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DeBow Freed


1925 - 2020
DeBow Freed Obituary
(News story) ADA, Ohio - DeBow Freed, president of Ohio Northern University for 20 years and of the University of Findlay for another seven years, whose long tenure leading private schools followed a 23-year military career that included assignment to the West Point faculty, died Saturday in his Ada home. He was 94.

He was hospitalized in December and became ill again recently, said Melanie Caw Woods, a friend who met Mr. Freed in 1979 as he sat down with students at lunch and asked them their majors and hometowns, and whether they liked the food. She was a freshman. He was the new president, unbeknownst to her. Then she saw his picture in the the student newspaper.

"For the rest of our relationship, I teased him we were freshman together,'' said Ms. Caw Woods, who practices law in Ada. She and his wife, Catherine, became close as well.

Mr. Freed remained president emeritus of Ohio Northern, which he led until 1999, and of the University of Findlay, where he was president from 2003-10. Until his December illness, he went to his offices on the Ada campus and in Findlay.

"At age 94 he still felt he could be of service," Ms. Caw Woods said.

In a statement, Ohio Northern President Dan DiBiasio said Mr. Freed's "impact on our university spans two decades of faithful service to the highest ideals of faith-affiliated colleges and universities: quality education, a strong sense of community, and caring concern for the welfare of others. He and Kitty leave a legacy of leadership at ONU for which we and future generations are forever grateful."

An article on the University of Findlay website credits Mr. Freed with stabilizing the institution financially, which allowed construction of an animal science building and an addition to the Mazza Museum, which features art from children's books.

Mr. Freed, addressing faculty and staff to open the 2003 fall term at UF, said, "If you have good teaching and concern for students, finances can be fixed. We have good teaching and concern for students, and finances can be fixed."

In 2010, Mr. Freed was awarded an honorary doctorate in humane letters from UF. He and his wife established the Dr. and Mrs. DeBow Freed Contemporary Christian Lecture Series Endowment, which welcomes nationally known speakers exploring Christian responses to contemporary issues.

On the Ohio Northern campus, the couple were ubiquitous - at sporting events, exhibitions, concerts, recitals.

"He and Miss Kitty, in their bones, it was in their DNA, to serve others," Ms. Caw Woods said. "By serving universities, he was serving the youth who would then be the leaders to society."

As he retired as Ohio Northern president, The Blade reported that university enrollment was about 3,000 students; the endowment exceeded $100 million; 15 majors had been added; and new facilities included performing arts, sports, and nature centers.

Mr. Freed served on the board of the Toledo Symphony, which performed at Ohio Northern and at UF during his tenure.

"I have the deepest regard for DeBow. We became close colleagues in a way," said Robert Bell, symphony president emeritus. "He had diverse interests, but culture and the arts were important to him. He was the consummate gentleman, the consummate connector to people."

Mr. Freed formerly was dean of Mount Union College president in Alliance, Ohio, and president of Monmouth College in Illinois.

He was born Aug. 26, 1925, and grew up near Hendersonville, Tenn. He graduated from Gallatin High School at age 17 and was appointed to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, from which he graduated at age 20.

Commissioned to the infantry afterward Mr. Freed served in Japan, Germany, Iran, Korea, and Vietnam.

While serving as chief of the nuclear branch of the Defense Atomic Support Agency in New Mexico, he earned degrees in nuclear engineering - a master's from the University of Kansas and a doctorate from the University of New Mexico.

He was assigned to the West Point faculty to help update the academy's physics program and to start a nuclear engineering academic major. The academy dedicated a room to Mr. Freed in 2012, and his story is featured among notable West Point graduates in the book, West Point Leadership: Profiles in Courage.

He and the former Catherine Moore married in 1949. She died Nov. 25, 2016. Their son, DeBow Freed II died Sept. 15, 2014.

Mr. Freed is survived by sisters, Ms. Caw Woods said.

A video remembrance memorial time will be held at College First Church of God, Findlay, from 4-6 p.m. March 3. A memorial service is set for 11 a.m. March 7 at ONU's English Chapel.

A memorial service is tentatively scheduled for 10 a.m. June 23 in the Old Cadet Chapel at West Point, N.Y.

Arrangements are by Hanson-Neely Funeral Home, Ada.

This is a news story by Mark Zaborney. Contact him at [email protected] or 419-724-6182.
Published in The Blade on Feb. 12, 2020
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