After graduating in 1995, Potts Franco
ended up in Florida, specifically
the Clearwater Marine Aquarium
where she was working with dolphin
rehabilitation. She was also teaching
biology at a local school.
But soon, Potts Franco’s interest in
performing came into the forefront.
She found a job that fit with both her
English and speech minors: working
at a small 1,000-watt radio station in
Bartow, Fla.
Baker always thought Potts Franco
would be in the classroom, although he
isn’t shocked that she went elsewhere.
I fully expected Shannon would
become a teacher,” Baker said. “(But) I
am not at all surprised about her career
path. The education at IU Southeast,
whether in biology or another field,
prepares the student for future
Potts Franco may have been surprised
at where her life was headed, but she
didn’t for a second regret her years of
studying biology.
It’s an education,” she said. “You can’t
lose a degree.”
Country strong
From that small taste of radio life in
Florida, Potts Franco turned her gift of
gab into a career. When her husband’s
opportunity to go to law school moved
the family to Tulsa, she put in an
application and auditioned at KVOO,
one of the country’s most historic and
leading country music stations.
KVOO began in 1926 and was the
home of country music radio legends
including Paul Harvey, Will Rogers,
and Bob Wills. In 2004, the station
was looking for a new co-host for its
morning show. Station managers saw
something in Potts Franco and offered
her the position.
If I weren’t in radio, I would be
On a boat with Greenpeace harassing
whalers in Japan.
Potts Franco had plans to become a
biology teacher or perhaps an animal/
environmental activist. But, like many,
her career after college drifted from its
original path.
She even changed her name. Now,
Potts Franco goes by Sunny Leigh
in her professional life as a
country music morning show
radio host.
Animal magnetism
Potts Franco grew up in
Southern Indiana and started as
a biology major at IU Southeast
in 1992. Her extracurricular
activities gave perhaps the first
hint that she was a student who
had varied interests.
Within her major, she was an
active member of the Field
Biology Club, traveling to Hawaii
and the Florida Keys to study
marine biology. She also was a
member of the Campus Activities
Board and Sigma Kappa sorority.
Oh, and she was a bat girl for the
Grenadiers baseball team.
In the classroom, retired professor
Claude Baker found her to be a bright
student with a keen interest in animals.
I first had Shannon in a zoology class,”
Baker said. “She has a definite love
for animals. Once she brought in two
orphaned mice and fed them with an
eye dropper. We all loved having
her in our classes.”
While her focus was on biology,
Potts Franco minored in English
and speech. Baker remembers
her as a gifted speaker with an
engaging personality who didn’t
mind being the center of attention.
Shannon likes being in the
spotlight,” he said. “She once
wrangled an appearance on ‘The
Price Is Right’ while on a trip to
I know it’s cliché, but my college
years were the best years in my life,”
Potts Franco said.
Leigh and her co-host Rowdy Yates, left.