In Memoriam: Remembering CMC Life Trustee Donald Freeberg

His alma materthe University of Minnesotacalled him a “truly outstanding man of unusual integrity and morality.” And here across campus at Claremont McKenna College, Life Trustee Donald Freeberg is equally respected. For years to come, he will be remembered for the Freeberg Forum presentational room in the new Kravis Center that was named in his honor, and when guests share meals in the Athenaeum’s Freeberg Lounge and Dining Room. Athletes will continue recalling his name when assembled at the College’s Fritz B. Burns Stadiuma facility whose realization was made possible by a gift from the Fritz B. Burns Foundation, of which Freeberg was a Trustee.

Freeberg passed away on Thursday, September 8, 2011, at the age of 87, and was a longtime resident of Los Angeles and Pauma Valley, an agricultural community in San Diego County. He was an avid rancher and owned citrus and avocado groves there, and ran a cattle ranch in Idaho. He loved horses and participated in several riding clubs, including the Desert Caballeros and the Rancheros Visitadores, and considered flying, snow skiing, and hunting among his other passions. And still, chief among his interests, was his involvement at CMC, for more than three decades.

Since his initial election to the Board in 1977, Freeberg and his wife, Lorraine, have given generously to the College. The Mr. and Mrs. Don Freeberg Scholarship Fund they established in 1978 has over the years supported more than 35 scholars, and last January, Eric Hughson was installed as the newest Don and Lorraine Freeberg Professor of Economics and Finance, a professorship previously held by Harold Mulherin.

That evening was the first meeting between Hughson and Freeberg, who attended the installation in his usual happy disposition. “I was impressed both with his devotion to CMC and its students, and with the fact that he took the time to meet me and show his support,” Hughson says. “After having met Don, I was very happy that I was giving a talk that highlighted student contributions to academic research.”

In addition to scholarships and professorships, Freeberg was a loyal supporter of the Res Publica Society and served on its Board of Governors for 25 years. In 2005, CMC awarded him an honorary degree, and three years later in 2008, he would become an honorary alumnus of the Claremont McKenna College Alumni Association. A picture from that day shows a smiling Freeberg being fitted with a CMC ball cap by Past CMCAA President Bill Barrington ’54 P’84.

Freeberg’s contributions to CMC went well beyond his own gifts to the College. During his time on the Fritz B. Burns Foundation Board, the Foundation provided significant support to the College, including the creation of the Fritz B. Burns Foundation Chair in Financial Economics, currently held by professor Lisa Meulbroek, the Fritz B. Burns Stadium, the Fritz B. Burns Wing of Ducey Gymnasium, the Fritz B. Burns Lecture Hall in the W.M. Keck Science Center, and the Fritz B. Burns Foundation courts, clubhouse, and locker rooms at the Biszantz Family Tennis Center.

A hard-working entrepreneur of sorts, Freeberg earned his first paychecks as a paperboy in his Duluth, Minnesota, neighborhood. After high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy as an aviation cadet and served as a lieutenant in the Naval Air Corps from 1941-45. In 1946, after the war, he returned to the University of Minnesota to earn degrees in electrical engineering and business administration. While working as an IBM salesman in 1947, he married Lorraine, started a family, and worked hard to save money, ultimately resigning from IBM and becoming a builder and real estate developer. In time he would construct single-family subdivisions, apartments, office buildings and health care facilities, then consolidate those health care properties in 1969 and form Summit Health Ltd. He retained a major management role there as CEO and board chairman until he sold the company in 1994. By that time, he was also building and operating hotels, which he continued doing until his death.

Freeberg is survived by his wife, Lorraine, of Pauma Valley, sons Daniel and James Freeberg, several grandchildren, and a sister, Mary (Clyde) Klappenback.

In a notice shared with the CMC community on Thursday, President Pamela Gann said it was her personal pleasure to have known and worked with Freeberg in connection with his dedication to the College.

A memorial service celebrating his life will be held at 11 a.m. on Friday, September 16, at St. Francis Episcopal Church: 16608 Highway 76 in Pauma Valley. In lieu of flowers, family requests memorial contributions in his name to the Braille Institute.