Class of 2019: A Dog Makes All the Difference for Cadet Eleanor Franc

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Eleanor Franc with Growley II
Cadet Eleanor Franc is the commander of the team that cares for Corps of Cadets ambassador Growley II.

Cadet Eleanor Franc found her place at Virginia Tech through a dog named Growley II.

Franc will graduate on May 17 with a degree in political science from the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. After graduation, she will report to Marine Officer Candidates School, chasing a dream she’s held tightly since she was 15.

She hit a few stumbling blocks along the way — being medically disqualified from one military academy, taking an unplanned gap year, and wavering between staying in the Corps of Cadets’ Citizen-Leader Track program and enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps.

“Virginia Tech was not my first choice of school, nor was it my second or third. Though it took me longer than most to appreciate all that Virginia Tech has to offer, I now consider myself one of Virginia Tech’s proudest Hokies,” Franc said. “The Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets provided me with an experience that allowed me to grow in character and leadership, learn from the mentors around me, and overcome challenges I faced with the support from the amazing people here.”

That support includes Growley II. The yellow Labrador retriever joined the corps as its canine ambassador in the fall of 2016, and Franc joined his cadet team of caretakers. She began to love her life as a cadet.

“I saw the chance to develop a program that was brand new but had all the potential to be a new university and corps tradition,” she said. “Having something to invest my time and energy in gave me renewed purpose at Virginia Tech and ultimately made my decision to stay for my degree.”

Franc became Growley’s lead handler her junior year, and this year she is the commander of his 12-cadet team and has worked tirelessly to grow the program. In addition to dozens of appearances across campus each semester, Franc has added outreach opportunities beyond campus at senior-living facilities, veteran’s groups, and elementary schools in the local community.

She’s also active in other parts of the corps, including the Citizen-Leader Track where she’s done everything from planning its annual spring ball to helping mentor younger cadets. She served as the regimental alumni liaison officer last fall, assisting with events and meeting corps alumni.

Through it all, Franc never gave on up on her dream of becoming a Marine Corps officer. She went through the long and winding process of obtaining a medical waiver to be able to serve and was finally granted a slot in the Marine Officer Candidates School.

“I think most of us enter college with certain goals and expectations, and along the way we are faced with obstacles,” Franc said. “The challenge is to accept the obstacles, adapt and refocus on the ultimate goal, even if it means finding another path to reach that goal.”

Written by Shay Barnhart