WMU News

Memorial service for alumna Gwen Frostic

June 13, 2001

KALAMAZOO -- Gwen Frostic, one of Western Michigan University's most accomplished and celebrated alumni, died April 25, one day shy of her 95th birthday, at her long-time home in Benzonia, Mich.

A memorial service for Frostic will be held Saturday, June 16, on the campus of the Interlochen Center for the Arts. Former WMU President Diether H. Haenicke, a long-time friend of Frostic, will preside. Also speaking at the service will be Helen Flaspohler, a retired WMU development officer and a director emerita of the WMU Foundation. Flaspohler met Frostic in 1974 and maintained a relationship with her until her death.

Says Flaspohler, "A highly intelligent woman with a marvelous sense of humor, Gwen traveled for many years at her own expense, speaking to gatherings of all ages. She often told her audiences that she had gone to Eastern Michigan University to receive a degree but came to Western Michigan University to receive an education.

"Gwen had a lifelong love and understanding of nature and wildlife," says Flaspohler, "and she used her creative talents not only as a successful businesswoman but also to influence and teach others about living within our environment."

Frostic earned a bachelor's degree from WMU in 1929. A distinguished artist, poet and naturalist, she maintained a close relationship with her alma mater for all of her life. She was the recipient of a 1965 WMU Distinguished Alumni Award and an honorary doctor of humanities degree from the university in 1971. Frostic's art is part of the University's Permanent Collection and a reading lounge in Waldo Library was named in her honor in 1993.

Born in 1906 in Sandusky, Mich., Frostic was left with slight paralysis and slurred speech by a childhood illness. She never let it limit her. Founder of Presscraft Papers in the 1950s, she was an extraordinarily successful entrepreneur at a time when very few women worked outside the home, much less own and operated businesses.

Five Michigan universities awarded Frostic honorary degrees. Former Michigan Gov. William Milliken declared May 23, 1978, as "Gwen Frostic Day," and she was inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame in 1986.

Media contact: Thom Myers, 616 387-8400, thomas.myers@wmich.edu

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