What began for Bob Froning and Roger Fredrikson as a partnership on the intercollegiate debate team in 1941 blossomed into a friendship and mutual devotion to their alma mater that has spanned a lifetime.
“Roger will get to you,” says Froning. “In 1941, he had me carry a typewriter as we hitchhiked to Durant, Oklahoma, for a debate tournament. On return, at midnight in Pittsburg, Kansas, we hocked our watches to buy bus fare. Roger takes a chance – he makes things happen.”
Following his graduation, Fredrikson recruited his future wife, Ruth, to OU, who became classmates and friends with Froning’s future wife, Carol. The couples kept in touch after college as their families grew and careers evolved. “When I joined the Board of Trustees in 1978, our friendship became even closer and my admiration for him grew,” says Froning. “At that time, the University was facing an enrollment and financial crisis. Roger became chairman and stepped up to provide the needed leadership like Robert Atkinson did a hundred years earlier. He later led in bringing the University back to recognizing its Christian mission, again giving critical leadership in troubled times.”
When both their wives passed away within six months of each other, their tie was strengthened further. “We feel for each other and can communicate so easily,” says Froning. “I really love the guy.”
The pair put their debate jackets on again in 2007 when Fredrikson asked Froning, now a life trustee, to help him persuade Kevin and Marylin Eichner to become president and first lady of Ottawa University. The couple had been approached twice in previous years about the possibility and had declined for varying reasons. This particular time, Kevin felt ready, but Marylin remained reluctant.
Using the same “take a chance” and “make things happen” attitude that he was known for, Fredrikson took Froning with him to visit the Eichners in their Saint Louis home. By “divine appointment,” Kevin was called away on business, so the two were able to visit with Marylin one-on-one over breakfast, and she witnessed the Ottawa Spirit firsthand through the duo. “We were so impressed with Marylin,” says Froning. “And apparently she was impressed with the case we made for OU’s need for Kevin’s leadership. Her reluctance at leaving her family and life-long residence in Saint Louis melted away within a week after our visit when they accepted the presidency.
“Two years ago, Kevin said to me, ‘Bob, you don’t think you did anything to get us to come here. But your visit was critical with Marylin. It’s why we are here today.’ If my visit to Saint Louis was truly the catalyst for the Eichners coming to Ottawa University, it yielded one of the most important products of my lifetime.”
Click here to read the rest of Bob’s story, The Chemistry of a Good Life.
Tiny URL for this post: http://tinyurl.com/bdtr9gu