A Glimpse of Heaven
*This story includes excerpts of poetry written by Franklin Potts*
Poetry often captures the intense emotions of the author, providing the reader or listener with a glimpse behind the curtain and into the author’s life. This is especially true of the poetry Franklin Potts writes as he navigates the challenges of living with Lou Gehrig’s disease—or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
“You need not recall everything you do,
Just retain the good and let the bad slip through.”
Franklin served as a faculty member in the Department of Finance, Insurance and Real Estate at Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business (HSB) for 53 years. During that time, he taught thousands of students and served the department however he could. Franklin retired from the Business School in May 2022.
He was born and raised in Lometa, Texas, a small town 90 minutes west of Waco. His father was a rancher and worked in the wool and mohair industry. Franklin and his younger brother Tom would often help on the ranch and in the warehouse when needed.
“We learned a lot about responsibility and hard work from my dad,” Tom said. “He was an extremely ethical, good Christian man who set a great example for both of us—and so did our mother.”
Both Franklin and Tom were physically active growing up. Their dad coached the local Little League Baseball team, going as far as to build a baseball field on their ranch. They also enjoyed hunting and fishing as much as they could.
Franklin excelled at fishing, Tom said. Neither Tom nor his dad had much patience for it, but Franklin could sit there for a long time without a bite, just waiting for that chance encounter.
As they reached high school, Franklin continued to succeed at sports, reaching the state track meet three times and being named all-district in football twice.
“He was always a good athlete, no matter what sport he tried,” Tom said.
“Someday I will probably see a formula to describe a tree,
An exaggeration or perhaps a lie? What haven’t we tried to quantify”
The Students’ Dilemma
As Franklin was finishing his high school career, his parents were encouraging him to gain a college education. Neither had attended college but knew it would be beneficial for their children. His mother’s Baptist background and their proximity to Waco led her to advocate for Baylor University.
“We were never pushed,” Tom said. “It was more of a gentle encouragement.”
Franklin later enrolled at Baylor. Three years later, Tom followed. Attending Baylor together was a joy for Tom as their brotherly bond strengthened even more.
“He was a senior at Baylor by the time I got there as a freshman,” Tom said. “He ended up being my big brother in the fraternity, too. That was pretty interesting.”
In that fraternity—Alpha Kappa Psi—Franklin and Tom met a lifelong friend, Charles Benjamin “Ben” Hagins, who is a fan of Franklin’s work.
“We had a great fraternity,” Hagins said. “We still get together and still like each other, some 50 years later.”
Franklin graduated from Baylor in 1966 with degrees in Finance and Economics, and in 1967 with a Master of Science in Economics. He earned his PhD from Louisiana State University in 1978. He then returned to Waco to teach in the Department of Finance, Insurance and Real Estate. Tom, having earned his PhD from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 1978, also accepted a position in the same department.
Tom was honored to return to Baylor and work alongside his older brother. He felt their journeys had paralleled so much, and they formed a tight bond through those experiences.
“We had a really close relationship for all those years,” Tom said.
“I want to be a man who truly cares for others,
Who thinks of all people as sisters and brothers.”
The Man I Want to Be
Franklin loved being in the classroom because it allowed him to interact with students, Tom said. Franklin saw the potential in his students and pushed them to meet his high expectations.
“I think one of the worst things you can do for anyone is to have low expectations,” Tom said. “Franklin definitely had high expectations of his students.”
His support went beyond the classroom as well, as he volunteered with various student organizations, such as the billiard club, the skydiving club and Alpha Kappa Psi. There is no monetary reward for volunteering for these, Tom said, so it was clear to everyone who knew Franklin that he was in it because he cared for the students.
“He absolutely loved working with the students and teaching them what he knew,” Cindy Potts, Franklin’s wife, said. “It was the students that kept him coming back every year. He didn’t look at it as work—it was a calling, and he loved it.”
Franklin and Cindy met at the Business School. Cindy started a part-time job working for the Economics and Finance departments. Franklin would come by her desk each day and tell jokes and make everyone laugh, Cindy said. Eventually, they began dating and married in 1992.
Shane Underwood, the chair of the Department of Finance, Insurance and Real Estate, remembers meeting Franklin for the first time when he visited Baylor. Franklin was responsible for taking Underwood to the airport for his flight home, but they also had an hour-long meeting before they left campus.
“I knew the moment our meeting was over I had a new lifelong friend,” Underwood said. “He just has a heart of gold, and you can’t help but enjoy your time with him.”
Underwood later joined the faculty at the Business School and became chair of the department in 2019. He enjoyed working alongside Franklin and appreciated his willingness to lend a hand where he could.
“Everyone saw Franklin as a friend,” Underwood said. “He was always willing to do the little things, like picking people up from the airport. He just cared about people, and it showed.”
He was like that outside of work as well, Cindy said.
“He was his normal self,” she said. “He loved to talk, tell jokes, hunt, fish, play golf. He never met a stranger—he just loved to talk to people.”
“I never thought of myself as old,
Charging through life, confident and bold,
But all of a sudden, age caught up with me
And I realized what others could see.”
In May 2022, Franklin retired from teaching. It was a special moment for him, as Tom also decided to retire. The move away from teaching gave Franklin plenty of time for his favorite activities, such as golf, hunting and fishing.
However, Franklin started to notice a few challenges he never had before. His golf score was slowly rising, and simple activities became more difficult from month to month.
Then came the diagnosis in February 2023. With Cindy and Tom by his side, Franklin learned the news—he had ALS.
“Of course, that day was the worst day ever,” Cindy said.
Tom agreed. Even when presented with the greatest adversity he had ever faced, Franklin remained selfless.
“I remember the day he was diagnosed. There was a lot of crying between the three of us,” Tom said. “He turned around to me and said, ‘I’m not crying for me; I just don’t want to be a burden for y’all.’”
There was plenty of mourning in the following days, weeks and months. Franklin had long dabbled in poetry and turned to writing to share his pain and frustration. Some poems focus on the harsh reality ahead, such as “The End” and “Suffering.” But Franklin has also reflected on his Christian faith through his pieces.
This is most evident in the poem “A Glimpse of Heaven,” where Franklin acknowledges his situation but reminds himself of the ultimate truth—God is at work even in darkness.
“It is an outlet for him,” Tom said. “He writes such a great portrait of his insights, passion, and faith. It showcases someone suffering from a terminal disease and seeing them draw closer to God.”
Franklin hopes his poetry will help others who find themselves in a challenging and grim situation.
“He thinks the poems may help someone else and give them the strength they need,” Cindy said. “He says that is his purpose.”
ALS has taken Franklin’s ability to walk and talk—but it has not and will not take his spirit.
“I do everything very slowly these days,
But my hope is to not be slow to give God praise.
I walk slow, I talk slow, but my mind is still sound,
That’s because I need to tell others where I am bound.
Death will not be the end for those who believe,
Our home in heaven, our minds cannot conceive.
Imagine a place filled with love and no hate,
A place with the kind of love you feel for your mate.
In heaven no one will ever be depressed,
We will all share in God’s eternal rest.
Negative thoughts will not plague our mind,
Everyone will be grateful, loving and kind.
Human minds cannot grasp how great it will be,
But I have been blessed with a glimpse of what we will see.
So many friends and family have shown so much love,
I have to believe it’s a glimpse of heaven above.
I always thought I would have a long life,
At least another ten years with my family and my wife,
But I do not stop to question God’s plan,
For I have been blessed as much as any man.”
A Glimpse of Heaven
Franklin passed away on Feb. 9, 2024. Those wishing to honor Franklin’s legacy, please consider a gift to the HSB Alpha Kappa Psi Endowed Scholarship Fund: baylor.edu/potts.