Ernest S. Frerichs, 88, Warren


Ernest S. Frerichs, 88, of Warren, died on Monday, Nov. 11, 2013. A native of Tottenville, Staten Island, New York, he maintained a connection with his birthplace throughout his life. He was married to Sarah Cutts Frerichs for  59  years and had resided for 35 years in Providence and variously in Warren ,North Providence, Barrington and Cranston. He was the son of the late Ernest V. and Eva S. Frerichs.

Educated in the public school system of New York City, he entered Brown University in 1942. From 1943 to 1946 he served in the United States Army as a sergeant in the 100th Infantry Division, receiving the Combat Infantryman’s Badge and the Bronze Star Medal for his participation in the Battle of the Vosges Mountains in eastern France.

Re-entering Brown, he completed an A.B. in 1948 and an A.M. in Government in the Harvard Graduate School in 1949. In 1992 the Hebrew Union College of New York conferred on him an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

He received an  S.T.B. degree from the Boston University School of Theology in 1952 and a Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible from the Boston University Graduate School in 1957. The School of Theology conferred in 1987 an Alumni Award for Distinguished Service and the Boston University Graduate School conferred in 1994 an Alumni Award for Distinguished Service to the Profession. He was elected to the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame in 2008.

His life was lived in three successive occupations: the professional life of the parish ministry; academic life as professional teacher, scholar and university administrator ; and philanthropic work as executive director and president of a family foundation.

Ordained as an Elder in the United Methodist Church in 1952, he served as Associate Pastor and acting Senior Pastor from 1950 to 1960 at the Mathewson Street United Methodist Church in Providence. In 1990 he retired from membership in the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

In 1953 he entered the faculty of Brown University, successively serving as Instructor (1953-55), Assistant Professor in Religious Studies (1955-62), Associate Professor (1962-66) and Professor (1966-1995). He became Emeritus Professor of Religious Studies and Judaic Studies in 1995. Administratively he served as an Assistant to the Dean of the College ( 1955-57), Assistant Dean of the College ( 1958-59), and Chairman of the Department of Religious Studies ( 1964-70). He served as Co-Director of the Program in Judaic Studies ( 1982-85) and Director ( 1985-95). From 1976 to 1982, he served as the Dean of the Brown University Graduate School.

In addition to his service at Brown, he served as a visiting professor at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in England, the Boston University School of Theology, and the Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem. He served the Albright Institute as President from 1976 to 1982. He lectured widely in European and British universities in Italy, Germany, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Brazil, England, and the former Soviet Union.

In academic professional circles he served as president of the New England Section of the American Academy of Religion, as member of the Board of Directors of the Association of Jewish Studies, as chairman of the Council of Graduate Studies in Religion, as member of the executive committee of the Center for Jewish History (N.Y), as trustee of the Palestine Endowment Fund Israel, Inc., and as a trustee of the Jewish Chautauqua Society. He served on the Graduate Record Examination Board of the Educational Testing Service and was a member of the International Advisory Board of the Moscow Center for the University Teaching of Jewish Civilization.  He received the Citation for Distinguished Service of the Touro National Heritage Trust and was the first recipient of the Harris Award for Distinguished Service to the American Schools of Oriental Research which he served as a Vice President.

He was a trustee of the Albright Institute in Jerusalem beginning in 1974 and from 1976 to 1982 he served as President of the Institute. For thirteen field seasons of the Tel Miqne-Ekron Excavation and Publication Project he was the National Director of Volunteer and Consortium Relationships for Tel Miqne-Ekron.

He had been an active participant in the work of the Middle States Association of Philadelphia, recommending regional colleges and universities for certification and recertification. In addition he served as a national panel member in the selection committees of the Woodrow Wilson Program, the Mellon Humanities Fellowship Program, and the Howard Foundation Postdoctoral Fellows in the Humanities Program.

His field of scholarship was in the Hebrew Bible and the history of Biblical Interpretation. He edited, co-edited or authored 16 books and numerous articles.

In 1995 he was invited to become Executive Director of the Dorot Foundation, a family foundation founded in 1958 and assuming its current title in 1978. A New York foundation, the Dorot offices were moved to Providence in 1995. The Foundation has a long history in Jewish higher education reflected in the endowment of professorial chairs in Judaic Studies, of travel grants for American students studying in Israel, and for its fellowship program, the Dorot Fellowship in Israel, devoted to strengthening leadership in the American Jewish community.

He was a member of the University Club, the Brown Faculty Club, the Review Club of Providence, and the Harvard Club of New York City.

Characteristic of his personality were such traits as modesty, humility, compassion, and gentleness. His life is best characterized in the title of a festschrift presented to him by friends and colleagues, Hesed-ve-Emet. He was equally at home in Jewish and Christian circles. He knew no enemy, but gave great encouragement to all, especially those in need, preferring to think of himself as an enabler. His family was a central concern and focus of his life.

He was predeceased by his loving wife of 59 years, Sarah, his son John and his daughter Betsy.

He is survived by his son, David, of Warren, RI, and David’s wife, Barbara; grandsons David Jr. and wife, Heather of East Providence; Justin of Los Angeles; granddaughters April of Los Angeles and Marcia Pedini of East Providence; and ten great-grandchildren.

His funeral will be held Monday, Nov. 18, at 11 a.m. in Mathewson Street United Methodist Church, Mathewson Street, Providence. Burial will be private. Calling hours are Sunday from 3 to 7 p.m. in the Monahan Drabble Sherman Funeral Home, 230 Waterman St., Providence. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to W.F. Albright Institute, Box 40151, Philadelphia, PA 19106 or to Autism Project R.I., 1516 Atwood Ave., Johnston, RI 02919.

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