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Dr. David E. Fry

With heavy hearts, we announce the passing of a visionary leader, esteemed educator, and beloved patriarch in the Northwood University family. Former Northwood University President David E. Fry, who served as CEO from 1982 to 2006, passed away Tuesday, December 19, 2023.

“Dr. Fry fostered Northwood University’s growth and progress as the longest-serving president and left an indelible mark on the institution,” reflected Northwood President Kent MacDonald. “Today, Northwood continues to advance the mission personified by Dr. Fry to develop free-enterprise leaders across America and around the world.”

Dr. Fry began his distinguished career as an economics professor with research and teaching interests in business, global economics, and free markets. As president, he focused on creating an environment where this passion could be passed on to generations of students through the University’s philosophy which values individual freedom and responsibility, earned success, moral law, and the importance of free enterprise. Dr. Fry proudly exemplified these institutional tenets of The Northwood Idea.

How You Can Honor Dr. David Fry

A donation in Dr. Fry’s name is a meaningful gesture that perpetuates his legacy and contributes to a cause he held dear. Additionally, sharing cherished memories is a beautiful way to celebrate Dr. Fry’s life and offer solace to his family and friends.

In these small acts of remembrance, we find comfort and connection.


Ledio Veseli | Jan 14, 2024

I was very lucky and honored to have been able to meet Dr. Fry the next day I stepped foot on Northwood’s beautiful Midland campus. Ever since than I have had a great relationship with him and his wonderful family. He was a great listener and thoughtful adviser who I always looked up to. I was involved in several fundraising events for Northwood and had the chance to see in person how well-liked he was and how he could make a room like him instantly. It’s because of his and other officers at that time leadership that Northwood had made many friends all over the country – and beyond. Dr. Fry will always have a special place in my memories.

Rob Mowid | Jan 4, 2024

Dr. Fry epitomized the Northwood Idea with his leadership and actions. As it was stated in his official tribute, he was an incredible communicator. He could captivate a large audience or engage a small group with the same personal feel. He was the keynote speaker at my graduation, and the message he delivered was as good, and more relevant, as any high profile celebrity I’ve ever heard. He was able to send us off into the real world with inspiration, and did so by reiterating the values of our Northwood education. I was also fortunate enough to have Claudia Fry as a one of my professors. On the last day of class, we were all invited to the Fry’s house for wine and cheese and a final class discussion with Claudia and Dr. Fry. To say the least, we were all a bit nervous, but that nervousness lasted about 30 seconds. Once we arrived, they both made us feel welcome and we had a fantastic conversation. I honestly couldn’t tell you exactly what we talked about, but I remember feeling extra proud of my Northwood education afterwards. Now, after 30+ years, I still talk about my Northwood education and the value of the free market economy to anyone that wants to listen, and have given When We Are Free to at least a dozen friends. Northwood has had many outstanding leaders and professors, but Dr. Fry leads a small group that I consider legendary, such as Dr. Dale Haywood, Robert Ellis, Dr. Tim Nash, Jeff Bennett, Jeff Phillips and a few others. Dr. Fry will be missed, but his legacy will live on for generations!

Steve Madincea | Jan 2, 2024

Dr Fry was instrumental by encouraging me to attend Northwood, then he made campus engagements interesting and enlightening. I was so pleased to see him at multiple Northwood events over the prior few years including this shot from the June 2023 Presidents Freedom Celebration. A genuine free enterprise legend, rest in peace!

Paul Devers | Dec 28, 2023

Dr Fry was such an inspiration in all of our lives. I remember him greeting us in 1978 at our Freshman class introductions. He was a kind person and always had time to talk to students during the day. He was always great at speaking the Northwood ideals at the NADA Conventions. All with a quick-witted sense of humor!! Condolences to the Fry family!!

Robin Stauffer Hartman | Dec 22, 2023

David Fry is a very special person. He is a member of the Northwood family. I will always honor his contribution to Northwood.

Deb Dryer | Dec 22, 2023

I worked for Northwood from 1984-1990 and it was my pleasure to work in Admissions when we moved into the Church Building. Dr. Fry’s office was on the upper level and I would see him frequently. He was always so kind and had a smile on his face, always asking how I was…and he really did mean it! He was one of the most interesting speakers I have ever listened to. It was my honor to have known him.

Dorothy Francis | Dec 21, 2023

It was my privilege to have been David Fry’s executive secretary for many years. In addition to his great wisdom, intelligence, and leadership, his sincerity and caring for others was faultless. He loved his family and he loved Northwood. Rest in peace, Dr Fry. You will always hold a special place in my heart. My deepest sympathy to Claudia, Julie and Daniel. 

Margie Knapik | Dec 21, 2023

My first memory of David Fry is right after I started working for Northwood. I was very young and was working in Northwood’s Sugnet Building which at the time housed both Dr. Stauffer and Dr. Turner. It was Dr. Stauffer’s secretary’s birthday, and two gentlemen were on their knees singing happy birthday to her… I asked who they were and was told it was Northwood’s President David Fry and Northwood’s co-founder Gary Stauffer! Wow… what an impression that made on me. From his personal notes of thanks, to receiving flowers when I had my babies, working with and getting to know David Fry was special. 

Anonymous | Dec 21, 2023

May his soul rest in peace.

Berthold van Dommelen | Dec 21, 2023

Salute to a great man. Netherlands, exam 1993.

Michael Stalker | Dec 21, 2023

Im truly saddened to hear of the passing of David Fry. I entered Northwood in 1966 an immature guy from a non metro area over the next few years I got to know David and he would occasionally invite a few of us to his residence on campus. We always had an enjoyable time and good discussions this has always stuck with me as I have thought of him frequently over the past 50 plus years. Each time I had any communication with the campus I would ask about David and if he was available unfortunately the answer was no. My experience is that there are very few people in anyones life that make a difference David did with mine. I think it is safe to say that the world would be better off if it had more people like David Fry.

Ken Hawkins | Dec 21, 2023

Dr. Fry is the heart and essence of Northwood University. His ability to host a gathering of thought-leading business professionals and then accurately summarize their comments, for the benefit of the students in attendance, was remarkable. I’ll always be inspired his expert facilitation skills. May he rest in peace. 

David Woodget | Dec 28, 2023

I will never forget that Dr Fry help me get through public speaking class by changing the way we presented that QTR – we did it in groups …..I passed with a B He also helped me with my first job Thank you for all that you did not just for me but for the world

Casey Smith | Dec 22, 2023

Dr. David Fry was a class act. from the first time that I met him my freshman year he was always kind, engaging, and encouraging. Whenever he came to the Texas campus he always remember me by name and took the time to greet me and give me words of wisdom. He embodied the Northwood Idea and will be sorely missed. God bless you and his family.

Terry Moore | Dec 22, 2023

Dr Fry was one of the finest professionals I have ever known .I learned a lot from him about the importance of responsive communication and the value of treating all people with dignity and respect . He literally saved Northwood and was the right person in the right place at the right time. May God welcome him.

Victor George | Dec 21, 2023

Class of ’82 Mr. Fry sure was always very kind to me. He always had time to chat if you ran into him on campus. He took interest in my children as well. I really enjoyed his company. Condolences from the George Family.

Carol Meinhardt | Dec 21, 2023

I loved working with Dr. Fry. Both he and his wife, Claudia, embraced faculty and staff in a way that united us as the Northwood Family. He had an amazing memory for names, and even when I was new to Northwood, he approached me at faculty gatherings and commented on how I was an excellent member of a superior faculty. He had a way of making us believe we were truly the best. It was his commitment to Northwood that made it exceptional.

Jeff & Joyce Philips | Dec 21, 2023

To me, David Fry asserted himself as a fair-minded, strong leader who was open to weighing any changes to Northwood that would improve its mission and its delivery. He appreciated accountability from all sectors of the University and helped create an environment that fostered honesty and encouraged creative freedom. That latter trait of his kind tolerance extended to my own strange sense of humor which fueled my teaching philosophy–that was his gift to me, and I will always be indebted to him for that. But even more than my respect for David professionally lies my deep and abiding thankfulness for his warm (and yes, embracing) treatment of my family, my wife Joyce in particular. At each Northwood dinner or Christmas celebration she was able to attend, David was always swift to take her hand and gently cradle it while asking about her health. Shortly after his own unique health scare one year, in the early moments of the season’s celebratory dinner, the last Joyce was able to attend, I recall choking up as he embraced Joyce, and said in that deep resonant voice, “We’re all survivors.” That moment cemented in my mind the truth of the oft-repeated Gary Stauffer quote, “We’re all family, and it’s good to be with family during the holidays.” If you can hear these prayers, David, I know you’ll be shaking your head and ready to call me “obsequious.” But, Sir, I can say with heartfelt sincerity, the Northwood Family has been blessed in countless ways by your guidance and humanity. Safe travels. And while you’re Up There, please ask Dale Haywood to share with you his story of raccoons in the backyard and the social utility of used egg cartons. Love to your family always.

Lawrence W. Reed | Dec 23, 2023

David Fry was one of a kind. He was of great help to me as I started my teaching career way back in 1977. He became so synonymous with Northwood and its guiding philosophy that I can hardly imagine a world without him. Thank you, David, for being a life-long inspiration.

Mike Whiting | Dec 22, 2023

What a great man David was! He was a brilliant scholar, a well-liked professor, and a visionary leader of Northwood for so many years. He assumed the presidency at a challenging time and grew the University into a strong institution advancing its essential free enterprise mission. David was a great friend to many members of the Whiting family. He was fun and inspirational to be around. We always learned from him and will miss him deeply. 

William Reilly | Dec 22, 2023

Thank you Dr. Fry for your tireless efforts to fund and operate such a great learning environment and philosophy. West Palm Beach, Class of 1988.

Suresh Mikkilineni | Dec 21, 2023

May his soul rest in peace. My heartfelt condolences.

Tom Ryan | Dec 21, 2023

My greatest memory of David Fry is when I was a student and a candidate for a term in Europe way back in 1979. As part of that process, all candidates had to submit an essay as to why they wanted to attend the overseas program and what they hoped to get out of the experience. I then had to attend a personal meeting with Dr. Fry to essentially defend what I had written. I don’t have a strong memory about the personal meeting except that we laughed a bit and he “bought” was I was selling. I am writing about this exchange because that term in Europe turned out to be the highlight of my time at Northwood and one of the greatest experiences of my life. And Dr. Fry gave the go ahead to approve my application and make that happen and for that I am grateful. RIP.