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1976 Horatio Alger Award Winner

Francine I. Neff*

Former Treasurer
United States

"You don't know what life is going to offer you, good or bad; so learn all you can. When opportunity knocks, it's nice to be prepared."

Francine Neff was born in 1925 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her father worked in the silver mines of Colorado, then in the oil fields of Mexico as a tool pusher and dresser. When Neff was five, the family left Mexico and spent two years wildcatting in southern New Mexico and southwest Texas, where they lived in a tent near the oil fields. They moved to central New Mexico and Neff's father tried dry land bean farming during the drought and Depression years of the 1930s. Their home was a small wooden structure that had once housed a horse.

Neff graduated from her high school class as valedictorian and earned a P.E.O. scholarship to Cottey Junior College in Nevada, Missouri, where she was first in her class. She transferred to the University of New Mexico, majored in English, and received her degree in 1948. On graduation day, she married a college classmate, Edward John Neff.

In 1964, Neff became an active volunteer for the Republican Party. She served as a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1968 and 1972. Later, she became a member of the Republican National Committee.

While mopping the kitchen floor one day, she received a telephone call from the White House asking her to interview for the position of United States Treasurer. To prepare for her interview, Neff reported that she read Norman Vincent Peale's Power of Positive Thinking. While serving as the nation's 35th Treasurer, she was also appointed national director of the United States Savings Bonds Division.

Neff resigned her two federal commissions in 1977 and returned to her home in New Mexico. There, she became vice president of the Rio Grande Valley Bank in Albuquerque. She then served on the boards of Hershey Foods, E-Systems, Louisiana Pacific, and D. R. Horton, Inc. She also served as an officer in her family-owned investment business, Nets, Inc.

"I never wanted a career," said, Neff, who planned on being a homemaker. But she was inspired by President Eisenhower when he said, "Politics should be the part-time profession of every citizen." Neff believed that when you are a hard-working volunteer, things open up for you.

Of her Horatio Alger Award, Neff says, "It is a special honor in my life. All the Horatio Alger members inspire me."

* Deceased