On Friday July 24, surrounded by his beloved wife and children, George Frederickson of Lawrence, Kansas peacefully returned to his heavenly home, one week after his 86th birthday.
George Frederickson was born July 17, 1934 in Twin Falls Idaho, the son of Jack and Zelpha Richins Frederickson. As part of a large, loving family, George and all his siblings worked hand-in-hand with their parents to support the family drive-in and Frederickson’s Fine Candy and Ice Cream. The hard work was balanced by lots of fun, and as an Idaho boy through and through, George loved hunting and fishing with his dad and brothers. George had many friends and loved the social aspects of school. According to his mother, he never made a friend he didn’t keep; this would include his best and lifetime friend Clark Whitehead. But initially George did not show too much promise as a scholar, often getting kicked out of class for joking or talking. Teachers frequently sent the unruly boy to the library as punishment. Bored, and desperate for entertainment, he began reading books to pass the time. Exposure to the world of ideas contained in books, intended as punishment, sparked in George a love of learning that changed the course of his life forever.
After two years at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, George served a mission in South Africa for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Two years of witnessing apartheid first-hand profoundly influenced George’s worldview and informed his subsequent research on social justice and equity.
Shortly after returning to BYU George met and fell in love with Mary Williams, a nursing student from Pioche, Nevada. Once engaged, Mary waited for him to complete his Army basic training before they were married in the St. George, Utah Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in March 1958. George graduated the following year and they were off to Los Angeles, where George earned an MPA (UCLA) and PhD (USC). By the time George accepted his first teaching job at the University of Maryland Mary and George had started their family. They headed out to the east coast with their young sons Thomas and Christian, and Lynne was born soon after they arrived in Maryland.
George’s career took the growing family to New York, where David was born, and then to North Carolina, Indiana, Missouri, and Washington state. During these years George took the family on many camping trips, zig-zagging the country from Mt. Katahdin in Maine to the Olympic Peninsula, from the beaches of South Carolina to the mountains of New Mexico. The Frederickson children are all fearless travelers who know their US geography, with their parents to thank for this.
After the children had grown, George and Mary made a new life together in Lawrence Kansas. Their children all had families of their own, and George and Mary enjoyed many visits from grandchildren over the years. Nothing gave George more joy than to gather his expanding family together for holidays, and the entire family sincerely looked forward to being under one roof for week-long reunions in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, northern Michigan, or western Maryland. Never far from his Idaho roots, and shooting things, family vacations always included model rockets and homemade potato guns.
George and Mary loved theater. They enjoyed trips to New York to see Broadway shows and treasured their annual visit to the Utah Shakespeare Festival with George’s cousins Ron and Jan and their spouses. George and Mary also enjoyed theater in Kansas City at the New Theater and the Quality Hill Playhouse. Always an admirer of Alexander Hamilton’s role in our country’s founding, George was an early and devoted fan of the musical Hamilton, and it gave him great pleasure to watch it twice in the week before he died.
George’s career allowed George and Mary to travel extensively, and visiting professorships allowed them to live abroad for a time in Oxford, England and in Shanghai, China.
In the early years of his teaching and research career, George held faculty positions at the University of Maryland and Syracuse University. In pursuit of a just cause, George could be something of a rabble-rouser. In his first academic job George took a stand against the unethical actions of senior faculty. A few years later he and some colleagues took on an entire academic discipline, demanding a shift toward relevance, responsiveness, and equity.
In addition to his public administration scholarship, George excelled as a university executive, as the founding Associate Dean of Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs and the Dean of the University of Missouri’s School of Community Affairs. At 42 George was appointed President of Eastern Washington State College in Cheney, a position he would hold for 10 years. Under George’s innovative and dynamic leadership, and in the face of considerable resistance, the college transitioned into a thriving regional university, with a name change to Eastern Washington University with campuses in Cheney and Spokane. George’s tenure also included the creation of Schools of Health Sciences, Public Affairs, and Mathematical Sciences & Technology, and numerous relevant graduate and undergraduate degrees and programs. The university also improved Eastern Washington as a cultural, arts and science hub, expanding the influence of the school well into Washington’s Inland Empire community. With an eye to the future, George shored up the legacy of the school by establishing the EWU Foundation. And always focused on attracting positive attention and increasing the impact of the university, George transitioned athletics from competition exclusively with other small schools to admission into the NCAA and membership in the Big Sky and other major athletic conferences. These changes were not without their detractors at the time, but in the years since George’s presidency, the Eastern Eagles’ large fan base has enjoyed much success in athletics, with two NCAA Basketball Tournament appearances and 13 NCAA Football Division 1 FCS Tournament appearances. George was especially thrilled to attend the 2010 National Football Championship, and it was a sweet victory for him to watch his beloved Eagles win it all.
George returned to full-time scholarship when he was appointed the Edwin O. Steen Distinguished Professor of Public Administration at the University of Kansas. While at KU George founded and edited the prestigious Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory. Although George retired from KU in 2012, he continued to write and visit his office on campus daily until this year. George loved his errands and meeting his friends for lunch, and he stopped for ice cream so frequently at Silas and Maddie’s that they awarded him a lifetime supply of free ice cream cones.
Over a long and distinguished career, George was frequently recognized for his achievements. Not merely items for George’s curriculum vitae, these honors were a reflection of meaningful and lasting contributions in scholarship and civic engagement. As a young scholar he served as President of the American Society for Public Administration and was selected as a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration. He actively served in these organizations for several decades. The latter part of his career included awards reflecting a lifetime of impact on public administration scholarship. Never one to miss an opportunity to positively influence a field he cared about deeply, he used the speeches that always accompanied these awards to shift public administration research toward greater responsiveness and equity. Perhaps the professional accomplishment of which he was proudest are the many dozens of scholars around the world who count George as a mentor.
George published hundreds of scholarly articles and dozens of books in his 50-year career. Never shying away from controversy, he veered off the academic path in 2018, when his lifelong interest in collegiate athletics led him write Hot Tickets, a book about the KU Basketball ticket scandal. Despite increasing health difficulties, he was able to complete and publish the book last year.
George was preceded in death by his parents John (Jack) and Zelpha Frederickson, his brothers Bryan, Richard and Robert, sister Alice Brown, brother-in-law Larry Shupe, sisters-in-law Virgean and Bernice, stepmother Bonnie, and stepbrother Garey Stimpson. George is survived by his dear wife Mary, his children Thomas (Leslie), Christian (Jenny), Lynne, and David (Julie), grandchildren Joseph (Mercy), Sarah, Samuel, Ellen (Alex Gillie), Cami (Paul Touloukian), Kasie Cloud, Brett, Jake, Geoffrey Williams, Brian Rago, Evan Rago, Matthew, Michael, Carter, and Jacob, great-grandchildren Ramona, Hugh, and Edmund, brothers John (Annette), Kent (Sharon), Grant (Valeta), Dennis (Kathy), sister Jean Ann Shupe, sisters-in-law Barbara and Arletta, brother-in-law Lloyd Brown, stepsister Mary Thrall, and many cousins, nieces, and nephews.
George will be buried Tuesday in Lawrence Kansas in a small graveside service. George’s family looks forward to celebrating his life next spring at a memorial service open to all family, friends, and colleagues.
The family suggests memorials in George’s name go to the H. George and Mary Frederickson Fellowship at the School of Public Affairs and Administration at the University of Kansas, or to the Eastern Washington University Foundation. All memorials may be sent in care of Warren McElwain Mortuary, 120 W. 13th Street, Lawrence, Kansas, 66044.