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Senators, colleagues and family honor late Dave Frohnmayer at Matt Knight Arena



Senators. Sons. Doctors. Daughters.

Everyone was equal in remembering Dave Frohnmayer and revisiting his life on Saturday.

Called “Mr. Oregon,” Frohnmayer led University of Oregon for 15 years, bringing enrollment up by thousands. Frohnmayer meant a lot to the university, but also the state at large. Flags at the state capitol buildings flew at half-mast when he died, honoring his work both as a state legislator and Attorney General.

Speakers at the celebration of his life were as varied as U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, UO Board of Trustees chair Chuck Lillis, Dr. Grover Bagby of the Fanconi Fund and many members of Frohnmayer’s family.

Classical music from a cello and three violins played as attendees entered. They were dressed in everything from full suits and ties to Patagonia jackets and H&M.

Frohnmayer’s lifelong friend Bill Gary MC’d the celebration of life, and he spoke with an intimate knowledge of Frohnmayer’s life– from Medford, OR, to Harvard, to Salem, to Eugene.

“Dave was a geek before geeks were cool,” Gary said.

Brother John Frohnmayer also doled out old memories of playing with squirt-guns and listening to the Green Hornet on the radio. Mira Frohnmayer, sister, said that Dave Frohnmayer was her closest friend and ally.

A video slideshow set to inspiring, timpani-heavy music depicted Frohnmayer through many years and many haircuts—a clean, combed childhood cut in the ‘40s and ‘50s to the longer, more unkempt style of the ‘60s and ‘70s he had in the classroom, to the reserved haircut he had in most of his later life.

There was a photo of him meeting Tom Cruise, and footage from his Frohnmayer for Governor campaign with the slogan, “A lot of people really like him.”

This seems true even in opposing political parties—though Frohnmayer was Republican, both senators who spoke were Democrats.

This is because Frohnmayer always chose to search for the center in politics, said Oregon Senator Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose.

“Those of us who love Oregon and hate what’s happened to our state’s polarized politics need to mark Dave Frohnmayer’s passing by making the same choice,” Johnson said.

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, was a student in Frohnmayer’s first class at the law school. He said that Frohnmayer made the often-stale subject of law come alive to his students.

“Just look around this campus—you will see Dave’s imprint,” Wyden said.

The ceremony reached an emotional peak when Frohnmayer’s children took the stage. Son Mark Frohnmayer talked about the last breakfast he had with his father, where his father apologized for having nothing profound to say.

Mark Frohnmayer shared a statement from Frohnmayer’s student Ricky Parker that sincerely touched him. Parker spoke on Monday about the one thing Frohnmayer modeled more than anything: “Always overshadow your greatness with your goodness.”

“That kid got to know him for a handful of hours,” Mark Frohnmayer said. “I had the fortune of decades of his attention and love and still, it wasn’t enough. I miss you, Pops.”

Mark Frohnmayer choked up as he said these words. He was the first to lose his composure, but not the last. His sister followed him speaking directly to her father, and Bill Gary gave last remarks.

Gary ended the service with the last stanza of the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling.

“If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!”


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Scott Greenstone

Scott Greenstone

Rehabilitated ex-homeschooler, former Emerald Senior News Editor, editor-in-chief of The Broadside at Central Oregon Community College, and freelance blogger for Barnes and Noble.

Now I write campus politics. Easy conversation starters include Adventure Time, Terry Pratchett novels and Arcade Fire.