Elmer Fricke will always be known in the Linfield community as the professor who started class every day with a cheery “It’s a beautiful day in McMinnville.”
Fricke died in McMinnville on Feb. 18, 2007, because of complications from diabetes. He was honored by colleagues, students, family and community members on March 7 in Graf Hall.
“The future of any program is built on the foundation laid before,” Professor of Mathematics Stephen Bricher said. “We are here today to honor the work and legacy of Professor Emeritus Elmer Fricke.”
A plaque donated by the family in honor of Fricke was dedicated and mounted on the west wall of Graf 107. His mantra is etched into the memorial.
In addition to the plaque, a fund was started in Fricke’s name to help cover travel expenses for math students to attend conferences where they can present their research.
Fricke taught mathematics and computer science at Linfield from 1957 to 1985, and began the computer science program.
“He brought the first computer to campus,” Associate Professor of Mathematics Martha VanCleave said.
Myrtle Fricke, Elmer’s wife of more than 50 years, said even though his health had been declining for 11 years, he loved Linfield and never missed a football or home basketball game.
“He couldn’t see very much anymore,” she said. “But he would wear a radio, and he would listen to the game.”
Linfield was Fricke’s alma mater. As a student he was a member of Theta Chi Fraternity and played on the tennis team. After he graduated in 1953, Fricke taught in Indiana for four years, and then returned to teach at Linfield.
He was born in 1920 in Chicago and attended school at Illinois Institute of Technology before signing up for the Navy during World War II. Taking advantage of the G.I. Bill, he finished his undergraduate studies at Linfield.
VanCleave got to know Fricke not only as a colleague and a friend, but as a student as well. She remembers his daily greeting.
“Class was serious but lighthearted,” VanCleave said. “He made things challenging, but attainable. He made math not as intimidating.”
Fricke helped found McMinnville’s Gallery Theater and conducted its financial business.
Lea New, who now volunteers at the Gallery Theatre and met Fricke at Linfield as a student, said one of the things most characteristic about him was his humor.
“He’s funny as hell,” New said. “He kept people laughing all the time, even at formal affairs.”
Fricke was active at First Baptist Church and in McMinnville Kiwanis Club. He loved music and was a member of the church choir.
“He was very active and he was a real dynamo in the community and in our church, too,” Myrtle Fricke said. “I was glad to have been part of his life.”