A train whistle's promise of exploration has always been a siren's song for E. K. Fretwell. UNC Charlotte's second chancellor loves everything about the journey: the long-spoutted oil cans to keep the wheels turning smoothly, signals to tell the crew what's ahead and relationships with other railroads, since transportation is a cooperative venture. And a forward-looking engineer with a headlight to show the way.
From 1979 to 1989, Dr. Fretwell lit the way for UNC Charlotte on its journey to becoming a premier urban university.
Dr. Fretwell was born in New York City, the son of two teachers. He earned a bachelor's degree at Wesleyan University, a master's at Harvard University, and a Ph.D. at Columbia University.
He worked as a correspondent for the Associated Press, a writer for the Red Cross, vice consul at the U.S. Embassy in Prague, a teacher of 7th and 8th grade social studies in Brookline, Massachusetts, and as a teacher of 12th grade and community college English in Evanston, Illinois.
He entered higher education administration as secretary for the John Hay Whitney Fellowships and associate professor and assistant to the dean of Teachers College at Columbia University. In 1956 he became assistant commissioner for higher education for the New York State Board of Regents. From 1964-1967 he was dean for academic development at City University of New York.
From 1967 to 1978 he was president of the State University of New York College at Buffalo and saw it grow from an enrollment of 4,500 to 11,000. During that period he also served as president of the American Association for Higher Education, chairman of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, a board member of the Education Commission of the States, and chairman of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
He became chancellor at UNC Charlotte in 1979 when the University had an enrollment of 8,705. When he retired in 1989, enrollment was 13,222. While he was chancellor he also served as head of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities as chairman of the American Council on Education and as a member of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.
Since retiring as chancellor, he has served as interim president of the five-campus university of Massachusetts and the University of North Florida at Jacksonville. He has authored two books on university management and done consulting on higher education around the country and the world.
He and Dorrie moved to The Cypress in December 1999 and to the Stewart Health Center, The Cypress in January of 2010.
On October 18, 2012, at the age of 88, Dr. E. K. Fretwell, Jr. passed away at the Stewart Health Center, The Cypress. In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory may be made to The E. K. and Dorrie Fretwell Scholarship for Merit (FD-440048), c/o The UNC Charlotte Foundation Professional Development Fund, c/o UNC Charlotte Foundation, Office of Unviersity Development, 9201 University City Boulevard, Charlotte, NC 28223-0001 or Hospice of Charlotte at 1420 E. 7th Street, Charlotte, NC 28204.
Dr. Fretwell was preceded in death by his wife, Dorrie, on December 30, 2011. They are survived by their four children and seven grandchildren.