A Giant of a Leader

The greatest leaders are those who know much, teach much, guide much, observe much, lift others up much, listen much...while having no need to shine the light on themselves.

— JMeyer —

This past week my fellow Ohio Northern University Polar Bears and I had to say, “until we meet again,” to one of the most amazing leaders we’ve ever crossed paths with–Dr. Debow Freed. … (click on his name if you’d like to read his obituary).

I was in my third year of Pharmacy School when Dr. Freed became our President.

My first two years at ONU were marred with much unrest and mistrust directed at Dr. Freed’s predecessor. I even recall participating in a couple of protests…it wasn’t a pretty time at ONU.

Regardless of the challenging set of circumstances he faced, Dr. Freed did an amazing job of righting the ship boldly, quickly, smoothly, and quietly.

During the first week of school after Dr. Freed’s arrival, I remember being a bit amazed when I heard that all students were invited to a reception in the garden at the Freed’s house. He and his wife Kittie wanted to get to know us better…all 3000 of us. I believe we went in small groups at scheduled times so they could effectively interact with all of us.

To my knowledge that event became an annual tradition at ONU.

After meeting Dr. Freed at the student reception in 1979, he never forgot me…and this was not unique. He never forgot anyone with whom he had a conversation with. Every time our paths crossed on campus he would greet me with my first name and ask me how my pharmacy and basketball endeavors were going.

He seemed to always attend student events. I especially remember him taking in our basketball games. He would make it a point to stay in the background assuring that the game was about us and not about him.

ONU created a Facebook memory page for Dr. Freed and I’ve been blown away by the heartfelt experiences people are sharing about a man who genuinely cared about the tens of thousands of students and faculty members he led over the years.

I could go on and on and on about Dr. Freed but my opening quote is the best way I could sum up who he was as a leader and human being.

Being an ardent student of leadership for over thirty years, I am grateful to have rubbed elbows with one of the best. He was a giant of a leader with a very gracious heart and a soul filled with humility.

Thanks for making me a better person Dr. Freed.

Until we meet again.

James 4:10, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”




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