ADA — DeBow Freed, president emeritus at the University of Findlay as well as Ohio Northern University, died Saturday at his residence. He was 94.
Freed served as president of University of Findlay from 2003 to 2010. He served as Ohio Northern’s ninth president from 1979 to 1999.
Freed was at first appointed president of the University of Findlay after then-president Kenneth Zirkle took a sabbatical in May 2003. Later that year, Zirkle resigned and Freed stayed on as university president.
“He raised the bar at the University of Findlay by stabilizing the institution financially and improving the attitude of the faculty and the campus, as well as the attitude of the community toward the campus,” states a profile on Freed on the University of Findlay website. From 2005 to 2010, the number of full-time faculty increased from 155 to 195, according to the website.
The doctor of pharmacy program was added and the physical therapy program was elevated to the doctoral level during Freed’s tenure.
In 2004, he initiated the concert and lecture series, which brings high-quality performances such as the Toledo Symphony Orchestra and Toledo Opera Company to the campus and Findlay community.
The university constructed an addition to the Mazza Museum, renovated the former Owens Community College campus, acquired the Rieck Center for Habitat Studies and constructed the Beckett Animal Science Building during the Freed years.
Freed and his wife, Catherine, established the Dr. and Mrs. DeBow Freed Contemporary Christian Lecture Series Endowment, which welcomes nationally known speakers exploring Christian responses to contemporary issues.
A 2009 Courier story about Freed stated, “Considering Freed’s sway over the university and his background — he is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy and a retired Army colonel — one might expect him to have a dominating personality. Instead, Freed, 83, is soft-spoken, humble, cautious” and spoke “in his measured phrasing and gentle voice.”
The same story noted that Freed was regularly to work by about 6 a.m. each day, but routinely showed up for student events in the evenings, including bringing snacks to students on the night before final exams week. And he was “known for running up the steps of Old Main.”
In a letter to the editor of The Courier in 2003, shortly after Freed was named UF president, Todd R. Bailey, who graduated from ONU in 2001, said, “Not only is he intent on challenging students academically, he also genuinely cares about them as people. You can see it in his eyes when he talks with you. Dr. Freed is one of a rare few who will ask how you’re doing and actually listen to your answer.”
Before serving as president of ONU, Freed had been president of Monmouth College in Monmouth, Illinois; dean of the college at then-Mount Union College in Alliance, Ohio; and faculty member in the Department of Physics at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York.
He served in the military and taught at the service professional schools prior to that, and spent seven years in Japan, Korea, Germany, Iran, East Africa and Vietnam. He was assistant to senior military and diplomatic representatives in the Middle East. While serving in New Mexico, he was chief of the group that analyzed and coordinated nuclear research and development.
Freed is among 180 West Point graduates who were profiled in a 2013 book, “West Point Leadership: Profiles of Courage.”
Freed’s military service included seven years overseas in Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Germany, Iran and the Middle East. He served as chief of the Plans Branch, U.S. Army Vietnam, and was head of the nuclear branch of the Defense Atomic Support Agency.
Freed’s wife, Catherine “Kitty” Freed, died in 2016. The Freed Performing Arts Center, a regional performing arts center at ONU, is named for the couple, and there is a room dedicated to the Freeds at West Point.
In 2010, Freed was awarded an honorary doctorate in humane letters from the University of Findlay.
Freed also served as trustee of the Toledo Symphony and the Blanchard Valley Health Foundation.
Arrangements are pending at Hanson-Neely Funeral Home, Ada.