A love story made in Tempe

By

Jennifer Priest Mitchell

Phyllis (BAE, Physical Education, ‘53) and Frank (BAE, Math Education, ‘53) Saylor have a lifetime of memories and love, woven into the history of Arizona State University and their student teaching days.

The Saylors were education majors together on the compact Tempe campus. Phyllis says, “We met through our student teaching in 1952 and now, 63 years later, we’re still right here, a part of the community and just as in love.”

Frank grew up inTempe, and shares, “I went to a little country school on Rural Road, and about half the teachers were from the college. It was great. I loved that school, and thoseteachers had a very strong influence on me.

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“In high school, my amazing teachers helped me pursue my goals and become a teacher myself.” Though he loved math and took every math class he could in high school, Frank’s passion, from early childhood, was football.

“When I was just a kid, my folks would drop me off at Goodwin Stadium, which was where ASU played football back then. I told the gatekeeper that nobody made me pay, and they would just let me on in. I was about 10 years old at the time, and I’ve loved watching ASU football ever since.”

He played football in both high school and college and says the sport is really a part of him. “Rugged Frank Saylor” is what they called number 55, a 160-pound lineman and team captain for Tempe High School. Frank says, “I was all-state in high school. One time I blocked a punt, picked it up and ran it in for a touchdown when we played Miami. We won that game 7-2. Then I played at ASU for a year and a half before joining the Air Force, though I was always more of a fan than a player there. I’m a lifelong fan of ASU football – we both are!

“When Phyllis and I were seniors, we didn’t know each other, but both had to student teach in Mesa. She called me up and asked for a ride. I said that’s fine with me, but I don’t have a car. The fella who had the car agreed to let her ride along, since then we’d have three people splitting the cost of the gas.”

They both laugh and Phyllis says those car rides gave them time together to talk about anything and everything. Frank adds, “After all those hours talking, we were well-acquainted about our respective families and knew we were really suited for each other … for 63 years now!”

While student teaching, the two shared many students, including friends Rochelle Mackey and Carol Calhoun, who were “a bit precocious” according to Phyllis. “When the girls learned we were carpooling, they thought we should be dating, and eventually when we were dating and became engaged, the girls thought they were partially responsible. They kept in touch with us because they went to ASU and were involved in the alumni association, and Rochelle actually helped with and came to our 50th wedding anniversary celebration.

“Those are the kind of friendships you make at ASU,” Phyllis says. “People who meet here and become friends stay friends, stay in touch and really continue to share these special experiences and memories over the years and across the miles.”

Frank asked Phyllis to marry him a month after they graduated. In the year that followed, they were both teaching again – her in Mesa and him in Williams, so they lived apart. “Rather than buy me a ring when we got engaged, he bought a car so that he could come and see me that year between our engagement and our wedding, and I liked that – being able to see him!” They married on June 5, 1953, and Phyllis says he was always very practical like that – waiting to buy the ring. She says that practical and frugal attitude has served them well over the years.

In their early married life, Frank worked at AiResearch, a local mechanical engineering and research firm, and Phyllis taught middle and high school. When they started a family, she stayed home, describing herself as “the neighborhood mom” because they always had “a million” children at their house. Frank worked for AiResearch for 37 years and, Phyllis says, after their children were older, she returned to teaching, first in preschool education, and later teaching family living classes at Phoenix College.  

She says, “Your college experience helps you, regardless of your major. A lot of people don’t end up working in the field they majored in during college, but just being in a close-knit, good community really helps shape you and prepare for life.

“We owe ASU a lot. It’s really a part of us and our family. We had a great experience there; our son graduated from ASU after studying product design, and now our grandson is there, studying engineering in Barrett [the Honors College]. Back when we were students, it was small and you knew everybody.” Frank’s oldest sister was ASU student body president; his three aunts all graduated from ASU with distinction in the 1930s, and went on to teach; and Phyllis adds proudly that her sister and niece are also graduates and lifelong Sun Devils.

“We wanted to give back to ASU because I just think teaching is one of the most highly respected professions. I have such deep admiration for teachers. Of course we wanted our gift to support people who are student teaching since that’s how we met.

“We are blessed, and we have managed our money well. We had a good life and learned from our parents. We have made family, faith and friends the most important parts of our lives, and we believe in gratitude rather than complaints.

“We always like to say we will give first by giving 10 percent, then we save 10 percent and then we spend the rest with joy – those aren’t my words, but they are the words we like to live by.”

The Saylors have set up a $50,000 estate gift for teacher candidates at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College who are student teachers in the iTeachAZ program.