Standing on the Shoulders of Fred McGinnis

Fred McGinnisFred McGinnis, one of the Founders of Alaska Methodist University, passed away this month at the age of 91.

Fred’s picture is on the hallway I pass through on the way to my office, a daily reminder of the broad, strong shoulders that I stand upon. His strength, moral character, intellect and compassion have been a constant source of inspiration for me. I personally knew Fred in his role as Deputy Commissioner of Health in Jay Hammond’s administration when I served as Director of the Anchorage Neighborhood Health Center. Fred was a true gentleman and I often called upon him for advice and assistance. He was very generous of both and helped me-and the Health Center- on several occasions.

John Schwamm, a long time friend of AMU/APU tells me that “Fred and his Dad were good friends and both were very close to Senator Gruening. Fred even usually put his hand in one pocket of his suit coat like Gruening did.” John’s comment triggered a fond recollection for me-that Fred always wore a tie.

Fred’s obituary in the Anchorage Daily News states that “Fred served as President of Alaska Methodist University from 1960-1970, and oversaw the early development of the University. He acquired the 500 acres of Anchorage land that would become the site of AMU. He faced several financial crises that tested his leadership” (my emphasis).

While Fred’s career migrated from Education to Health, my career went the other way and, as the ninth President of APU, I can report that all nine of the AMU/APU presidents have similarly faced several financial crises that tested our leadership. Such is the nature of most small private liberal arts universities in the United States. Yet APU, Alaska’s only private baccalaureate non-profit university, remains true to the calling of its Founders-Fred McGinnis and Peter Gordon Gould-that every Alaskan should have access to a quality, private liberal arts education.

Every day, as I leave the office, I glance at the pictures of Fred and Peter in the hallway and I am fortified and inspired to continue the important work that they began and deeply appreciative of the strong shoulders upon which I stand.