Media maven Fran Mallace: “At the top of her game”

“Welcome to Fran’s Zoo!”

Those were the words that welcomed me as I arrived at the Paradise Valley home Fran Mallace presently shares with husband Michael; two daughters, Sydney and Jordie; and their two family pets, Leo, a shih tzu, and Izzy, a cockapoo. The sisters will soon be sharing digs in Chicago: Jordie, 22, and a recent graduate of the University of Kansas, is pursuing a job in public relations/digital media. Her younger sister is entering her sophomore year as a fashion/business major at Columbia College.

The “zoo” Fran is referring to is the impressive collection, scattered throughout the bright and spacious Mallace residence, of various animals: painted, sculpted and crafted in an abundance of textures and techniques. The giraffes, though, have special significance for Fran. “They have stature and they have vision – they have the biggest hearts.” One’s heart, she believes, “is the biggest component of who you are. And I’m not afraid to stick my neck out for what I believe in.”

This attitude has paved the way for Fran to achieve success in what traditionally has been a male-dominated field. Since 2012, she has served as vice president for Cox Media in Arizona.

A native of New Jersey, the Garden State,  who played softball on her high school team, Fran ventured west to college. Arizona State University was a big school with a great sports program, she recalls, “and the topography couldn’t be more different than what I was used to.”

But when you are 18, she says, everything can change – and it did. Softball took a back seat to the school’s liberal arts program, where she enrolled in what since has become the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, with the idea of continuing on to law school after graduation. She served an internship here at Channel 12, conducting tours and even helping out in the sales department. “It was a lot of fun for a 19-year-old,” she says, and she ultimately earned a bachelor of science in broadcast management. Before applying to law school, though, she took a year off, accepting a job at Channel 12. She says she “was hooked.” Choosing to remain in the world of communications, she went to work selling advertising for a local ad agency.

Fran had met her husband-to-be, a Chicagoan, in their freshman year at an AEPi fraternity party on the ASU campus. Fran was a “little sister” for the Jewish fraternity and Michael, a sophomore, served as the group advisor.   “He took a liking to me,” Fran says, “but it took him five years to close the deal!” They married when they both turned 23 and Michael was working at a local radio station. He now is general manager for several local stations. The pair waited 10 years before they started their family. “We had lots of fun, lots of travel and adventures.”

Fran’s move, 24 years ago, to Cox Communications was prescient. She anticipated, early on, the growth of the cable industry. “I was one of only five cable media buyers in town at the time,” she recalls, starting out as national sales manager and working her way up to her current post as vice president for Cox Media in Arizona.

On the path to her present post, Fran held several managerial jobs. She commuted to both Georgia and California, while balancing family and professional challenges. These included earning an MBA from Thunderbird School of Global Management in 2008. She notes that she was one of the few women in the two-year program, and the only one with kids. “Michael was so very supportive,” Fran says. “He really was Mr. Mom for 22 months.” But, she says, the experience proved to be positive for the whole family. “It forced me to be structured and focused, and set a good example of study habits for the girls – working seriously to learn and benefit from the opportunity,” which Cox funded.  “And Michael and I always have worked family vacations into our schedules so the four of us can enjoy quality together time.”

Regrets? “I’ve had a few,” she acknowledges, “but I really believe I have made up for it.”  She says that either she or Michael were always there for school events, admitting though that she sometimes did put work first. “But when I saw some of the male bosses take personal time, I knew it would be okay for me to do the same.”(When Fran and I spoke on the phone in early June she was finalizing plans for a spur-of-the-moment trip with her daughters to visit family in Amsterdam!)

Fran defines her professional role as “pretty much overseeing ad sales and marketing solutions operations, working on integrated campaigns to deliver revenue numbers.” The challenge, she says, “is keeping up with changing technology and driving results for clients.”

She also serves on the boards of ASU’s Cronkite School and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. She has moderated panels for the local chapter of Women in Communications.

“I know what’s important and I figure out how to get it done,” Fran says. At age 55, sharing an “empty nest” with her husband of 33 years and proud of her children’s accomplishments, Fran Mallace says with a smile, “I feel like I’m at the top of my game!”

Pictured above: The Mallace clan – Fran, Sydney, Jordie and Michael

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