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Dr. Keith Francis: A Different Kind of Designer

Dr. Keith Francis
Dr. Keith Francis

A deep love for electrical engineering sparked at a young age for associate teaching professor Dr. Keith Francis, PE. Having grown up in Nebraska, he recalls one day telling his father on their cornfield-surrounded farm, “I want to make something.” From that beginning, he has seen the Lord’s sovereign direction in his life. Over the years, his interest and experience grew; and since 2003, Dr. Francis has delighted in sharing the intricate details of electrical engineering to generations of Pensacola Christian College students.

God-Picked Individuals

After graduation from a high school class of sixteen, Dr. Francis was appointed to attend one of the U.S. service academies. At the United States Air Force Academy, his love for math and science took flight. He was encouraged by an advisor to pursue a degree in electrical engineering, which was an important step toward what he is doing today. After he spent allotted time flying reconnaissance as an Air Force pilot, a general handpicked him to earn a master’s degree in the same field. Then, he worked as an electrical engineer in intelligence at the Air Force’s Foreign Technology Division. When it was time to return to flight, he instead chose to focus on his growing family and work as an engineer for the Mobil Chemical Company in New York.

The Lord continued to lead Dr. Francis and provided a valuable opportunity in Ohio: helping to start college-level electrical and mechanical engineering programs from the ground up with two other colleagues. “I taught there for about ten and a half years,” he said. “We had no curriculum, no building, no laboratories—but they had money.” And they successfully earned ABET accreditation for their first graduating class in 1995.

Dr. Keith Francis works with students

God used Dr. Francis’s experience as well as individuals to lead him to PCC. Since Dr. Francis and his wife, Jeanne, were homeschooling their five children, they met some PCC staff at a homeschool convention. Separately, other staff members shared the need for faculty in the Engineering Department. At the time, PCC had a successful mechanical engineering program but had to discontinue the electrical program due to a lack of qualified faculty members. Dr. Francis finally agreed to come to PCC and help re-start the electrical engineering program, which he later developed into the current accredited electrical concentration. Looking back to his time in Ohio, Dr. Francis can see how he was prepared to participate in the ABET accreditation process at PCC.

As a professor, Dr. Francis faithfully invests in his students. One of the main courses he teaches is the Electrical Engineering Design project which features a unique project each year. He teaches his students to design and develop electronic circuits, circuit boards, and other electronic designs to meet specific needs. He helps them prepare project plans and documents for their senior capstone project in the spring semester. Dr. Francis loves interacting with his students. At PCC, “you’re not dealing with hand-picked people but with God-picked individuals,” he believes. And those he has the privilege of teaching represent future electrical engineers preparing to influence the world for Christ. 

Teaching God’s Laws

Dr. Keith Francis prepares thoroughly for his lectures and sets an excellent example for his students. “Most people don’t know what electrical engineers do,” he said. “We do a lot of hands-on projects.” Not to be confused with mechanical engineering, electrical engineers are the masterminds behind designing electronic circuits, communications, signal processing, electromagnetic waves, and more to benefit mankind—involving an in-depth knowledge of mathematics. “Electrical engineers are a different kind of designer: designers that follow the Great Designer. Basically, we’re applying God’s physical principles to make all of that happen.”

Dr. Keith Francis works with students to launch a rocket.

Mark Baumann (Sr., WA) is motivated to one day become an engineer like Dr. Francis. “It is evident that Dr. Francis loves the material he teaches because he always has fun applications that help us understand and remember the concepts being taught,” he said. “I remember things from last semester’s lectures that I would have forgotten about by now if I did not have Dr. Francis’s analogies to help me remember. He also ties the material to real-life applications when possible, giving us more appreciation for the concepts.”

“I really like to explain technical details,” Dr. Francis admitted. “I take the mathematics they learn and show them what engineers do with it.” Then he draws his students’ attention to the principles in nature, showing how they relate mathematically and represent principles in different environments. “I advise them to watch for the energy and recognize it as God’s fingerprints. I teach them that as engineers, they need to obey the principles if they want to make stuff work. I help them to think about how God has put everything in order—and it works.”

Inspiring Future Engineers

Dr. Francis’s passion for electrical engineering, his love for math and science, and his character all motivate his students to emulate his example and thrive under his tutelage. He has helped Brandon Mynatt (Graduate Assistant) recognize his personal strengths. “[Dr. Francis] spent many hours working with me in his office to help me understand topics or work through project issues when I needed coaching,” Brandon shared. “He would tell stories with a basic application to what we were learning, from how a concept often related to safety or how things work in real life versus how the textbook may describe it. While he exceeds the standards for a teacher, his Christlikeness is what makes him stand out from the crowd of other teachers.” As he completes his M.B.A., Brandon anticipates pursuing management positions in aerospace or cybersecurity. 

Dr. Keith Francis speaks with a student

What has made a difference to Kenley Powell (Sr., OH) is how patient and understanding Dr. Francis is with his students. “Through those characteristics, he influenced my understanding of engineering topics,” he said. “Dr. Francis motivates me to pursue my future in engineering by encouraging me to ‘do my best as unto the Lord,’ to be a good Christian engineer, and an individual with integrity.”

Inspired to delve into his fascination with small electronics and digital circuits, Sebastien Pruneau (Jr., SC) is impressed by how proficiently Dr. Francis talks about concepts and how they fit in the bigger picture of electrical engineering. “The big thing that he impressed me with is his boldness of talk about God,” Sebastien pointed out. “He always referred to different laws as God’s laws. I desire to have that boldness for God in my career after college.”

Serving as an instructor at a Christian liberal arts college allows Dr. Keith Francis to invest in his students in any way he can. “The students are definitely growing spiritually and in other areas,” he added. “One of the most rewarding moments is hearing former students say, ‘I’m so glad I took that course.’ It’s hearing the feedback that you actually contributed to someone else’s life.”

Read more about how God is directing and working through PCC faculty and alumni.