Francis R. McLean, Publisher of the Argus Observer 1968 – 1997
Devoted to his responsibilities in the newspaper business, coupled with his understanding of building community and the importance of all elements of the community exemplify the kind of person Francis R Mclean is.
Since 1979, the Oregon Newspaper Hall of Fame Award has recognized Oregon newspaper people who have made outstanding contributions to Oregon newspaper journalism or, through Oregon journalism, to Newspaper journalism generally or to their communities, their region, or their state.
Fran McLean was 36 years old when he moved to Ontario with his wife, Joy, and their two children, Scott and Heather. The young couple relocated to Malheur County so Fran could take a position with the Argus Observer as its new publisher.
Born in Ohio, McLean graduated from Bowling Green University with a degree in education. From 1956 to 1959, McLean was a pilot in the United States Air Force. After leaving the Air Force, McLean began working in the newspaper industry, which eventually led him to Ontario.
After assuming the helm of the Argus, McLean quickly became part of the community. He was active with the Malheur County Fair Board, Malheur County Water Resources Committee, Malheur Mental Health Governing Board, Boy Scouts Governing Board, Treasure Valley Patrons of the Arts, Oregon Newspaper Publisher’s Association (president 1986), Ontario Chamber of Commerce (president) and Ontario Industries, Inc.
McLean also has won a vast assortment of awards during his career, including the Holy Rosary Hospital Appreciation Award, Ontario Chamber of Commerce Distinguished Citizen Award, American Business Women’s Association Boss of the Year, Oregon Citation Award, Oregon Business Leader of the Year, JTPA Governor Service Award, JTPA Presidential Award, Oregon Human Development Corporation Individual Service Award and Ontario Chamber of Commerce Man of the Year.
While McLean’s many awards stem from the hard work he put into the community, he most notably is remembered for helping to establish the Help Them To Hope campaign in 1973, a project the newspaper took on after the Elks dropped its Christmas charity program. In 2011, McLean stepped down as chair of HTTH but still remains heavily active in the operations.
When the program began, McLean was there. He helped make sure the effort got off the ground and serviced area families in need during the holiday season. Though it started small, it has grown into a major drive that incorporates communities from Huntington to Adrian and Harper and Weiser to Parma and all points in between. Help Them To Hope services more than 870 families each year, making sure they had food for the holidays and presents for children and adults.
McLean was also a driving force in establishing the Four Rivers Cultural Center in Ontario which provides the community with a venue for the arts, including theater performances or drama, music, art gallery exhibitions, a comprehensive museum of the four cultures that settled this area, and additional educational and entertainment programs. The Meyer-McLean Theater is named in honor of Fran and Joy.
This facility is part of the Treasure Valley Community College campus and the college shares use of the facility. This underlines McLean’s commitment to education and the college as part of the growing community he has had such a significant part in building.
McLean was sure to make his mark on the paper, building the community was an important part of building the Argus Observer. Since taking over the paper from former Publisher William F. MacKnight, McLean built the Argus Observer from a twice weekly to a six-day-a-week paper and saw the paper increase its circulation from 3,000 to 8,000. In 1994, the paper was honored by the ONPA for the largest circulation increase in a single year. The Treasure Valley Reminder also expanded its circulation from 3,000 to 15,000. McLean understood the importance of the agricultural element of the community and for many years, the monthly agricultural magazine “AcreAge” was published under his direction.
While McLean was heavily involved with the community, he shrugs off his service claiming it was simply something that needed to be done. “I did that because it was important,” he said. “It is important.”
McLean continues to be active in his community since his retirement from the Argus Observer on Dec. 31, 1997. He currently sits on the Board of Directors for the Four Rivers Cultural Center, member of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis Club of Ontario, Four Rivers Healthy Community and Ontario Ambassadors. In 2007, he was named Ontario Christmas Parade Marshal, and he and his wife Joy were named Ambassadors of the Year in 2008.
McLean continues to raise funds for several local organizations, including Boys and Girls Club of the Western Treasure Valley, Four Rivers Cultural Center, St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Help Them To Hope, Festival of Trees and Steve’s Hometown Dealerships Charity Golf Tournament.
The award was presented July 18, 2013 at the Oregon Newspaper Publisher Association Summer Convention in Bend Oregon. Argus Observer Publisher John Dillon introduced McLean saying, “I am proud to call Fran my friend.”