Dr Roger Manley Francis' lasting legacy at Liverpool

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Dr Roger Manley Francis (BDS Dentistry 1968)

Today, we remember our extraordinary friend and alumnus, Dr Roger Manley Francis. His family shared with us how much he valued the amazing opportunities that his degree from the University of Liverpool gave to him and how his life experiences inspired him to leave a gift in his Will to the University, which will fund a postdoctoral research fellowship in the School of Dentistry. Roger's family has written a heart-warming tribute, and we hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did …

“… a Bachelor of Dental Surgery degree from the University of Liverpool – check;
dental gear – check;
a thick snowsuit – check;
engine at max – check;
flaps – check;
brake release – check;
take-off - from a snowy Northern Canadian airstrip... and then... CRASH! The sound of the plane as it bounced into the air on a ridge and dropped down without its wheels – parts of the plane hit the ground. Luckily it came to a stop!”

A 24-year-old Roger Francis, from Wrexham, North Wales, would never have thought that his degree from University of Liverpool’s School of Dentistry would lead to him escaping from a small prop plane in Canada’s Great White North while fearing that it would explode – but there he was outside of the plane, still conscious, still breathing and still in one piece.  The most exciting day of his young life! That is what Roger’s degree kickstarted for him. An opportunity to have adventures, to be independent and to live on a new Continent far from home.

Roger emigrated to Canada in 1969 after receiving his degree. He began in Canada’s Capital, establishing a homebase with his brother Anthony and sister-in-law Lynne, while working at the Ottawa Civic Hospital. He didn’t stay in Ottawa long as adventure called. He was offered an exciting position as a flying dentist based in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. In all types of weather, he would squeeze into the small planes that connected the northern communities and provide much needed dental services to people living in remote locations, including Inuit children. This was a role he enjoyed and one that also started his affinity for North American art & sculptures.

Roger made the decision to leave the north in June of 1971 as he had convinced his friend and fellow University of Liverpool graduate, Gordon Fleming, to take over his flying dentist position. From Canada’s north, he made his way to the west coast, taking on a dental residency program at Shaughnessy Hospital in Vancouver. This position started on January 3, 1972. To ensure he arrived on time, Roger began his journey on Boxing Day, leaving his family in Cornwall, Ontario.  He drove 4,500 km across Canada in the harsh winter, and slept in his VW van with nightly temperatures hovering between -30 and -40°F.  Roger arrived in Vancouver on January 2. - another adventure safely completed.

With his love for Canada now firmly established, Roger became a Canadian Citizen in 1975 and began working for the Department of Veteran Affairs in both Vancouver and Victoria, BC’s Capital. He connected with people easily, making friends wherever he went. He was passionate about fitness and enjoyed the many friendships that developed from participating in sporting activities, whether it was swimming at the Vancouver Aquatic Centre, or as an early adopter of skiing in Whistler.  In fact, he was pictured in the Vancouver Sun jumping up to catch a frisbee while wearing a full length cast on his leg which he had broken while skiing. The caption said, ‘nothing keeps some people from exercising’ - that was Roger.

It was at the start of this West Coast life that Roger met his partner, Donna, in 1978.  They spent the next 45 years together breathing life into their North American adventures. They loved the outdoors, hiking extensively throughout Vancouver’s north shore, Whistler and Invermere regions. Their annual backpacking trip through the Grand Canyon was an absolute favourite and sharing that ‘trip of a lifetime’ with so many friends was a joy. They kayaked and camped extensively along the West Coast of Vancouver Island enjoying quiet as they were alone with the sea life. On one trip, they found a bay with grey whales and spent the day paddling amongst them, an incredible experience. They loved Hawaii where they walked next to flowing lava, snorkelled with the fish, and Roger tried hula dancing. He was always happy to find a new experience. They cycled 135km from Germany to Switzerland with stops for visits with friends and one hiking trip to Eggishorn.



Supporting family and friends was another of Roger’s passions. He would gladly help a friend do the research or the negotiations to buy a computer or a car or even a condo. He supported his partner to complete her PhD and become Dr Donna MacIntyre. He welcomed his niece into his home when she started her adventures on Canada’s west coast. He wanted people to succeed and helped as best he could.

Sadly, on October 13th 2023, we lost Roger after a difficult challenge with pancreatic cancer. Donna was with him as always, providing love and comfort.

Roger’s story will continue in the hearts of those closest to him and through his lasting legacy at Liverpool.  Roger wished to support those who are at the beginning of their journey an action which captures Roger’s spirit - someone who cares about where they came from but empowers new paths to the future, from generosity.

The School of Dentistry are proud to introduce the “Dr Roger Manley Francis Oral and Dental Postdoctoral Research Fellowship”.  The Research Fellowship will centre on one of three main research groups: Oral Health, aiming to enhance health outcomes across the life course and address health inequalities; Dental Innovation, which focuses on developing and implementing innovative therapeutic techniques and care pathways; and Clinical Dental Education, aiming to improve health outcomes.


If you are inspired by Roger’s story to consider supporting the University of Liverpool through a gift in your Will, please contact Carolyn Jones at carolyn.jones@liverpool.ac.uk

You could support life-changing, world-leading research into the biggest challenges faced by society, shape the student experience through capital projects and campus infrastructure, or fund scholarships, prizes and bursaries which allow students to study at Liverpool who otherwise would not have been able to. Your Liverpool legacy will have an amazing impact for generations to come and help make good things happen.