Friends, family remember the life and contributions of Dave Frohnmayer

The three flags outside Matthew Knight Arena — the red, white and blue of the United States, the blue and gold of state of Oregon, and green and yellow of the University of Oregon — flew at half-staff Saturday.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown ordered that flags flying at public institutions across the state be lowered in honor of the passing of former UO President Dave Frohnmayer; a man whose life and career embodied the colors of each.

Frohnmayer’s public memorial service was held at the arena to accommodate more than 2,000 mourners who flocked to Eugene from around the country to pay their final respects.

Bill Gary, a longtime family friend and law associate of Frohnmayer, presided over most of the ceremony. Gary gave the opening and closing remarks and introduced several speakers, including state Sen. Betsy Johnson, Dr. Grover Bagby of the Oregon Health & Science University, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden and UO Board of Trustees Chair Chuck Lillis.

Frohnmayer’s family — including his brother, John; sister, Mira; his son, Mark; and his daughter, Amy — spoke in remembrance of their brother and father.

Although the event began with a moment of solemn silence led by an Oregon State Police honor guard, music and singing were a strong theme throughout the service. Performers included the Sharon Schuman string quartet, the men’s a cappella chorus, the Eugene Symphony and the Frohnmayer Family Choir.

The music reflected Frohnmayer’s lifelong support of the arts, as well as his commitment to expanding the UO School of Music and Dance — a commitment inspired by his mother, MarAbel, a UO graduate for whom the music building is named.  This past January, the entire Frohnmayer family was honored with the Advocate for the Arts Award, presented by the Eugene Symphony Association.

Shortly after Frohnmayer died, the music school published an article detailing his storied relationship with the school and his profound love of music. When Frohnmayer was just 17 years old he created a unique arrangement of Gretchaninoff's "Our Father," which was not performed until last year, when the Oregon Brass Quintet played it for the first time.

A video of their performance was made public on the day Frohnmayer died, as a tribute to the man behind the music.

While his love of music drew him to the School of Music and Dance, Frohnmayer’s first home at the UO was the School of Law. He began at the university in 1971 as a law professor, before his political ambitions took him to Washington, D.C., and Salem just a few years later.

While Frohnmayer spent several years earning legal victories before the U.S. Supreme Court and winning six statewide elections, as a state representative and as Oregon’s attorney general, the UO called him back home in 1992, when he accepted a position as dean of the School of Law.

His commitment to making personal connections among those he worked with, while dean and as a professor, led to an outpouring of remembrances and condolences from law graduates, current faculty and former colleagues.

Two years later, Frohnmayer accepted an appointment as the university’s interim president and then its permanent leader, the 15th person to lead the UO.

From 1994 to 2009, Frohnmayer worked to expand the university, by lifting enrollment by more than 4,000 students during his tenure and in $650 million in new construction projects. He helped raise more than $1.1 billion during two fundraising campaigns, just as government funding for higher education in Oregon was slashed.

In addition, he made the university a founding member of the Association of Pacific Rim Universities and hosted the annual meeting of the Association of American Universities.

Those who came to know Frohnmayer best — as a true family man, as a tenacious advocate for research to cure Fanconi anemia, as a politician, as a lawyer and as professor, dean and president of the university — are now left to carry his legacy forward.

Video of the full service.

 — By Nathaniel Brown, Public Affairs Communications