Alum gives $500k

Joe Lord

Dero Downing, then dean of Student Life, used to have weekly discussions with Dick Frockt’s professors about his progress at Western. On Saturday mornings, Frockt would meet with President Kelly Thompson to talk about problems with his progress.

The mentoring paid off.

Last week, Frockt made a contribution to the school that started it all.

“It’s just my way of saying thank you and giving them something back,” he said.

His contribution also carried Western over a fund-raising milestone.

The university announced a $500,000 gift from Frockt on Friday in the Board of Regents room in Wetherby Administration Building for the endowed Richard Frockt Family Professorship in History.

The gift will be matched by the state’s Regional Excellence Trust Fund and puts Western over the top in its captial campaign goal.

“The reason this is so important is that it’s the first endowed chair in the history department, and it’s only the second one in Potter College,” History Department Head Richard Weigel said.

The donation will allow Western to recruit a new faculty member who has teaching experience and a record of publication, Weigel said.

“It will be a major individual,” he said.

Weigel said a committee will be created to recommend someone for the position, but a faculty member already in the department could hold the chair in the meantime.

Frockt’s donation leaves the university’s capital campaign total at $90.2 million, according to a press release.

The Investing in the Spirit capital campaign ends June 30, said Tom Hiles, vice president for Institutional Advancement. The university will continue fund raising after that date.

President Gary Ransdell said Western has as many as 10 donation proposals that could become a reality before the end of the campaign.

Those that haven’t been made official before June 30 will still be pursued after Investing in the Spirit closes.

Hiles said the total amount raised from Investing in the Spirit, which began in April 1998, will be announced at a gala on Sept. 19.

Frockt has given several donations to Western before, including $5,000 to the university via the Internet more than a year ago, Hiles said.

Ransdell said the gift is special because it carries the campaign over its goal, but there are other reasons that set this one apart.

“I’m also pleased that it is in history, which enjoys one of our strongest collection of faculty,” Ransdell said.

He said fund raising is often easier in departments that generate professionals with greater incomes, such as business.

“First, you have to have a million dollars capacity to make a million dollar gift,” Ransdell said. “It’s just a financial reality.”

Frockt’s path has taken a few winds since he graduated from Western as a history major in 1967. He went to law school at the University of Louisville. He worked in telecommunications.

He now lives in Las Vegas.

Ransdell said he spent a couple of hours Friday with Frock and his wife, Janet.

“We talked about history, we talked about the department,” Ransdell said. “I certainly expressed my personal appreciation to both of them for what they’ve done and their belief in Western.”

Reach Joseph Lord at [email protected]