Frank and Diane Wheelock: The Engineer and the Environmentalist

Frank and Diane Wheelock shared a passion for giving back to their community.

Frank Wheelock and his late wife, Diane, shared a long-time passion for giving back to their community. Their combined view of who represents a philanthropist is broad: from a stranger who gifted a stick of gum to Diane when she was just four years old, to Frank’s heroes of giving – Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. Both Diane and Frank agreed that charity is about making your community a better place for everyone.

Frank, originally from Michigan, earned a degree in chemical engineering and an MBA, then served as a destroyer officer in the Navy before moving to Central New York in 1986 to work for Bristol Myers. His job allowed Frank the opportunity to travel overseas. In fact, his work took him across the Pacific Ocean 34 times and around the entire globe seven times! Frank enjoyed the challenges of traveling and learning about other cultures and languages, which he found to be interesting and inspiring.

While his professional life was rewarding, Frank’s lifetime of giving was also full to the brim. His philanthropy includes giving of his time as well as funding charities he cares about. Frank spent 28 years participating with the service organization, The Kiwanis Club, including being president, and 30 years delivering for Meals on Wheels. Diane grew up in an impoverished community in Ohio, but that didn’t hold her back from creating opportunities for herself. She was an excellent student, salutatorian of her high school class and received a full scholarship to attend Kent State University, where she graduated magna cum laude.

A keen environmentalist, Diane earned a degree in microbiology and a master’s in environmental studies, and eventually became an environmental education planning coordinator for New York State Parks. Frank joked that she was a literal tree hugger. Diane worked at Green Lakes State Park, ran a nature center at Clark Reservation and was a naturalist for the region. She often had school groups come through for tours. She taught them bird calls and took them on hikes. She was especially proud when they later returned with their parents. In addition to her environmental work, Diane also had a soft spot for animals and supported many animal rescue organizations such as the CNY SPCA, Wanderer’s Rest and more.

In 2018, the couple chose to establish the Franklin K. and Diane M. Wheelock Fund at the Community Foundation. Initially seeding the fund with unneeded retirement distributions, the couple also arranged to grow the fund through an estate gift. When fully funded, their charitable legacy will support the greatest needs in Central New York through the Community Foundation’s Community Grantmaking program. Frank trusts that partnering with the Community Foundation in this way will help the region grow and thrive. “Whatever the Community Foundation’s goals are, those are my goals too,” said Frank.

Frank looks to their daughter, Heather, and three granddaughters to carry forward his and Diane’s legacy of values. They named Heather as an advisor to a portion of their fund upon their passing. It was important to them to engage her in their philanthropy and to empower the next generation to give back in support of the community.

The Wheelocks’ histories and life experiences have led them to share a mutual tradition of generosity that will be sustained through their family and the work of the Community Foundation.

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