2007 Distinguished Alumna: Louise Langlois Francesconi ‘75

by Francis Langlois Francesconi

Convocation remarks, April 28, 2007

I am extremely honored to receive this award from the Scripps College Alumnae Association.

I always find a formal introduction gives a great account of what I am, but let me tell you who I am:

Wife, daughter, mother, mother-in-law, sister, friend, teacher at heart, constant learner, a “Scrippsy”—and, by the way, I run the largest missile business in the world—of which I am very proud.

People often ask me how I, as a woman with an economics degree, came to lead a missile company, a company focused on engineering and complex technology.

When I was given this job, I was the youngest person to ever be in the position, the first non-technical, and the first woman—each is a story in itself.

I entered Scripps planning to be a teacher. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been the organizer. And that goes all the way back to being captain of the softball team in third grade.

I’ve always simply loved taking a group of independent people and getting them all to work toward a common goal. For years, I interpreted this interest as a desire to teach. Later, I realized it was a desire to lead.

I believe, and speak loudly and often, that my education at an all-female high school and college, coupled with my ecnomics major, from, at that time, Claremont Men’s College, has given me a distinctive advantage to having a successful career in leading in a predominantly male environment.

It is the intersection of “studying economics” at CMC and learning “critical thinking” from Scripps that is the real who I am.

I had the privilege of being the class speaker at my graduation from Scripps. Last week, I re-read that speech I’d written 32 years ago. I’d like to read something I said:

“If we have learned anything, we must now realize that we have done little, that we know even less, and that everything is in front of us. If we stop learning today, we have admitted that we are content to master what has been known before. Don’t be content. Go out into the world, discover, continue to seek knowledge, continue to question, and continue to grow.”

It is amazing, this is still the most important leadership message I give in my organization today.

Leadership is not about organizational power. It’s about influence and personal leadership and how your vision motivates the minds and hearts of those you lead.

It’s about personal integrity. Visionary leaders must have integrity. They must help others focus on achieving not only the right business goals but also the right personal goals.

We must have an environment where people work and learn from others who are different from them. That is an inclusive culture—a culture where we leverage the diversity of age, gender, experience, ethnic background—all of those things that make us unique as individuals. And that makes our organization, our community, and ourselves better than we ever thought possible.

In the true spirit of leadership, I am here representing more than 11,000 employees of Raytheon Missile Systems who work so hard to help each other succeed and who do it with the kind of values important to Raytheon and to me. I can tell you we all are proud to be providing products for the defense of freedom here and around the world.

Thank you so much for the honor of this recognition today. I believe you are proud to see the benefits of a Scripps education in an individual contributing in such a significant way to our world.

I’d like to end with a quote from a book I’ve just finished reading called Sleeping with Schubert, by Bonnie Marson.

“I’m not done yet with my journey with Schubert. He gave me something I needed, and I think I did the same for him. His spirit was unfinished and needed a place to lodge. He found a tiny crack in my soul, where perhaps I had a slow leak. He slipped in and filled me up. I don’t know what I’ll do next, but I’ll do it better and more fully.”

I feel that way about my time at Scripps. It slipped into my soul; filled me up. I know it has helped me do everything from being president of the largest missile business in the world to being a mom. And somehow I hope I have helped Scripps in the process.