Sybil Francis, Ph.D.

Sybil Francis, Ph.D.

President & CEO


Sybil grew up with a foot in two worlds - the daughter of a French mother who immigrated to the US to marry a man whose family tree dates to the American Revolution. A heritage French speaker she grew up hearing stories of life lived in two world wars in France on one side of her family and of strong women and the determination of a working class family on the other. Sybil’s interest in how human beings create and use knowledge for betterment or ill, and her passion to explore and engage those issues started early, perhaps sparked by her experiences in the turbulent ‘60s when the environmental movement and the Vietnam War were on the minds of young people. When the opportunity to attend college came along she set out to build the foundation she needed to pursue her passions and engage and contribute to the world around her. She was the only chemistry major in her class at Oberlin College not headed for Medical School but with her heart set instead on Washington, D.C. where she could apply her knowledge of science to the issues of the day. She rose from an entry level staffer over a period of five years to become the senior science advisor to a member of Congress on the issues she cared so much about. As an idealistic but practical young person in the political environment of the early 1980’s she quickly learned that progress is made through understanding the point of view of others even while advancing ones ideas. Her growing expertise positioned her to engage major legislative initiatives touching on energy and environmental issues. She also became interested in and engaged in emerging national defense issues of the day which prompted her desire to hone her thinking and analytical skills and pursue graduate studies.

True to her fascination with science and technology, how it is deployed and its impact on the course of human history and even our survival, Sybil entered the belly of the beast as she describes it: nuclear weapons and how they have both contributed to peace and threatened our existence. She accepted an unusual opportunity offered to her to become a resident scholar at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to study the history and evolution of nuclear weapons designed there and at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Her Ph.D. dissertation in political science awarded by MIT illuminates the dynamics of U.S. nuclear weapons history and is frequently cited by scholars in the field for its groundbreaking insights. After completing her Ph.D. her passion for public policy and public service was unabated and again drew her to Washington. This time she applied her newly acquired and honed analytical skills to her work in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. From there she helped shape policies impacting the massive scientific research enterprise of the U.S. government. Sybil’s love for this country and respect for our system of government deepened over the years she spent in public service. Underlying her fascination with science and technology is a deeply felt desire to contribute to making life better for others.

It was during her second tour in Washington that Sybil met her husband, Michael Crow, which changed her life and ultimately brought her to Arizona. A meeting at Columbia University where Michael was situated as one of the leaders of the university sparked a meeting of the minds and love. They shared a passion for understanding the dynamics of knowledge creation and management and how it is both shaped and shapes human history and evolution. And they shared more, bringing their beautiful daughter Alana into the world in New York City. Sybil also embraced her new extended family, Michael’s two now married children and five grandchildren. Not long after their new life in New York started together, opportunity knocked and Sybil enthusiastically followed Michael to Arizona for a new adventure when he was appointed the president of Arizona State University in 2002. Having spent most of her career in Washington, D.C., Sybil was ready to don a new hat and take on the world from a new perspective in one of the great laboratories of democracy in the U.S.

The connection Sybil felt to Arizona was immediate. Born and raised on the east coast, with family connections from Maine to Florida, Sybil fell in love with the desert. She embraced her new home whole-heartedly, inspired by the sense of opportunity and the welcome she received. She became an avid hiker and enjoyed the growing food scene in the Phoenix metro area where she and Michael live. Her passion for being part of something bigger than herself unabated, she eagerly accepted the opportunity offered by retiring ASU President Lattie Coor to help him build the Center for the Future of Arizona (CFA). Sybil was appointed President & CEO in 2018 and brings her passion for Arizona and considerable experience and skills to bear in this role. An agenda based on the shared hopes and dreams of Arizonans, CFA works in communities and drives systemic change at the state and regional level to ensure that all Arizonans enjoy economic prosperity, quality of life and the opportunity to advance their own lives. Committed to bringing Arizonans together to build a bright future for Arizona, CFA honors Arizona’s unique heritage and the natural beauty of the state Sybil now calls home.


Leadership and Staff