The legacy Dave Frohnmayer left at the University of Oregon
No personal attacks. No hidden agendas. Everyone is equal. No rolled eyes.
Those were the rules that staff had to follow during meetings when Dave Frohnmayer was leading the law school.
Frohnmayer was elected Dean in 1992 when the University of Oregon law school was in financial trouble. This tended to cause stress to the faculty in meetings, and his “rules of order” were his solution.
According to law Professor Caroline Forell, his rules were one way Frohnmayer’s leadership brought the law school back through its hardships.
“The only person who could really pull us out of that hole was Mr. Dave Frohnmayer,” Forell said. “He was Mr. Oregon… He saved us.”
Prior to Frohnmayer’s first year as dean, the law school hadn’t received any public endowments for funding.
According to Forell, the law school needed outside funding to hire new faculty to pull through the hard times.
In his first year as dean, Frohnmayer secured four endowments.
Frohnmayer died on March 9 from prostate cancer. A native Oregonian, Frohnmayer served as the University of Oregon president from 1994 to 2009 — the first Oregonian to be a president of a flagship university. After retiring from his presidency, Frohnmayer continued to serve the university as a professor teaching leadership courses through the Clark Honors College.
During Frohnmayer’s 15 years as president student enrollment increased from 16,700 students to 21,000. He led the university in two public fundraising campaigns, totaling over $1.1 billion. He also oversaw construction projects totaling over $650 million.
Included in that budget were the $89.7 million expansion of Autzen stadium, which added 12,000 seats, and the $24.5 million creation of the Knight Law Center, which increased space by nearly 50 percent.
Frohnmayer also oversaw the construction of the Moshofsky Center, budgeted for nearly $14 million, and the $11.7 million construction of the Casanova Center at Autzen Stadium. Both facilities benefited athletics, with the creation of an indoor practice field for the football team and an administrative section for coaches. Acrobatics and tumbling, women’s soccer, lacrosse and baseball were added to the UO athletic department under Frohnmayer’s presidency.
Throughout the expansive growth of the university, Frohnmayer always put his community first.
In 2009, the university faced a particularly difficult financial situation. Jim Bean, former senior vice president and provost, told university faculty that he was going to take five days of unpaid work to help the deficit.
Frohnmayer took six.
Bill Gary, solicitor general for Oregon during Frohnmayer’s first term as attorney general, said that Frohnmayer really believed in students at the university.
Former ASUO President Sam Dotters-Katz was one of those students. Dotters-Katz first term as ASUO president was Frohnmayer’s last year in Johnson Hall.
Dotters-Katz recalls attending several political marches to the capital beside Frohnmayer, and a meeting with him and Ginny Burdick, current Oregon legislature senate president pro tem.
Dotters-Katz remembers a day when Frohnmayer brought him and Burdick to a window facing a tree that has been sculpted into a bench.
Frohnmayer told Dotters-Katz that the bench was dedicated to his daughters, Katie and Kirsten Frohnmayer, who passed away from a rare blood disorder called Fanconi anemia, which can lead to bone marrow failure and cancer.
“He was the kind of person that could take any moment and make it personal,” Dotters-Katz said.
Gary said that after Katie’s death in 1991, he made a commitment to his family that he refused to let this disease shape the way they lived their lives.
“Everybody says they love their kids and family is important, but in Dave and Lynn’s case, that was really challenged in ways that most of us never have to experience because of the battles that their kids have fought with Fanconi anemia,” Dotters-Katz said.
Frohnmayer also lived with this disease, though his death is not believed to be related.
Frohnmayer and his wife started a support group for Fanconi anemia in 1986. The fund morphed into the Fanconi Research Institute in 1989.
In the first meeting to expand research on the disease, 12 scientists attended. In its most recent meeting that number grew to 220.
Laura Hayes, the executive director of the institute, said the success of the institute would not have been possible without Frohnmayer.
“He was the face of the fund,” Hayes said. The institute has raised over $29 million in 25 years.
Lauren Maloney was enrolled in Frohnmayer’s leadership course fall term.
Maloney often attended Frohnmayer’s office hours, and recalls asking Frohnmayer once to edit a paper. When he was done editing, he was heading to a basketball game and called Maloney to ask where on campus he could drop the paper off to her.
Frohnmayer also stressed to Maloney to write down her long term goals, and not lose sight of them in the midst of her undergraduate experience.
“That’s definitely something that I’ve started doing since then – this is only two weeks ago, but I’ve definitely started,” Maloney said.
Frohnmayer’s kindness to Maloney is just one example of his dedication to the service to others.
Frohnmayer also led a notable career in politics. He was elected to three terms in the House of the Oregon Legislature, from 1975 to 1981 and served as attorney general of Oregon from 1981 to 1991. During Frohnmayer’s time as attorney general, he argued seven cases in front of the Supreme Court – the most of any contemporary state attorney general to date.
He won six.
“I’ve never seen anybody command that courtroom the way that he could,” Gary said
During Frohnmayer’s political career, Gary said he inspired several public figures.
“If you look around the ranks of judges, professors, attorney’s elected officials, legislators — not just in Oregon but around the country, there are literally thousands of people just like me, who would say that their career in public service was inspired by Dave Frohnmayer,” Gary said.
Gary remembered a promise that Frohnmayer made him following a meeting of Attorney Generals in Juneau, Alaska.
The Attorney General of North Dakota posed the question to Dave, “When are you going to let Bill argue a case in front of the Supreme Court?”
Dave replied, “I think he ought to have the next one.”
Being a trained lawyer, Gary took out a napkin and outlined a contract of Dave’s promise.
He put the napkin in his wallet.
Upholding his promise, Frohnmayer gave Gary the opportunity to argue the case Employment Division v. Smith about two Native Americans that were fired and unable to receive unemployment benefits because they participated in their religious ritual of smoking peyote.
Today, Gary is a lawyer for the private practice Harrang Long Gary Rudnick P.C., and for the past five years Frohnmayer has been of council to this firm.
“We had the opportunity at the end of his career to work together again, as we did in the department of justice.”
Dotters-Katz said that Frohnmayer was the best president the UO has seen, and he will be dearly missed.
“The world was a better place when people like him were running it,” Dotters-Katz said.
A celebration of life will be held in Matthew Knight Area on March 21 at 2 p.m.
Follow Alexandria Cremer on Twitter @alex_cremer92