Dr. Fredrick J. Dobney, professor of History and former WMU provost and vice president of academic affairs, died on August 19 at his home in Brighton, Michigan. He was 72.
Born on December 4, 1943, and raised by his mother in Waco, Texas, Fred had a long and productive career in academe. After receiving his B.A., cum laude, from Baylor University in 1966, he went on to earn a Ph.D. in History from Rice University in 1970. His dissertation focused on William L. Clayton, a prominent businessman who went on to become President Truman’s first Undersecretary of State for Economic Affairs. It was published by The Johns Hopkins University Press in 1971. Beginning in 1970, Fred joined the History Department at St. Louis University, advancing from assistant to full professor before he joined the History Department at Loyola University in New Orleans in 1981. In 1978, Fred published River Engineers on the Middle Mississippi: A History of the St. Louis District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He pursued various administrative positions at both St. Louis and Loyola. He left Loyola in 1986 to become vice provost for extended university services at Washington State University in 1987. Starting in 1993, Fred served as executive vice president and provost at Michigan Technological University. Fred then became provost and vice president of academic affairs at Western Michigan University in 2000 before returning to the classroom as a member of the Department of History in 2002. Over the past decade and a half, Fred was one of the Department of History’s most popular instructors.
In addition to his academic pursuits, Fred was dedicated to his family and friends. He was a sports enthusiast, playing tennis, handball, and golf as well as enjoying a good poker game with friends. He claimed that his greatest accomplishment was completing a marathon when he lived in New Orleans. Fred had a Texas-sized personality with a wit, humor, and charm that made others feel comfortable. The Department of History misses his good teaching and collegiality.