Alumni Spotlight: Jeff Frank ('81)

by Frances Badgett

Seattle attorney Jeff Frank has worked in commercial, construction, and real estate litigation for more than 30 years. He is currently the president of the King County Bar Foundation, a nonprofit organization that funds the Housing Justice Project, offers free legal assistance to those in need, and sponsors diversity scholarships to open the doors of the law profession to underserved and underrepresented populations.

Jeff’s commitment to community service and his interest in the law started at Western. Though Western didn’t have a formal pre-law program, he managed to find courses that still inform his career today. He remembers clearly the courses he took from Eugene Hogan, who died in 2010.

“Hogan used the Socratic Method, which means that when you boldly state something, you have to back it up with facts and solid information. It was one of the most challenging courses I took at Western, but it served me well in law school,” Frank said.

Western also turned out to be a good starting place for a successful law career, Frank recalls. His major in psychology has been particularly useful in the courtroom. “There’s more to the law than understanding precedent. You have to understand people, understand what’s driving them. My formative years at Western prepped me well—especially the research and writing, not to mention the robust social life that usually started between classes around Red Square.”

Frank wanted more out of his education than a career, though. As he grew more active in his law career, he sought out philanthropy as well. He was involved in Giraffe Heroes Project, an organization on Whidbey Island that celebrates people who stick their necks out to do good in the world. The folks in the organization tour schools, inspiring students with their stories. The organization was founded by Ann Medlock and her spouse John Graham.

“Ann and John were early mentors of mine in the world of philanthropy. We shared stories in places where kids were underserved, and they’d hear stories about a neighborhood cleanup or projects for seniors and kids—stories that helped kids understand what happens when you do good for others.” 

He is currently inspired by his sister, Val Gorder, who is the President of St. Francis House, a non-profit serving the homeless. Ms. Gorder is also a Trustee at Seattle University and a founder of Gaard Development, which focuses on building workforce housing.

“Val and her husband, Greg Gorder, have always put their ideals into action,” Jeff said.

A few years ago the Gorders became educated on the complex problems associated with affordable housing in our region, so they took action—developing a dilapidated hotel in Seattle’s International District into workforce housing. 

“I’m so proud of Val and Greg’s selfless work in the community. They truly set the standard for how to leave a place better than they found it.”

In addition to his nonprofit work, Frank also gives back to Western through a scholarship he and his wife Dina, also an attorney, sponsored. 

“We tried to focus on people who are first-generation students. Education was very important to my parents. My dad left college after his military service to start his career at Nordstrom. My mom came from a family of teachers. Many of the recipients of our scholarship are the first in their families to go to college.”

His advice for Western students is to find people who are different from you and get to know them.  

“Extend yourself and try to surround yourself with people who are very different from you. It’s easy to find people who are like you, but challenge yourself with people who come from different backgrounds.”