Saturday, June 3rd, 2023
Who Makes Millersville Special

Dr. Ronald Frankum

A Vietnam War expert.

Dr. Ron Frankum and his son

This edition of “Who Makes Millersville Special” features Dr. Ronald Frankum, associate professor of history and chair of the department.

Q: Where are you originally from?
I am originally from Sacramento, Calif., but I was raised in southern California.

Q: How did you become interested in studying history?
I always loved history as a child but it was not until I moved to Virginia. When I was in high school, I really caught the bug.  I lived within an hour of most of the major north Virginian Civil War battlefields.  My father also read a lot of history so it was always in our house.

Q: From what schools have you received your degrees?
I have a bachelor’s in history and political philosophy from Syracuse University, an M.A. in history from the University of Kentucky and a Ph.D. in history from Syracuse University.

Q: How many years have you been at Millersville?
I am in my 13th year at Millersville University.

Q: What are some of the classes have you taught during your time at Millersville?
EDFN 111:  BSE Social Studies Seminar: Content Connections

HIST 105:  Craft of History

HIST 106:  Contours of United States History

HIST 276:  American Foreign Relations, 1890 to the Present

HIST 360:  Second World War

HIST 406:  Senior Seminar

HIST 470:  The Vietnam War

Q: Do you have a favorite historical time period?
Currently, I have been researching and writing about the Vietnam War and it is a topic that continues to interest me. However, if I had to choose another area of history it would be the Napoleonic Wars period.

Do you have any previous research projects that you’re particularly proud of?
Any time you finish a research project, you are proud of it.  I have written six books since I earned my Ph.D.  Each one of the books was a labor of love in some way.  I think the one that affected me the most was my book on Operation Passage to Freedom, which was about a U.S. Naval operation in 1954-1955, that saw the evacuation of more than 310,000 Vietnamese from North Vietnam to South Vietnam on U.S. ships.  While I was researching the book, I was able to interview about 40 sailors who participated in the operation. No one had ever written about the topic and they were amazed that someone was interested in the operation.  I was able to gather their histories, 50 years after the operation.

Q: What are your interests outside of work?
I have an 8-year-old son, so most of my interests revolve around him. Thus, Star Wars, Minecraft and soccer are a part of my every day.  When I am not doing that, I am an ardent baseball fan (San Diego Padres) and like to be outdoors when I can.  I continue to try to grow the most sincere pumpkin patch in Lancaster County, but have yet to succeed.

Q: What is the most challenging part about being the chair of the history department?
It is keeping up with the changing requirements and the different focuses of the state and our administration.  There are too many meetings and far too much paperwork.  It is difficult to focus on the things that attracted me to academia, such as teaching and research.

Q: What is something you need to get through your day?
Other than patience, I suppose music and old time radio shows help me separate work from home.

Q: What is your greatest accomplishment?
I have a healthy, happy and intellectually curious 8-year-old son. Who needs anything more?

Q: What type of music do you listen to?
I enjoy anything that does not rely on non-musical instruments.  Today’s playlist includes songs from the Grateful Dead, Foo Fighters, Pure Prairie League, REM and Glenn Miller.  Tomorrow’s playlist will probably include the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Emerson, Lake, Palmer and Blue Oyster Cult.  I change based on the time of the semester and if I am grading.

Q: What do you think your students would be most surprised to know about you?
I am a diehard Disney fan.  My family and I travel to Disney World every year.

Q: If you could meet anyone, living or deceased, who would it be and why?
The question is something you should never ask a historian, because we are bound by tradition to say Thomas Jefferson.  Most historians will quote Jefferson in at least one paper or talk in their lifetime regardless of their discipline.  So, Thomas Jefferson but if he was not available I would not mind a poker game with Napoleon, Robert E. Lee and Nate Colbert.


One reply on “Dr. Ronald Frankum”

Thanks for sharing, Ron. Nice to learn more about you. I love the pic of you and your son.

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