E.K. Fretwell Jr.

Obituary
  • "I was unaware that EK and Dorry passed away recently. As I..."
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  • "Dr. Fretwell was larger than life. He was a caring man. I..."
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E.K. Fretwell Jr. CHARLOTTE - E.K. Fretwell Jr., of The Stewart Center, The Cypress, Charlotte, NC, born October 29, 1923, in New York City to two teachers, Jean Hosford and Elbert Fretwell, passed away on October 18, 2012. Raised in New York City and Weston, CT, E.K. earned his B.A. in English at Wesleyan University (CT), his M.A. in Teaching at Harvard University and his Ph.D. at Teacher's College, Columbia University. E.K.'s early career included serving as a staff writer for the American National Red Cross (1944-45) and as a vice consul at the newly opened American Embassy in Prague after World War II (1945-47). E.K. then enjoyed a long career in education. He taught at every level and served in a variety of executive positions. He was a middle school teacher in Brookline, MA, a high school and community college teacher in Evanston, IL, and a university graduate faculty member at Teacher's College, Columbia University, and the University of California at Berkeley. Administrative posts over 25 years included administrative secretary at the John Hay Whitney Foundation (1951-53), Assistant Commissioner for Higher Education, NY State Education Dept. (1956-64), University Dean for Academic Development at City University of New York (CUNY system) (1964-67), President of the State University of New York College at Buffalo (1967-78) and Chancellor of UNC Charlotte (1979-89). At Buffalo State, E.K. met the challenges of leading during an era of national unrest on college campuses. During his tenure there, he served as president of the American Association for Higher Education, chair of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, and chair of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. E.K. fulfilled his vision to make UNC Charlotte a modern metropolitan university. Under his leadership, University City was realized, the Urban Institute was expanded, enrollment grew from 8,700 to nearly 13,000, the number of master's programs tripled, three colleges merged into the new College of Arts and Sciences, the Graduate School was created, and the university expanded connections with the greater Charlotte business community. As he had done previously at the CUNY system and later at Buffalo State, E.K. successfully attracted under-represented populations to UNC Charlotte and increased the diversity of staff and faculty. While at UNC Charlotte, E.K. chaired the American Council on Education and was recognized as one of the 100 most effective chancellors in the U.S. in a national study. After his retirement from UNC Charlotte in 1989, he served as interim president of the University of Massachusetts five-campus system (1991-92) and of the University of North Florida (1998). He was also a consultant to institutions of higher education in several states and authored two books on higher education management. He chaired the NC Education Standards and Accountability Commission, served on the NC Medical Board and the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra Board, and was a president of the Rotary Club of Charlotte and of the Mecklenburg Boy Scout Council. At 6'7", E.K. was an imposing but approachable figure as he walked across the UNC Charlotte campus, stopping often to chat with students, faculty and staffers. He had open-office hours and is reported to have served students at midnight at the cafeteria during exams. E.K. was an avid train enthusiast, walker and hiker, everywhere he lived and traveled. He had a lifelong passion for travel and music, which he shared with his wife Dorrie. Known for his storytelling to people of all ages, he found special joy creating stories for his four children and seven grandchildren. E.K. was predeceased by his beloved wife, the former Dorrie Shearer, a professional soprano and psychologist, with whom he celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in 2011. He is survived by his loving family: four children, Barbara Fretwell (Peter Cooke), Peggy Cross (John), Jim Fretwell, and Katie Fretwell (Bob Saul); seven grandchildren; and his brother, J.H. "Stretch" Fretwell (Melanie). E.K.'s family would like publicly to extend its gratitude to the staff at The Stewart Center of The Cypress and the Hospice and Palliative Care Charlotte Region for their support and care. A celebration of life service is scheduled for Friday, November 16 at 2:00 pm at Myers Park Presbyterian Church, Charlotte. The family will receive friends at a reception at the Clubhouse of The Cypress, 3442 Cypress Club Dr., Charlotte, on Thursday, November 15 from 3:00 to 4:30 pm, and then again following the service at the church. An interment committal will be held privately. In lieu of flowers, donations in E.K.'s memory may be sent to the E.K. and Dorrie Fretwell Scholarship for Merit (FD-440048), payable to The UNC Charlotte Foundation, 9201 University City Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28223, or Hospice of Charlotte at 1420 E. 7th St., Charlotte, NC 28204 or www.hpccr.org. Arrangements are in the care of T.H. Robertson Funeral Service Lic.; friends are welcome to share condolences at www.throbertson.com or P.O. Box 31581, Charlotte, NC 28231.

Published in Charlotte Observer on Oct. 21, 2012
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