Dr. Meredith N. Freeman, 88, who served as president of Black Hills State University in the late 60s and the 70s, died Christmas Day at his home in Athens, W. Va., after a long illness.
Freeman served as Black Hills State's president from 1967 to 1976.
According to historical records at the University, the Freeman administration was characterized by contrast. A man of conservative stature, Freeman was confronted with changing social values of the 1960s. The strength of the Freeman presidency lay in his ability to govern and to find new direction in an otherwise adverse situation. Entering a college with skyrocketing enrollments, he would soon oversee a decline in student number requiring cuts in faculty positions.
BHSU President Kay Schallenkamp noted that BHSU was fortunate to have had Freeman serve as president for nine years.
“The University community has lost a great leader who made significant contributions to the development of Black Hills State University,” Schallenkamp says.
Freeman, born and educated in Missouri, is remembered as a man who projected a presidential aura and led some major changes that have had long lasting positive influence on the development of the University. During his tenure at BHSU, he established branch campuses on the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Indian reservations; oversaw the opening of the E.Y. Berry Library-Learning Center and a renovation project at Lyle Hare Stadium which included a running track; led a major expansion in the area of business courses; and strengthened the teacher education program.
Paul Higbee, BHSU graduate and noted Black Hills historian, wrote in Black Hills State University – 125 Anniversary, “In an era of more and more casual attire, Dr. Freeman only rarely deviated from coat and tie, most often when teaching a popular taxidermy course.”
Dr. Charles Schad, who then served as director of external affairs at BHSU and worked closely with Freeman, says the former president “had an aura of being an academician and was the epitome of successful community involvement.”
“He loved his job and contributed significantly to the development of Black Hills State,” Schad says. “He was very considerate, very supportive of staff, and really believed in Black Hills State. He wanted to make a difference, and he did. He worked closely with city leaders and the chamber members and collaborated with people from throughout the community. He knew that as Black Hills State grew so did the community grow. Looking back, I have to tip my hat to Meredith Freeman. He was a great leader and led the school through some difficult times.”
Gene Bauer, who served as director of admissions during Freeman’s term, recalls one specific accomplishment that created additional recognition for the University.
“Interstate 90 had just been completed, and at my suggestion, Med (Meredith Freeman) brought up the idea of placing signs along the interstate noting the university’s location,” Bauer says. “The first interstate sign for a university that went up in South Dakota was the one for Black Hills State.”
Bauer says the idea was expanded to include the other state universities along the interstate as well.
Before coming to BHSU, Freeman was a sergeant during World War II and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He then spent 50 years in education, beginning in a one-room rural school in Missouri. Over the years, he worked in several schools and universities throughout the Midwest as a teacher, principal, superintendent of schools, a professor, director of special services and an acting academic dean.
After serving at BHSU, Freeman became president of Concord University in Athens, where he later retired.
He is survived by his wife, Joyce, of Athens, four daughters and six grandchildren. (117 W. Bdwy., Athens, W.Va., 24712)