A Stanford Family: Groundskeeper Dad Cultivates His Son's Classroom Dream

May 13, 2016
Originally published on May 13, 2016 7:01 am

Francisco Preciado came to California from Mexico as a young child. By the early 1980s, he was raising a young family of his own in the U.S. and working as a groundskeeper at Stanford.

On a recent visit to StoryCorps, his son, Frankie, recalls, "Since I was around 9 or 10, I would come sometimes with you to help you on campus."

"I told you that one day, you were going to go here to Stanford," answers Francisco.

That stuck with Frankie. He remembered those words, the hard work his father and mother put into their jobs, and set them up as examples for himself. And because of his dad, Frankie applied to Stanford.

"Then, you told us that you had been accepted," Francisco says, but you were worried that, 'Financially, Dad, I don't know if I can go because I don't have the money.' "

Francisco's reply to his son?

"Your mom and I will do whatever needs to be done."

And they did. Frankie matriculated at the university — but even as he attended classes, he didn't forget that his father was right there, working alongside him on the campus. In fact, their visits became routine; on Mondays and Wednesdays, for instance, when Frankie's father would be cleaning the fountains, Frankie would stop in for a visit.

Francisco, for his part, had his eyes on his son — and when he says that, he doesn't just mean his own.

"My friends there at work, they always would tell me, 'Oh, I saw your son over here,' or, 'I've seen him over there.' It was like I had extra eyes watching over you," Francisco tells his son.

Years later, on Frankie's graduation day in 2007, Frankie says he pulled his father aside. "This diploma is for you," he told him then.

And don't think Frankie's father has forgotten.

"I still joke — because we have the diploma at home on the wall — and I go, 'No, you can't take that with you. You told me that was mine, I'm keeping it.' "

These days, Frankie still has a hand in the school where he learned so much, both from his father and from the professors. He is the executive director of the union that represents Stanford's service and technical workers — including his dad.

Still, Francisco says he harbors one major regret. Financial problems forced him to leave college to get himself a full-time job, he says, effectively stalling his ambitions to become a teacher.

"Sometimes, I still think about being able to be a teacher, but I feel to me that it's too late," Francisco says. "So to see my son go to Stanford, it's like a little bit of me there. It gives me a lot of pride."

Audio produced for Morning Edition by Jud Esty-Kendall.

StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

We hear this music each Friday morning because it is time for StoryCorps. And today, a father and son who were at Stanford University at the same time, one as a maintenance man, the other as a student. Francisco Preciado came to California from Mexico as a child. In the early 1980's, he started working as a groundskeeper at Stanford. He was also raising a family, including his son Frankie. At StoryCorps, father and son sat down to talk about their time on campus.

FRANKIE PRECIADO: Since I was around 9 or 10, I would come sometimes with you to help you on campus.

FRANCISCO PRECIADO: I remember I told you that, one day, you were going to go here to Stanford.

PRECIADO: That really stuck with me. And when I also would go with mom to clean houses, I saw the hard work, and that set the example for me. So because of you I applied.

PRECIADO: And then you told us that you had been accepted, that you were worried that, financially, dad, I don't know if I can go because I don't have the money. And I told you your mom and I will do whatever needs to be done.

PRECIADO: When I was on campus, I knew that on Mondays and Fridays you'd clean the fountains around 1:15, so I would make sure that I would walk that way to go and see you and check in to see how things were going.

PRECIADO: It was a routine. And my friends there at work there always would tell me, oh, I see your son over here or I've seen him over there. It was like I had extra eyes watching over you.

PRECIADO: Do you remember what I told you my graduation day?

PRECIADO: Of course. You said, dad, this diploma is for you. And I still joke because we have that diploma at home on the wall. I go no, you can't take that with you. You told me that was mine. I'm keeping it.

PRECIADO: Reflecting about your life, you have any regrets?

PRECIADO: Yes, I do have one major regret. I was actually going to college to be a teacher, but I had financial problems so I had to leave school and get a full-time job. And sometimes, I still think about being able to be a teacher, but I feel to me that it's too late. So to see my son go to Stanford, it's like a little bit of me there. It gives me a lot of pride.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GREENE: Francisco Preciado, talking with his son Frankie at StoryCorps in San Francisco. Frankie graduated from Stanford in 2007, and today he is the executive director of the union that represents Stanford service and technical workers. And yes, that includes his dad. Their interview will be archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress and also featured on the StoryCorps podcast. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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