Francine Zeidman Rossi earned her B.A. from Western in 1970 with a major in English and minors in Speech/Drama and served as editor to the Western Herald from 1969 to 1970. She continued her education at Michigan State University where she was a student inductee into the Society of Professional Journalists. Her concentration was in Journalism/Consumer Affairs and she completed the requirements for a M.S.J. from Roosevelt University, Chicago, IL in 1987. In 1975, she served an internship at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency where she researched, wrote and edited the first in-depth article calling for the national ban on PCBs (Polychlorinated Biphenyls).
PCBs, used as insulating fluid in electrical and heat transfer equipment and the manufacture of plastics, are highly toxic to aquatic and biological life and highly resistant to heat and biological degradation, and it was Francine’s trailblazing article that was used in testimony before the Department of Natural Resources as major evidence leading to the ban against PCBs.
Between 1975 and 1989, she gathered further experience in consumer affairs, public relations, and marketing with the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists(Chicago), Industrial Marketplace (Skokie, IL), the Allan Foundry & Machine Company (Grand Junction, MI), and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.
In 1987, Francine purchased The National Center for Educational Testing, Inc. from Roosevelt University where she had served as Director of Test Preparation Courses within the College of Continuing Education. She also incorporated The American Center for Educational Development, Inc., trained over 8,000 students in asbestos/lead abatement, and wrote an impressive number of training and recertification manuals in her area of expertise.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency named her company one of the top three trainers in the country. As an adjunct to training, she incorporated AS-RA-TECHnologies, Inc., a female-owned environmental remediation company, in 1991. Her company has been awarded contracts by a long list of major national and regional organizations, including the Department of Aviation (O’Hare, Midway & Meigs Airports).
Considering Francine’s success as a leading Midwestern contractor in environmental remediation, her peer-recognized role as a leader and member in several of the most important professional organizations in her area of specialty is not surprising: She has been a member of the Environmental Information Association (since 1989) and served as President (1990) to the Midwest Regional Chapter of the Environmental Information Association (for Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio), an organization at the forefront of providing the environmental industry with the much needed information to remain knowledgeable, responsible, and competitive in the environmental health and safety industry.
She served on the Board of Directors (1996-2002) of the Illinois Environmental Service Companies Worker’s Compensation Trust, and as Treasurer and Trustee (1995-1997) at the National Association of Women in Construction, Chicago Chapter. She has also been a member of the National Lead Abatement Council (since 1991), the Federation of Women Contractors (since 1993; served on Board of Directors), the National Association of Women in Construction, the National Association of Women Business Owners, and the Latin American Chamber of Commerce (1996-1998).
From 1991 through 1997, she was an active member of the Illinois State Chamber of Commerce, representing that organization’s Environmental Affairs and Education committees, and from 1991 through 1998 she represented female-owned remediation companies on the Cosmopolitan Chamber of Commerce, Chicago.
Finally, I should mention that many of her activities, such as her work for Women First – National Legislative Committee, lobbying for female-owned environmental remediation companies, or for Local Motion, Inc., a private non-profit youth service organization, connect here professional activities with leadership in community service. For Local Motion, Inc., for example, Francine was able to ensure the City of Chicago’s very first substantial grant to fund an arts-related program for at-risk children and young adults (ages 12-17). The result of her efforts, the Local Motion Traveling Troubadours, provided a diverse group of inner city kids with an opportunity to collaborate and use their many untapped talents and energy in a constructive manner, helping write skits, design & build sets, collect props, design & make costumes, design & produce posters, programs, & publicity campaigns, lighting, etc.
Not only did these kids receive an opportunity to think about future career choices, if not in arts-related endeavors, then as carpenters, electricians, etc., they also gave back to the community by performing in nursing homes, senior centers, hospitals, day care centers and schools. This was in the 1980s, and today public support for traveling acting companies and community outreach drama projects are a common occurrence. Francine was among those who changed the public understanding of how involvement in the arts can foster a sense of community, civic mindedness, and hope.
The first thing one notices about Francine in any conversation is her deep love for Western Michigan University and her dedication to serving the University community. She looks back at her years at Western with great affection and attributes much of her professional success and growth as a citizen to her formative experience at our institution.
In fact, over the years she has been a wonderful ambassador for Western to many organizations and individuals, including six years of dedicated service to the Board of Directors of the University Alumni Association (1992-1998; she is a life-time member), working on the Executive Committee and as Chair of the Distinguished Alumni Committee. The Department of English is proud to recognize her with the title of “Distinguished Alumna” for 2007-2008.