Art of Aging: Woman heads Temple's fencing team for decades

PHILADELPHIA -- Temple University's women fencing coach has been leading the team for nearly half a century.

Nikki Franke is an All American, an Olympian and two-time national champion.

Forty-six-years ago, she was studying for her Masters at Temple when she was asked to lead the women's fencing program.

"Not many schools would let a kid just out of college start a program," she said.

As a coach, Franke didn't just start it, she built a top 10 program with a national championship and 4 coach of the year awards.

"I would describe her as an athlete's coach, a coach that athlete's respect, that athlete's want to work with," Josh Henry, assistant coach.

Coach Franke is a New Yorker by birth but a Philadelphian by choice.

She's had offers from many other schools but has always chosen to stay at Temple.

"I love coming to practice. I love working with the women we have here," said Franke.

She continued, "I set a very high bar, and I have very high standards."

"Coach is an amazing mentor. I always know I can come and talk to her about anything, whether it's fencing, my school work, or even my personal life," said sophomore Marielle Luke of the Temple fencing team.

"I think she truly cares about us as people and not just as athletes," added senior Jessica Rockford of the Temple fencing team.

Franke adds, "I mother them, yes, I keep my eyes on them all the time, and they know it."

Franke's fencing knowledge is legendary, but she knows there are deeper lessons her team needs to absorb.

"They learn independence and how to depend on themselves and yet, they also learn how to be committed and dedicated to other people," she said.

"I've been very blessed. None of this was planned," added Franke.

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