Randall said Frederick’s love of education was broad.
“He valued not just book learning but on-site experience. He had a professional experience program that every student had to participate in before graduating. And if students wanted to go to St. Paul and get a four-year degree, he was fully behind them. He just valued education.”
A bitter pill
The two-year ag college was the pride of Waseca and a fast-growing campus that quickly went from 150 students to well over 1,000 at its peak in the 1980s.
In the late ’80s University President Nils Hasselmo recommended the campus be closed in a money-saving move. Hundreds of students went to the Twin Cities to protest the move and Hasselmo was dubbed the “grim reaper” of agriculture.
The Board of Regents voted to shut down the college, saving the university just $6.4 million, a sliver of the university’s then $1.6 billion budget.
Frederick hoped the passage of time would make sense of the decision — but it hasn’t.
“Usually those kinds of decisions, when they’re made, are made for a reason and as the years go by the decisions seem to make more sense. But that decision still doesn’t make sense,” Frederick said.
“We had a great two-year college that could have developed into a four-year college, and it would have been a terrific thing for the region.”
He said the training that could have been provided today is more needed than ever.
“There is a void in this area. Agriculture is so important and we should be developing the education here. The U of M does some things, but we’re on the firing line here. This is where it should be.”
Noting that 20 percent of the people in the state work in the broad area of agriculture and agribusiness, Frederick said it’s a mistake to think of ag education as a place to train farmers.