Francisco, '78, captains a ship for NOAA

When Mike Francisco, '78, registered for our online e-mail directory last fall, our curiosity about his address (see the '70's directory) led us to the docks on the east side of South Lake Union where he, LCDR Michael D. Francisco, has his "office," the bridge of the research ship John N. Cobb, one of a fleet of ships maintained by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Curious as to how he got into this interesting line of work, we've persuaded him to supply the autobiography that starts below our thumbnail photos. Mike is due to be reassigned to shore duty on the East Coast in August. To provide background on NOAA and the Cobb, we contribute the following links before turning the story over to Mike.

About NOAA:

About the John N. Cobb:

More about the Cobb:

After graduating from Queen Anne, Mike Francisco attended the University of Washington and graduated with distinction in zoology in 1988. He was awarded a Master of Marine Affairs Degree by the University of Washington in 1995.

For a while Mike prepared for a career in dentistry, but happenstance diverted him. "In 1988, I was a laboratory technician at the UW Dept. of Environmental Health. I was finishing up my BS in Zoology and was beginning to apply to the UW Dental School. I found a three-ring binder in the placement center with one application left in it for the NOAA Corps. I read the brochure and sent in the initial application. I guess you could say it boiled down to a choice between becoming a dentist or going to sea. Piloting a ship just sounded better to me than donning rubber gloves and poking around in other people's mouths...or maybe it was just the prospect of more school that swayed me."

Mike is a commissioned officer in the NOAA Corps, the smallest of the seven uniformed services, with about 250 members.  These officers are responsible for operating and managing the ships and aircraft of the NOAA Fleet.

Although he has been assigned to NOAA shipboard and shore side billets in Seattle ever since he was given his commission as an ensign in 1989, his assignments have taken him far beyond his hometown. He has sailed across the equator in the Pacific Ocean at least five times, and has served in various locations from Fiji to Alaska to Saudi Arabia. He has served aboard the NOAA Ships DISCOVERER (1990 – 1992), MILLER FREEMAN (1995 – 1998), and JOHN N. COBB (2000 – 2003). Now Commanding Officer of the JOHN N. COBB, he is expecting to be transferred to Washington D.C. at the end of his present assignment.

“I have seen and learned much from my 14 years in the NOAA Corps, I think it’s a great career for someone who loves the sea, but who wants to have a variety of experiences ashore as well,” says Mike. In thinking back on the people that inspired him the most, he remembers his junior high school biology teacher, Mr. Charles “Chuck” Budd. “He took the time to stoke my interest in marine biology with various after school activities and extra work assignments. He did the same with my interest in the sea itself by taking me sailing on his boat. He made sure that my interest was more than a passing fancy by lending me a stack of books on sailing and piloting techniques, and insisted that I read them before I went sailing with him.”

While attending the University of Washington, Mike met Noriko Suzuki of Aichi, Japan. They were married in Japan in 1992. They have a daughter, Tiona, who was born in 2000.

About his NOAA future Mike says, "Nothing in life is certain, but I do hope to go back to sea again after a stint of shore duty, in command of a larger ship. I am willing to do what it takes to make that more likely, and in this case, that includes going to DC."

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