Dr. DeBow Freed, former ONU and Findlay president, dies at 94

By Sam Shriver - sshriver@limanews.com



ADA — Dr. DeBow Freed, an area legend in education, passed away Saturday at his Ada home at the age of 94.

Dr. Freed had a long career at Ohio Northern University, serving 20 years as president and then retiring in 1999. In 2003 he accepted the position of president of the University of Findlay and then retired for good in 2010.

“There’s almost nothing like life on a campus,” Freed said in a Sept. 17, 2003, article in The Lima News. “It’s invigorating. You have the joy and the pleasure of associating with young people, and with faculty and staff. It is an intellectually stimulating climate as well as just a pleasant and fun place to be.”

Freed came back to the Ada campus in 2010 and was serving as President Emeritus until his death on Saturday.

During Freed’s presidency at Ohio Northern University, a number of campus buildings were renovated or expanded to better support the university’s operation. Freed also worked to add new buildings to campus, most notably including a new Center for Performing Arts which would be named in his honor. He also added a new sports center that included an indoor track and tennis court as well as basketball and volleyball courts.

Freed also worked to improve the outdoor athletic facilities, including the introduction of a 2½-mile running path which became known as the “Green Monster.”

Freed had previously been the President of Monmouth College in Monmouth, Illinois, between 1974 and 1979, dean at Mount Union College in Alliance, Ohio, between 1969 and 1974, and a faculty member in the Department of Physics at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York, between 1966 and 1967.

In a Lima News article from Nov. 10, 2018, Freed wrote a story about his military service and how he got involved in education.

He said he began his military service at age 17 and spent seven years overseas in the 26th, 32nd and 35th Infantry Regiment of the 1st, 7th and 25th Army divisions in Japan, Germany, Korea, Vietnam, and Iran and the Middle East.

He graduated from the Infantry School, Army Command and Staff College, Air War College and earned a master’s degree from the University of Kansas and a Ph.D. from the University of New Mexico. He was chief of the nuclear branch of the Defense Atomic Support Agency and later was assigned to West Point to help strengthen the physics program and initiate an academic major in nuclear engineering.

He and his wife, Catherine Freed, enjoyed military service but believed they could make additional contributions in private church-related higher education as part of their commitment to lifelong public service. They decided to leave their home and appealing position at West Point after 23 years of active duty military service in the Army to fulfill their lifelong public service commitment through leadership of church-related colleges and universities. That led to his becoming dean of one church-related university and president of three other church-related universities for a total of 32 years as president of church-related universities.

Observers noted his and his wife’s prominent role in college, church and community activities, and that the institutions they served prospered greatly from their devotion to serving others.

They left the military service for higher education service. He notes that the commitment and experience in the military service was a big factor in their later life of community and higher educational service. At colleges and universities they served, he and his wife entertained 3,000-4,000 students, faculty, staff, alumni, community members and university guests in their home annually.”

Freed’s wife Catherine died on November 25, 2016.


By Sam Shriver


Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.

Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.

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