Governors Hall where her grandmother lived decades earlier.
Christy hopes her granddaughter finds the same joy as she did living in Governors Hall.
“I had some good times there,” Christy says. “I lived in Governors for four years and made many friends. I loved entertaining my friends in my dorm room by playing my guitar and singing. It was often a gathering place for all my friends in the evenings.”
More than five decades later, Christy still is thankful she had the opportunity to meet people from many different places and backgrounds, including a roommate from Hong Kong. She’s eager for her granddaughter to have similar experiences as she looks to her own future.
“I have stayed in close contact with three of my nursing school classmates, even 52 years later,” Christy says. “I want Lucy to meet a wide variety of students and make a wide variety of friends. I also hope she has real-world, hands-on experiences that broaden her understanding of the world.”
Family ties to community
UW-Eau Claire always will have a special place in their hearts, say Beth and Nathan, noting that they still were students when they became engaged.
“It was an important time in our relationship,” Nathan says. “We went from being high school sweethearts, to engaged in college, and then married shortly after graduation. It was where we matured and took the next steps into adulthood.
“We went from crossing upper campus to see each other every day in our dorms, to walking through the Randall Park neighborhood to each other’s apartments, to living together in the Third Ward.”
After college, the couple lived in Eau Claire for several years. They were married at University Lutheran Church on campus; their wedding photos were taken on campus. Lucy was born in Eau Claire and attended preschool at the Children’s Center, which was on campus at the time.
So, when Beth brought Lucy back to UW-Eau Claire for an informal campus visit, they also spent time in the community, with Beth showing Lucy notable places from her early childhood.
During the visit, mother and daughter both felt a special connection with the campus but also with the city. It’s comforting to know and enjoy a community that her daughter now will call home, Beth says.
“As we drove around, she felt that both UWEC and the larger community matched the personal vibe she was hoping for,” Beth says. “Her decision provides reassurance. I know the paths she’ll walk and the neighborhoods she’ll likely live in. I believe the professors, administrators and staff possess the same dedication to provide the best education and experiences for their students.”
Nathan and Beth say that while the campus looks different, it still feels the same to them.
“It’s great that they opened up the campus to the river so there’s more of an appreciation and a way for students to enjoy nature,” Nathan says. “When we were there, you couldn’t see it unless you were walking over it, and then you were in such a hurry to walk over it because you were freezing. Even with all the renovation, it’s amazing how they’ve managed to maintain an intimate campus feel.”
“I thought it was a beautiful campus 20 years ago; the work undertaken since then is remarkable,” Beth says. “Lucy is so lucky to be amongst that beauty every day. Walking across the bridge on our campus tour last year, I felt the same connection to the ‘Chip’ that I did 20 years ago.”
Building a foundation
Lucy’s decision to attend UW-Eau Claire sparked plenty of conversations and storytelling about the generations of family members who attended the university.
“We all had a great time reminiscing about our time at Eau Claire,” Beth says. “Mom shared lots of stories that I hadn’t yet heard. I had a lot of fun going through old photos and documents from our family over the years.”
They all are thankful for the lifelong friendships and life-changing experiences they enjoyed as Blugolds, as well as for an education that prepared them for interesting and rewarding careers.
Beth, who now works for the La Crosse Area Chamber of Commerce, taught middle and high school English for many years; a career path inspired by an English course she took in college.
Nathan began his career in the political field, working for Wisconsin legislators and a governor, as well as on presidential campaigns. He now works for Gundersen Health System. A first-generation college student, he says his political science professors were engaging and approachable, helping him navigate college in ways that prepared him for future success.
After earning their degrees, Lucy’s grandmother and great-grandmother both enjoyed long and successful careers in nursing, careers that spanned more than 40 years for each of them.
“My mother was very highly respected by her co-workers,” Christy says of Lucy’s great-grandmother. “All I ever thought about was going into nursing because she was so good at it. She treated everybody equally. It didn’t matter if you were the doctor, the nurse or the housekeeper. It was uncommon for a woman at that time to do what she did. Most women in the Greatest Generation didn’t have the opportunity to pursue higher education.”
Looking ahead to a bright future
While they enjoy remembering their own time on campus, Lucy’s parents and grandmother now are excited to see Lucy experience all that UW-Eau Claire offers.
Lucy has not yet declared a major, but she is considering criminal justice and psychology.
“I’ve had a difficult time discovering my interests over the years, but I’ve found that nothing fascinates me more than criminal mental health,” Lucy says. “I’m specifically interested in how criminal/inmate mental health influences their behavior.”
As she explores her options, Lucy is looking forward to making her own college memories.
“I am most looking forward to having many new experiences and meeting new people,” Lucy says. “I’m excited to be involved in the Eau Claire and campus communities.”
With Lucy now a Blugold, her parents and grandmother hope to make a few new UW-Eau Claire memories of their own.
“That’s one of the exciting things about Lucy attending now; we have a good reason to reconnect,” Nathan says.
Written by Judy Berthiaume
For the Media