Franklin Kenworthy was the patriarch of Class III of Leadership Springfield. In those beginning years of Leadership Springfield, the program was still building a foundation. Community-wide awareness and large pools of applicants would grow over time, but we were still some of the pioneers of the early days.
Most of our class members were in their late 20s and early 30s then. Frank was our “senior” member. He was Dean of the College of Arts & Letters at then-SMSU, and had not been in Springfield a very long time, as I recall. The program did not do overnight retreats at that time, so our friendships and bonds grew over the program days and day-long retreats. Our beloved facilitator, Dr. Bob Barefield, made a distinction between us and the first two classes he had presided over … we were much sillier. Most of our means of communications in our retreats became skits, and even created minor scandal with a yellow journalism article published during media day as an example of what not to do with a printed piece (sorry, succeeding classes, we caused the end of the News-Leader-published stories on media day).
Frank seemed a bit hesitant at first with a lot of the group, which was understandable given the antics. But friendships and bonds grew, and he shared more of his own story, and became the quiet strength of our class. His life was cut short much too quickly after a tragic pedestrian accident leaving a concert one evening. The Kenworthy Award has become a pinnacle of achievement for Leadership Springfield, and many past winners are well known to the community. But for those of us who were Frank’s colleagues in Class III, it will always mean even more.
To see more about how to nominate someone, the criteria for the award, and the past recipients since 1989, visit the Kenworthy Award page of the website.