GREEN BAY — Twenty-six years ago, an aspiring student from Haiti by way of Miami and a priest from northeast Wisconsin formed a special bond that continues today.
Luc Francillon spoke about his friendship with Fr. Richard Mauthe during his keynote at “Tuesdays with Mauthe,” Dec. 2 at the Richard Mauthe Center on the UW-Green Bay campus.
“The man for which this center is named has been one of the most impactful people in my life,” he said. “I will forever be grateful for that.”
Francillon, who was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, moved to Miami at age 17, joining his father in the city. He enrolled at a community college to earn an associate degree in accounting. He planned to continue his education at a university in Florida, but missed the enrollment deadline. A friend invited him to attend a Catholic conference in Philadelphia. Francillon had no idea that the trip would lead him to Green Bay.
“The conference had some good speakers on social justice and other topics, so I decided to go,” he said. “Here was a Haitian and a Cuban hoping to see snow for the first time. We boarded a bus and 18 hours later arrived at our hotel.”
Four people were assigned to a room. One of Francillon’s roommates was Fr. Mauthe.
“We spent four days talking about politics, faith and all sorts of things,” said Francillon.
When the conference ended, Fr. Mauthe, who founded the ecumenical center, invited his new friend to visit UW-Green Bay.
“I got into a car with four people I just met and drove from Philadelphia to Green Bay in January,” explained Francillon. “Father said that he lived on a lake. I’m from Haiti so I like the water. Little did I know that you could actually walk on the water here.”
Francillon, who now resides in Gaithersburg, Md., where he is global director (CFO) commercial at Mars Transversal Team, Mars Inc., enrolled at UW-Green Bay where he earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting. Involvement at the ecumenical center helped him grow as a person, he said. Francillon served as student coordinator at the center.
“When I was driving in today, I noticed that a lot of things have been built around here, yet this place remains the same…,” he said. “I think it’s really important sometimes to get involved in something that’s not necessarily popular or cutting edge. Whatever that is for you, follow your beliefs because, in the end, when you get hired, those people will trust you with more and more responsibility. The only reason they do it is because of who you are as a person. It’s your character, your thoughts, your actions, what you believe in. That’s what sets people apart, not just the education. Having been involved in this center 26 years ago, it wasn’t very popular at all at that time, but it felt pretty good to stand for something. It makes a difference.”
Francillon, who travels internationally for work, spoke about his experiences in financial positions in Green Bay, South Bend, Las Vegas, Houston and Los Angeles. He has been employed by Mars Inc. for the past 15 years and plans to stay with the company “as long as they will have me,” he said.
“I appreciate the five principles at Mars: quality, efficiency, responsibility, mutuality and freedom,” he added.
When asked for advice for the business world, Francillon said that it’s important to recognize blind spots. He told the story of taking a position in Texas after being denied a raise at his previous position.
“I realized after only a few days in Houston that I had made a mistake,” he said. “I try to be mindful and appreciative of what I have.”
“If you say you are going to do something, do it,” he added as a form of advice. “Your word is the only thing you have. Of course, there is also no substitute for hard work.”
Francillon and his wife, Melissa, have five children ranging in age from 3 months to 21 years-old. He praised the many people who have helped him on his journey. Fr. Mauthe was unable to attend the program due to health reasons, but Francillon spoke to him that day by phone.
“You never know who is doing the planting,” said Francillon. “It could be your family, employer, circumstances or God’s will. My Catholic faith has helped me to embrace all of life. I have faith in knowing that, regardless of what happens, I am going to be loved by God and my family.”
“Tuesdays with Mauthe” programs are held at 7 p.m. the first Tuesday of each month when students are in session. Taizé Prayer will be the focus of the next gathering on Feb. 3. For more information, visit www.mcenter.org.