Multilingual WWII counterintelligence operative, distinguished English professor, father, author, and Colby's longest-serving class agent ever: Franklin Norvish '34 has done it all.
Those who know Frank say he always greets others with a smile and a joke and describe him as humble, wise, gracious, and charming. He was born in Brockton, Mass., Oct. 25, 1911, to Lithuanian immigrants. His father, who spoke four languages, worked in a shoe factory.
Inspired by his high school English teacher, Frank made up his mind early that he, too, would teach English. He attended Colby at the urging of several of his teachers and took advantage of the activities available to him there. A loyal ATO member, he still hopes fraternities will return to Colby's campus. He also joined the track team, Glee Club, Student Council, and Cosmopolitan Club, and he particularly enjoyed debating and other public speaking opportunities. He was president of Kappa Phi and Chi Gamma Sigma.
Frank's Colby professors encouraged him to apply to Yale University, where he earned an M.A. in English, and his father cashed a $2,000 life insurance policy to help pay for it. In 1939 Frank secured a job teaching English at Northeastern University in Boston, and in 1940 he earned a Ph.D. from Boston University.
Frank married his wife of nearly 50 years, Edna Edison Norvish, in 1945, and the two raised a son, Philip, now retired editor of the Waterville Morning Sentinel.
Frank's career as an English professor was interrupted during World War II when he served as a special agent in the Army's Counterintelligence Corps of the Military Intelligence Division. Speaking five or six languages, he was able to move about Europe secretively. He entered Paris with DeGaulle and was responsible for the arrest of some 45 saboteurs out of 75 whose names he had memorized. He received an ETO Ribbon with Five Battle Stars and a Bronze Star.
Frank and his war-time colleagues attended intelligence briefings in Virginia for decades after the end of the war, with Frank serving as vice president of the Military Intelligence Association of New England. In 1981 he was presented a Liberators Scroll by the Holocaust Memorial Council and the U.S. Department of State.
Frank taught for 40 years at Northeastern University and authored Essentials of Modern Speech (1948) and Speech and Conference Techniques (1948). He served as chair of Northeastern's freshman English program and as president of the National College Conference on Composition and the New England College English Association. In 1974 he received a distinguished service citation from Northeastern.
Upon his retirement in 1976, Frank received a letter from President Robert E. L. Strider, who wrote, "I understand that you are on the brink of retirement after a long, honorable, and thoroughly distinguished career in the English Department at Northeastern. ... Colby College is always proud of those graduates who go on to perform important service in the professional world, and it is no great secret to you that, in view of my own predilections as president of Colby, I feel particular pride in those who have served as professors in English departments. This consummation for Colby English majors is always devoutly to be wished, and you have achieved it. ... Colby is lucky to count you as a graduate."
Frank devoted more than 60 years to the job of Colby class agent. He diligently called his classmates year after year to ensure that his class met its Colby Fund goals, and he has represented both his own class and the Golden Mules Society (formerly the 50-Plus Club) at countless reunions over the years. He also served terms as class president and class vice president/Alumni Council representative. In 1979 he received a Colby Brick Award, and, for including Colby in his will, he is a member of the Willows Society.
Now 97, Frank recently attended his 75th reunion and received the Ernest C. Marriner Distinguished Service Award for his lifelong dedication to and support of the College.