July 8, 2016
Frank A. Bracken
The Ball State community mourns the passing of Frank A. Bracken, a longtime university leader and benefactor whose family gave life to the institution and has continued to steer it for nearly a century. He died July 5 at age 82 at his residence in Indianapolis.
The son of Alexander M. Bracken and Rosemary Ball Bracken, Frank was the grandson of Frank C. Ball, one of the five Ball brothers who made Ball State University possible. He was appointed to the Board of Trustees by Gov. Otis Bowen in 1980 and served seven years as its president and 18 as vice president, before retiring in 2012.
Bracken’s son, Thomas, succeeded him that year, becoming the latest member of the Ball/Bracken family to serve on the board. The uninterrupted legacy traces to the 1918 founding of the forerunner to Ball State Teachers College and includes Frank Bracken’s father, grandfather Frank C. Ball, and great-uncle George A. Ball.
“Frank Bracken, like his father and grandfather before him, is one of the pioneering figures who not only imagined a rich future for Ball State, he helped create it,” said Terry King, Ball State interim president. “His legacy will remain alive in the next generations of Ball State students who will thrive on this campus, built in part through Frank’s vision and generosity.”
Born March 29, 1934, Frank A. Bracken spent his life working and advocating for the betterment of his community and his country.
In 1952, Bracken graduated from Burris Laboratory School. He then went on to Carleton College, in Northfield, Minnesota., where he earned BAs in government and industrial relations. Bracken received his JD from the University of Michigan School of Law in 1960 and began his professional career as an attorney for the firm now known as Bingham McHale LLP. In 1978, he completed the advanced management program at Harvard Business School.
From 1969 to 1972, he served as legislative counsel for the Department of the Interior. From 1972 to 1987, he worked with the Ball-InCon Glass Packaging Corp., serving in various capacities that included associate general counsel and general counsel. From 1987-89, Bracken was board chairman for Ball-InCon Glass Packing.
In 1989, President George H.W. Bush appointed Bracken the undersecretary of the interior, a position he held until 1993, when he returned to Indiana. Bracken was of counsel with the Bingham McHale LLP (formerly, Bingham Summers Welsh & Spilman LLP) law firm from 1994 to 2001.
During his tenure on the Ball State University Board of Trustees, Bracken chaired multiple presidential search committees. For more than 25 years, Bracken also was a member of the Ball State University Foundation Board, serving on the executive committee for two capital campaigns.
“Frank was a great friend and colleague,” recalled John Worthen, Ball State’s 11th president. “It was Frank who made the call to offer me the job here. He was old-school in the best sense of that term — he accepted responsibility, was loyal and his support of Sandra and me was unfailing.”
Bracken was a devoted husband and father, Worthen said, and his duty to family and country never waned.
“He was committed to supporting Ball State and serving as a trustee as a way of continuing the work his grandfather and great uncles had begun,” Worthen said. “Being loyal to Ball State and to the family was something that was inculcated very early. ... It was just simply part of their culture.”
Bracken also served in various leadership roles with the George and Frances Ball Foundation, including as president, vice president, and board chairman. In his work with the foundation, he was instrumental in curating gifts to secure the Frog Baby statue and fountain that occupy a prominent position north of Bracken Library. He donated Bracken House, his childhood home, to Ball State as the university president’s residence.
“Frank was president of the board when I first became a trustee, and to this day I can remember the great orientation to board service he provided to me,” said Hollis Hughes Jr., who has served on the Ball State Board of Trustees since 1989. "Frank was one of the great trustees, his service and passion for Ball State were exemplary. He had a genuine interest in doing what was absolutely best for the university, every single time. He always put Ball State first."
Bracken also served as a board member for Ball Memorial Hospital, First Merchants Corp. and Minnetrista. Additionally, his passion for public service and his personal interests led him to serve as a board member for several conservation and historical groups, including the Civil War Preservation Trust, Indiana Environmental Institute, Indiana Historical Society, and Nature Conservancy.
An intrepid researcher and collector of Civil War artifacts, Bracken was involved in battle re-enactments and battlefield preservation as a member of the Civil War trust. As a result of his active research and preservation efforts, Bracken established a personal collection of Civil War books, paintings, photographs, and artifacts, many of which are today a part of the Frank A. Bracken Civil War Collection, housed at the Bracken Library.
Bracken is survived by his wife, Judith; the couple’s four children, Ann, Thomas, Margaret and Jane; 10 grandchildren; three brothers; and one sister.
Services are scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday, July 9, at The Meeks Mortuary and Crematory, Washington Street Chapel, Indianapolis; calling will be held at noon, preceding services.