Thursday, January 16, 2014

Mourning Dean Fred

TigerBlog walked past Fred Hargadon, who was seated where he usually was during Princeton football games, in the upper row of the press box, to the far side, in front of the closet nobody ever seems to have the key for, right next to the phones. TB said something sarcastic to Fred, who laughed in approval and agreement - and TB never dreamed it would be the last time he would speak to him.

If there was no student-worker available on a given Princeton home football Saturday, Fred would often answer the phone himself when it rang.

And why wouldn't he? He was a big, gentle, kid, always with a smile, always with a laugh, always with a friendly greeting.

Fred died last night, at the age of 80. TigerBlog took the news hard. He's lost a friend.

Fred Hargadon was the Dean of Admissions at Princeton from 1988-2003, after holding the same positions at Stanford and Swarthmore. He was a giant of a man with a deep voice, a gravelly yet soft voice, and a great sense of humor.

He would often come into TigerBlog's office in recent years and sit on the futon, just hanging out, talking about Princeton sports, telling stories of his days in admissions, asking about TB's kids, talking about anything and anyone.

One of TB's favorite stories from Fred - Dean Fred, as he was known - was about the time a long time ago when a freshman male student told him he hadn't admitted any good-looking women in his class, to which Fred replied "I just had a few female students telling me I hadn't admitted any good-looking guys."

He'd tell a story and laugh that laugh of his, also deep, also soft.

Fred Hargadon is a Princeton legend, with his acceptance letters that began the journey through this great institution with a single word - YES!

He was visible all over campus. How could he not be, what with his physical stature?

But it went way beyond that. He was a fan, of Princeton everything, and he brought that enthusiasm to every part of campus life.

Becoming a Princeton legend was probably not what he envisioned when he went to work in a suburban Philadelphia post office at the age of 14, or when he went into the Army. It was only after he left the Army that he went to college, becoming the first one in his family to do so, when he attended Haverford.

He retired from Princeton in 2003 in the aftermath of an incident involving Yale's admissions website, but he was still a very familiar and well-respected member of the campus community.

And now he's gone.

The news came to TigerBlog last night via text message and then later on by email, and it's news he wasn't expecting. He'd heard Fred was ill, and now that he thinks about it, he hasn't seen spoken with him since that last football game.

It wasn't the last time he saw him, though. That would have been out on Route 1, when TB drove past Dean Fred near the MarketFair, a few miles from campus.

TB was in a hurry, probably late for something, as he usually is. And there was this car going slowly in front of him, so TB had to change lanes to get around him.

As he glanced over, he saw it was Dean Fred who was driving. And so TB smiled. He tried to get his attention, but he never looked over.

And so TB pulled away, figuring he'd mention it the next time he saw him.

As it turned out, sadly there would be no next time.

There are so many people out there today who will hear the news of Fred's passing and think back to the singular word "YES!" as a reminder of the letter they got from him, the one that said an incredible door had just been opened for them.

TigerBlog thought of that word too, though he never got a note from Fred that started out that way.

What TB got instead was many years of friendship. Many years of listening to his stories of the places he'd worked, the people he'd met along the way, of when he was a kid.

Most of them were funny stories. Some were a bit poignant.

TB does know he was always welcome in his office, and it was always good to have him here.

Fred Hargadon was a beautiful person, more than anything else. He was the kind of person who made a real impact on the people who knew him.

TB can hear his voice now. His laugh. If he were here right now, on his way to the next world, he'd probably have joked about not being able to answer the phones next year at football.

Unfortunately, TB won't get another chance to talk to him. But he'll remember him forever.

As will many, many others.

Rest in peace, Dean Fred.

You were one of the really good guys.


Nassau83 said...

Many refer to Fred as a friend of Athletics - and indeed he was - a great friend and great fan - but he saw athletics and other challenging pursuits as paths to strong character. While very visible at athletic events, what is remarkable is how engaged he was with all of the students and how well he knew them. In what became something of a game, students he admitted would often challenge him to remember something about them from their applications - and just about every time Fred did - having carefully read every folder of every admitted student.

I remember seeing him at a swim meet and he pointed to a student athlete and said that she was the first child he ever admitted whose parent he had admitted years before - in this case during his time at Stanford. In a large complex University with more than 5000 undergraduates, he saw them all as unique, special and worthy of wearing orange and black.

On the walk outside of Hargadon Hall at Whitman College, engraved in stone is a single word, Fred's iconic, "YES!" Many thousands of students, parents, staff and friends will see that word and feel it deeply - YES! - I knew Fred and I am a better person because of him.

If there is a heaven, I think that someone just handed Fred his own, "YES!"

Nassau83 said...

Here are some additional words that a former athlete shared with me:
"There was no better way to watch a Princeton sports match - any sport - than with Dean Fred. He knew every member of the Princeton team and would provide a running commentary about how great they all were - where they came from, what they studied, something they had overcome, what their parents were like. And he loved them all."

Unknown said...

I had the privilege of serving on an athletic search committee with Fred and I can honestly say those were three of the most fun days I ever had. I would love to be remembered as he must be--just a wonderful person!!

Unknown said...

I had the privilege of serving on an athletic search committee with Dean Fred, and can recall the 2 days of interviews like they were yesterday. A person with such a wide range of interests, and someone who was genuinely enthusiastic and interested in everybody and everything around him. I would love to be remembered as he certainly will be--a wonderful person!!