Fran Katz: Looking for meaning and purpose


“I’ve always felt I received more than I’ve given, even with everything I’ve done.”
~ Fran Katz, senior vice president of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona

If the saying is true that you have to give to receive, then Fran Katz is going to get back nachas tenfold. She’s unstoppable in her giving – and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

After 29 years in a rewarding career at Tucson Lifestyle Magazine, most recently as associate publisher, Fran needed something more. She put out some feelers and took on the position of director of donor services for the University of Arizona Foundation “to do something more meaningful and purposeful” with her life.

Upon Brenda Landau’s resignation of her post at the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona, Stuart Mellan, JFSA president and CEO, approached Fran for the position of senior vice president. She began in May and “absolutely loves it.” She works in partnership with Stuart for the same goal … and that’s just one of the many roles that occupy Fran’s very busy yet fulfilling life.

Born in Manhattan, Fran and her family moved to Queens, NY, and stayed until her family left for Phoenix when she was 9. The Shadow Mountain High School graduate was active in BBYO both on the local and district level. She headed down south to Tucson to attend the University of Arizona, where she not only received a degree in business administration and marketing, she met her husband, Jeff Katz, also an alumni of U of A and now an attorney.

The couple moved to Phoenix, where they married, but then returned to Tucson 30 years ago and have been there ever since. They immediately became immersed in volunteer work, with Jeff as chair of Jewish Family and Children’s Service and president of the Jewish Federation board. Fran held roles in women’s philanthropy and chaired the Jewish Community Relations Committee. She and Jeff co-chaired the JFSA Campaign in 2008 and were also involved with various other positions at the federation.

The art of giving

Because giving is a part of who she is, Fran wanted to do more to help people. “But I’ve always felt I received more than I’ve given, even with everything I’ve done,” she says. “I just can’t give enough.”

She has been a stellar community volunteer with other notable past posts including president of Hillel, volunteering for JFCS and co-chair of the capital campaign for Congregation Or Chadash, of which she and her family are members. Her awards include the 1998 Woman of the Year for WYCA and the 2012 Phyllis Ehlinger Woman of Excellence for the Tucson chapter of the American Advertising Federation.

Fran is on the boards of the Tucson Airport Authority, the Tucson Medical Center Foundation and Ben’s Bells, an organization focused on spreading kindness and named for a 2-year-old boy who died unexpectedly.

Getting involved; spreading the word

Her goal is to get more people engaged and involved in her work at the federation. On an international level, she experienced the federation’s work firsthand on a recent mission trip for campaign chairs and directors to Tblisi, Georgia, and Israel. The trip included more than 100 people from across the United States. “It empowered me and invigorated me to come back and raise more funds for what we do locally, nationally and internationally,” Fran says.

Can women really have it all? Fran is certainly a strong case in point. Keeping her family as the No. 1 priority, Fran figured out how to balance the needs of her young children, her work, volunteerism and her running schedule, which she wanted to keep. “I was able to do all four successfully,” she says. This long-distance runner has completed 28 marathons, including seven in Boston and one in New York, and two Iron Man events.

When her children were young, she showed them the importance of being part of a community. “I wanted them to see what good you can do by giving back,” Fran says. Now she sees the payoff with daughter Aimee, 26, who is involved in the Moishe House in Tucson, and son Adam, 24, who is getting involved in young leadership in Dallas.

Family, friends keep her grounded

Fran’s door is always open to family and friends, especially during the High Holidays. Those who lack a place to go for the holidays can find a seat at the Katz home, where the welcome mat is always out for observance and a holiday meal.

After 30 years of marriage, her husband is still her biggest cheerleader. “He has always stood by me and believed in me,” Fran says. “He encouraged me to be the best person I can be.” She proves to be that person of principle every day as a champion for Judaism and its legacy, and in her passion to help young women achieve their goals.

“Having integrity is one of the most important things while you are alive, and it’s what you leave after you are gone,” Fran says.

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