In a mere six weeks in 1981, my life changed in several fundamental and exciting ways. On May 24, I graduated from Meharry Medical School, Nashville, Tenn., and two weeks later, married Alicia Boswell. We moved to Florida, near where I was to begin an orthopaedic surgery residency in Jacksonville on July 1.
I wrote to the several Lafayette alumni in the area. Only one man responded: Hugh H. Jones Jr. ’52. He invited me to lunch at Barnett Bank, where he was an executive and eventually became chief executive officer. Mr. Jones—or “Peb” as his friends know him—embraced me with great warmth.
Over the five challenging years of my residency, Peb gave me sound advice and compassionate support. Two of our three sons were born during that time—Stephen in 1982 and James in 1984. I was ecstatic but, at the time, I could barely spell orthopaedics. Although I was passionate about my work, I felt very new to it. Peb guided me. He taught me how to budget a modest resident’s income and instructed me to buy life insurance—he told me what type and how much—to protect my young family.
I would visit with Peb when I was fatigued from the rigors of residency; he would listen and fill me with encouragement. He would give me a hug and say, “I’m proud of you—go do it.”
I also had the honor of getting to know Peb’s father, Hugh H. Jones Sr., known as “Stoney,” from whom Peb—or Pebble—inherited his nickname. Stoney held tremendous affection for Lafayette, where he served on the Board of Trustees from 1966 until 1979.
Stoney recruited football players for Lafayette from throughout Pennsylvania, especially the western part near the Jones family hometown of Smithton. At Stoney’s house on Amelia Island, Fla., I saw many personal notes and mementos he received from Lafayette football players grateful for his influence on their lives.
Gary Evans ’57 gave a heartfelt eulogy for Stony in the chapel of Amelia Island Plantation on Nov. 6, 1992. Stoney’s spirit and legacy continued at Lafayette with the “Stoney Jones” MVP football trophy, awarded to an outstanding member of the team each year.
Peb also contributed to his community. In 1985, when the son of the Barnett Bank’s president died in heart surgery, Peb made pediatric cardiology his mission. He set up the Korean Heart Program, a partnership between Barnett Bank and University of Florida’s Shands Health Care Center, which brought 71 Korean children to Jacksonville for heart surgery over 10 years. Peb traveled to Korea and identified children with life-threatening congenital cardiac conditions. Barnett Bank paid for the travel, housing, and expenses for the patients and their families, while the university provided all medical and surgical services. Peb, who served on the hospital board, also set up a $1 million endowment that eventually supported the current UF Pediatric Cardiovascular Center.
Peb’s coaching enabled Alicia and I to successfully complete the residency chapter of our lives. I wanted to specialize in the field of orthopaedic sports medicine and in 1986 was fortunate to be accepted by two fellowship programs, Hughston Clinic, Columbus, Ga., and University of Virginia, Charlottesville. But we had one obstacle—money. Peb solved the problem by providing a loan, and we were off to Columbus.
After my education in Georgia and Virginia, Peb encouraged us to return to Jacksonville. In 1988, with our family completed by our third son, Matthew, I began a private practice there. For the next 25 years, Peb became an even greater presence and influence in my life. We shared weekly breakfasts and lunches, as well as meaningful homecoming trips back to Lafayette. By introducing me to coaches, business people, and community leaders, Peb helped make my orthopaedic practice a success.
Since 1981, Peb has been my coach and mentor. He has been a monumental force in my life; his friendship made the good times even sweeter, and he supported me through times of sorrow and struggle.
I’m grateful to Lafayette not only for the superb four years I spent on the Hill, but also for bringing Peb into my life. Thanks to Dick Haines, Barry McCarty, [Lafayette admissions officers], and Mrs. Genevieve Franco, my mother, for giving me the opportunity for both.
Dr. Robert S. Franco ’75
Ponte Verde Beach, Fla.