While in elementary school in Queens, NY, Francis taught himself pen calligraphy and soon moved on to brush lettering. By the time he was in high school, he had learned how to gold leaf and was hand lettering paper signs for storefronts and shops.
After high school, Francis entered the religious teaching order of the Brothers of the Christian Schools (The Christian Brothers) where he received degrees in physics from The Catholic University of America and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. During his early years in the Order, he was responsible for initiating a print shop and a ceramics facility at the Brothers’ complex in Washington, DC. Later, he taught physics, chemistry, mathematics, and theology at high schools in Rhode Island, Brooklyn, Long Island, and Queens where he developed graphics and demonstrations for use on overhead projectors. Harvard University noted this work and invited Francis to design transparencies for a high school physics course it was developing for the National Science Foundation. Eventually, he designed six volumes of physics graphics that were used in classrooms throughout the country.
After Francis left the Order, he earned a PhD at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and then taught physics and history of science at the State University College at Buffalo. He continued designing graphics, now in relativity, and branched out into film making and computer animation. SUNY honored him with the President’s and Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence in Teaching.
In 1994, while still teaching, Francis decided to return to the “Letter Arts” and started Sign of Gold, Inc. with his son Stephen. He enjoyed it so much, he took early retirement and went full time carving. As a “recovering college professor”, Francis has garnered nine First Place Awards from the USSC Sign Design Competition and the International Sign Association since 1999, and has been profiled in Signs of the Times, Sign Business, and SignCraft magazines. He has authored over a dozen articles on sign artistry in five trade journals. Francis also has done pro bono gilding with the Society of Gilders in New Orleans Katrina-damaged churches.