Franklin Spencer III: A Man who Greatly Influenced My Life

People come and go in our lives. We often don’t think about their influence upon our lives;  however, God has a purpose for each person that He places in our lives. For this reason I thank God for every person that He has placed in my life. One of those people was  Franklin M. Spencer III.

I never knew Franklin Spencer as Franklin, but as Mr. Spencer. Mr. Spencer was my high school guidance counselor at Highland Park High School. When I told my wife (Sharon) that I was writing about the impact Mr. Spencer made upon my life, she said: “But high school guidance counselors don’t really have much influence over our lives.”  Mr. Spencer was different.

 “This is what I think we should do.”  I was on the other side of Mr. Spencer’s desk as he was mapping out my future. “You will go to summer school and take some classes to get ahead. As a senior, you can then take classes at Highland Park Community College.”  Taking Second Year Algebra  during the summer was not my idea of fun, but I became a willing summer school student.

I didn’t realize that those few minutes in Mr. Spencer’s office would have an immense effect upon my life. I followed his plan completely. As a result, I was able to graduate from college (with studying each summer) in the summer of 1975. This was two years ahead of schedule.  If I had graduated in 1977, I would have never met my wife. I would have never taught in Baltimore. South Africa and Portugal would just be places on the map instead of places where we have left our hearts and many friends.

Mr. Spencer also affected my life because he encouraged me to go beyond my own expectations. He helped me to see that I could do well in college and beyond. He didn’t speak down to me, but he spoke as through I could actually make some responsible decisions as a high school student.

I also learned from Mr. Spencer leadership skills that have helped me to this very day. As a senior, I was elected president of the National Honor Society. Mr. Spencer was our sponsor. He didn’t lead the group, but he guided us.

He allowed me to take the initiative on some projects. One project was bringing together all the National Honor Society chapters in the Detroit area. We had the first meeting at our school. Mr. Spencer helped, but several of us students worked together and we saw forty-two schools represented. Mr. Spencer gave me the chance to lead, but he also taught me that a real leader allows others to use their talents and abilities to fulfill projects. As a pastor, I still see the importance of the principle of delegation.

Mr. Spencer would leave Highland Park High School in 1973 to teach in South Korea.  Unfortunately, he would die of cancer shortly after his arrival there. His death would be a great loss for the cause of education.

 I remember the last time I saw Mr. Spencer.  We had an Honor Society banquet the night before graduation.  I never thanked him.  I never communicated with him.  At the time, I didn’t know what a great impact he would have upon my life.  When I heard he had died, I was saddened by the news, but it wouldn’t be until later that I truly appreciated why God had brought him into my life.

 I thank the Lord that He placed Franklin Spencer in my life.  I can’t imagine what my life would be like today if it wasn’t for those few minutes that Mr. Spencer laid out a plan that made all the difference in my life.


3 thoughts on “Franklin Spencer III: A Man who Greatly Influenced My Life

  1. And you had the same glasses! Seriously, I liked Mr. Spencer also. I didn’t follow his advice, but he seemed to respect my choice. I knew he died in Korea, but I didn’t know it was from cancer. It’s sad to think how many kids he could have helped if he had lived longer.

  2. Thanks for the tribute to Frank, as I knew him. He was a contemporary and I first met him in the 5th grade at Liberty Elementary in the north end of HP. Frank had lost his father early in life. I think that inspired him to make the most of his time and become the best he could be. He was a good friend. After graduating from HPHS in 1964 we went on our own journeys and it was a great sadness when I heard of his sudden passing.

    • Thanks for sharing some nuggets that I didn’t know about Frank. Of course, I was a student; so I didn’t know much about his personal life and past. However, I am glad that you found the article.

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