Although he never competed in track & field as an athlete, the late Fran Welch is remembered as a key figure in the rise of the Emporia State program.
His track and cross country teams claimed 18 league crowns, four NAIA cross country championships, one NAIA track & field title, and one NCAA small college cross country title during his 24-year career at the school. He coached at the school from 1928 to 1943 and from 1946 to 1955.
Welch, a member of the NAIA Hall of Fame, came to Emporia State in 1914 and lettered in football, basketball, and baseball. When he quarterbacked the football team, the Hornets had a 24-1-2 record. Later on, with 24 years as a football coach, he compiled a 116-81-15 mark, and his teams won six conference titles.
Born in 1895 in Hartfield, Kan., Welch was a resident of the Sunflower state his entire life. Welch was awarded a Bachelor of Science in education in 1918 from Emporia State (then Kansas Normal College), then completed requirements for a degree in agriculture at Kansas State University. He served as a U.S. Army Lieutenant in World War I and took a leave of absence from teaching to serve in World War II as a Captain and special services officer at Fort Riley.
Welch was a member of the Physical Education Department staff at ESU from 1920 until 1965, when he retired. He was an internationally known track and field coach and he had trained a number of Olympic athletes.
ESU’s football and track & field stadium was renamed Welch Stadium in 1960 in his honor.
Welch passed on June 19, 1970 at the age of 74.
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