Frances Bradford was Vice President for Government Relations at the College of William and Mary when she received a fateful phone call from Virginia Governor Ralph Northam.
He called to ask her to become Virginia’s new deputy secretary of education and Bradford recalls being honored but taken aback.
“I was not expecting the call and was completely surprised,” Bradford said in an email. “I was definitely honored at being asked, but I did some time making the decision because I enjoyed my work at the College very much.”
Bradford said her time at the College was immensely valuable to her and leaving was a difficult decision. However, she decided to accept Northam’s offer in order to further pursue her passion for education.
Leaving William and Mary was close to impossible,” Bradford said.
“Leaving William and Mary was close to impossible,” Bradford said. “It is an amazing place, with truly amazing people and at the end of the day you know — or at least hope — you are in some small way helping to educate the future leaders of our country. As President Reveley likes to say, ‘It is time for the next W&M alum to serve as President of the United States.’”
During her time at the College, Bradford said she developed lasting relationships through her work that enriched her life both professionally and personally. In her job, she found inspiration in the the College community’s determination to better itself.
“I have to admit that every time a new building goes up there is some joy in that,” Bradford said.
Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration Sam Jones, who worked closely with Bradford, spoke highly of her accomplishments. He said that she was an exceptional member of the College’s staff, had a deep understanding of higher education issues and was always proactive given the fast pace of her work. On the subject of her new job offer, Jones said that the governor’s gain was the College’s loss.
“She was a pleasure to work with, maintaining a sense of humor in what can be a challenging environment,” Jones said in an email.
Bradford said she hopes to help all students in Virginia receive the level of education that they want to pursue and that her goals in this position align with those of the governor. She maintains that she will be working alongside the governor to meet the workforce needs of Virginia and make the cost of education more predictable.
“While I am still thinking through what I hope to focus on in this role, I remind myself to first do no harm and then hopefully to do some good,” Bradford said.
Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Public Affairs Henry Broaddus said that, while the College would miss Bradford, her work will improve the education system throughout Virginia.
Although we will miss the new deputy secretary terribly here in the Colonial Capital, we are so happy about what this portends for the rest of Virginia,” Broaddus said.
“Although we will miss the new deputy secretary terribly here in the Colonial Capital, we are so happy about what this portends for the rest of Virginia,” Broaddus said in a written statement. “Nobody is a better intermediary between the equally idiosyncratic worlds of education and government than [Bradford] is, and nobody cares more about the two working together for the public good,” Broaddus said.
Broaddus said that Bradford is someone you want with you when facing “rough tides.” He said she is a consistently hard worker, but more than that she is always able to maintain positivity.
“She is unflappable, and she is persistently cheerful, without a trace of naivete in the face of difficult realities,” Broaddus said. “Fran can pick you up, and she will do so while she is simultaneously on a muted conference call and texting somebody else on campus about a bill she is tracking.”
Broaddus expressed his thanks for Marina Moschos, Bradford’s supportive spouse, for giving up nights and weekends to campus obligations. He also thanked Bradford’s parents, Kenneth and Judy Bradford, for raising a daughter with a strong work ethic and a social conscience. Although Judy Bradford passed away last year, Broaddus said he expected she was there with her daughter in spirit.
Wishing Bradford luck in her new endeavors, Broaddus expressed hope that she can still lead an enjoyable lifestyle in this challenging professional role.
“This next phase of [Bradford’s] career is no trip to Disney World,” Broaddus said. “There will be great challenges that I am sure will test Fran in new ways. We wish her well, and we hope her work will be fun as well as challenging.”
Bradford said she has positive prospects for her future.
“[My plans are] to make the most of the opportunity that Governor Northam has given me,” Bradford said. “And still find time to go to Disney World.”