A Cornell alumna and administrative higher-up volunteers her time as a trustee of Ithaca College.
By Wrexie Bardaglio
Francille Firebaugh brings southern charm, keen intellect, and seemingly boundless energy to everything she does. She received her Ph.D. at Cornell and until her recently announced retirement has worked on East Hill -- as vice provost for land grant affairs, special assistant to the president, and dean and professor emerita -- since 1988.
She is also an Ithaca College trustee.
President Peggy R. Williams with Firebaugh at her recent retirement tribute
An obvious question is how she came to serve IC. The answer is a credit to her, to Ithaca College, and most importantly to President Peggy R. Williams. She had earned her Ph.D. at Cornell, then went to Ohio State University, where she w as a faculty member and administrator for many years before returning to Ithaca to be dean of the College of Human Ecology and professor in the policy analysis and management program. "When my husband, John, and I came back to Ithaca," she recalls, "we were invited to a Friends of Ithaca College event. We attended several more and enjoyed them immensely. I was approached about serving as a trustee, but I didn't feel I could take on the job at that time. But when I began to know Peggy, I changed my mind. I really admired her and believed in her leadership. So I spoke to Hunter [Rawlings, a former Cornell president], and he thought it was a great idea."
Firebaugh holds a B.S. in dietetics and home economics education from the University of Arkansas, an M.S. in home management and family relations from the University of Tennessee, and the Cornell doctorate, in household economics and management. "I came to Cornell because I was interested in the work that women do," she says. "One of my minors was in industrial psychology, which helped me understand workplace dynamics. I began to think about the interface of paid work and what I call family work. My colleague Ruth Deacon (now dean emerita at Iowa State University) and I conceptualized how households and families operate, and today I would say that some of the most exciting work in the field is about the relationship between paid work and family work. In fact, the U.S. Census has just introduced a new model on time use, which will help us understand more accurately the value of unpaid work." Ultimately Firebaugh's interest in women's economic roles grew to include the work of women in less-developed regions. She has studied and published women's works in many cultures, including the Bhil tribes of India and villages in Honduras.
Among her duties as an IC trustee, Firebaugh serves on the Buildings and Grounds Committee, which she has chaired; currently she chairs the Education Policy Committee. "Education policy," she says, "is clearly at the heart of Ithaca College. I like working with the provost and the other members of the senior team, and I like working on a committee tackling really substantive issues. And being on Buildings and Grounds is very exciting right now, closing in as we are on some new buildings." Firebaugh is a member of the campaign committee, and is unabashedly enthusiastic about the new School of Business building and proposed athletics and events center (ICQ 2005/2). "I love doing my part to make IC stronger," she says.
Firebaugh thinks the two institutions' relationship is important and thriving. "The IC leadership is viewed very positively by Cornell," she remarks. "There is the recognition that IC has particular strengths that really enhance the community -- music and theater, for example. But the lectures and topics chosen are interesting to the community as well. And CU students know IC students from socializing downtown or participating in informal sports events. CU students can take courses at IC, and IC students can take courses here. And there are ties in certain academic programs -- health sciences and gerontology come to mind -- that strengthen the interaction of the two schools."
Firebaugh's retirement promises to be rich and rewarding. She's not sure if she will move off the Ithaca College Board of Trustees when her term expires in 2008. "No need for a commitment now," she says. "I'll wait and see if I am still contributing sufficiently." Though she and John plan to return to Ohio in 2007, she will be working three days a month at Cornell until then. She holds the position of professor emerita of policy analysis and management in the College of Human Ecology. "I'll have a carrel here," she says, "and I'm going to have the time to really pursue my longtime hobby. For 20 years I have been collecting information about the portrayal of women at work in paintings. I've been making lists of works, and collecting pictures and postcards whenever I find examples. My friends always pick up postcards for me on their travels. For now, I'll limit myself to Western art. I'm going to do it very systematically," she says firmly. "The web has such incredible resources, but I'll probably have to do a little traveling to seek out new works as well.
"We live two-and-a-half miles from Cornell," she continues, "and I plan on walking to the library and to my Pilates class. I don't want to get too lazy and out of shape, you know. I've taken on a bit of consulting on strategic planning with the University of South Pacific in Fiji. It will entail three campus visits that should be extraordinarily interesting."
Nicola Kountoupes -- Cornell University Photography