Texas Tech University

Her Grandfather Made Texas Tech Home for Current Student

June 16, 2024

Her Grandfather Made Texas Tech Home for Current Student

Mark Frank went to work early convincing Ashlyn Pickens that she should be a Red Raider.

(In honor of Father's Day, we're sharing one student's story of how a multigenerational connection to the university has helped shape and influence her life.)

That Ashlyn Pickens found her way to Texas Tech University should be no surprise. Her grandfather had been working on making that a reality in her life literally from day one.

“The day she was born, I slipped a pair of Texas Tech booties on her little feet,” Mark Frank recalled. “I had no idea she would attend Texas Tech, but I am so glad she did pick it as the university to call home. She has made the most of her college experience.”

For Mark, it took hardly any time at all to fall in love with the campus, having driven to Lubbock with three high school friends from Mansfield, Texas. Their high school counselor had encouraged them to check out Texas Tech.

The first day of what would become a lengthy life adventure soon began.

“It was our first major road trip, and it was a blast,” he said. “The campus was impressive with its spaciousness and its beautiful Spanish architecture. One of my buddies ended up not going to Texas Tech, but the other two and myself spent our first semester in Carpenter Hall.”

That was 1977, and while the university's appearance has changed dramatically in the years since, one thing that hasn't changed is its ability to charm.

“My bedtime stories were of my grandfather's adventures from when he attended Texas Tech,” said Ashlyn, a fourth-year Psychological Sciences student in the College of Arts & Sciences. “The stories were filled with a risky armadillo named Texas Red that would wander the campus.

“Every time we had college dress-up day at school, I would wear a Red Raider jersey, and on every essay where I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, the first sentence would start, ‘After I graduate from Texas Tech.'”

No wonder Ashlyn, a native of Tolar, Texas, was laser focused on becoming a Red Raider. Her grandfather's stories connected her with Texas Tech's attributes of appeal. He earned a bachelor of business administration in management from what is now the Jerry S. Rawls College of Business in 1984 so he knew firsthand the place was uniquely picturesque. The people were incredibly helpful, and the payoff would be unbelievably life changing.

When Mark was at Texas Tech, he and his buddies enjoyed throwing a football or Frisbee in the quad outside their residence halls, and if a resident assistant wasn't looking, they might even have done that in the hallways a time or two. 

And there were autumn Saturday afternoons, when the football stadium came to life and everything else seemed to stand still. 

“I will never forget the impressions from my first collegiate football game,” Mark said. “The Masked Rider on a solid black horse (Happy V) running at full gallop down the sidelines with reins in his mouth and both guns up in the air.”

How could anyone hear about that and not want to experience it?

“The reason I applied to Texas Tech is that it was my dream school since before I can remember,” Ashlyn said. “The campus is beautiful. The student body is energetic and loyal. One of my cousins graduated last year from Texas Tech. My family is everything to me so following in their footsteps is not something I take lightly. 

“Texas Tech was the first university I applied to, knowing it was the right thing for me to do.”

Mark secured part- and full-time jobs with Lubbock Cotton & Oil as he worked his way through Texas Tech. He also had student loans and support from the Veterans Administration since his father had served as a tail gunner and was wounded in World War II.

He has also been a consistent source of inspiration for his granddaughter.

“He has always been someone I could count on to support me,” Ashlyn said. “For every event I participated in, he was the first person to sign up. At every father-daughter dance, he made a whole night of it and dressed up in his nicest suit – for me.”

Mark continues to be there for Ashlyn and maintains a connection to the university, attending the annual Kappa Delta dad weekend without fail. 

For both, their shared Texas Tech heritage has reinforced their family tie, giving them a point of commonality that has enriched their lives and their relationship.

“Ashlyn has blossomed into a person who has unlimited potential and is capable of anything,” Mark said. “And Texas Tech is not only a world-class institution, it is also in a safe and welcoming city with good people who will go out of their way to help.”

Likewise, Ashlyn has a lot of mental snapshots of her grandfather's compassion and care for her.

“He doesn't know that he has done so much for me,” she said. “I believe in ‘meant to be.' My grandfather is not biologically mine, but that has never caused our bond to waver. He didn't hesitate to stand up and raise me as his. I have never been more grateful that fate brought my grandparents together so that I have such a strong father figure as my papa. The woman I am today would not have been close to possible if it wasn't for him showing me undying love and support.”

From Mark's perspective, there may be even more good news ahead. Another granddaughter, Cailyn, and grandson, Carter, will each turn 17 this year. Who knows? They may also find their way to Texas Tech.

“They are also equally smart and talented,” Mark said. “I am hopeful they too will end up calling Texas Tech University their home. Go Raiders.”

And Happy Father's Day.

Texas Tech Now