Published November 28, 2016

Remembering a First Lady

Catherine “Kitty” Freed, 1925-2016
  • Kitty Freed welcomes a student to Quinby House during a freshman orientation at Monmouth College.
Catherine “Kitty” Freed, the wife of former Monmouth College President DeBow Freed, died Nov. 25 at her home in Ada, Ohio.

The first lady of Monmouth College from 1974 to 1979 would have turned 91 on Dec. 1.

Mrs. Freed earned her bachelor of arts and bachelor of fine arts degrees at the University of Texas, with honors which included Phi Beta Kappa, and her master of arts from the University of Kansas, and Doctor of Fine Arts (honorary) from Ohio Northern University. Highly knowledgeable about the arts, she accumulated a superb collection of art and antiques which she used to furnish Quinby House and other residences in which she and her husband lived. She made the homes, yards, and gardens into showplaces.

After marrying DeBow Freed, a West Point graduate, she and her husband devoted several years to military service in the United States and abroad, before deciding to go into private church-related higher education, in keeping with their commitment to public service. That led to her husband’s deanship of Mount Union College for five years, and presidencies of Monmouth College in Illinois for five years, Ohio Northern University for 20 years, and the University of Findlay for seven years, for a total of 32 years as president. She was a full partner with DeBow in their higher education service, contributed greatly to the success of the institutions they served, and was very active in campus and community affairs wherever they lived.

She taught at the Universities of Kansas and New Mexico, and at colleges near other locations where the Freeds lived. She was a lay pastor in the Methodist and Presbyterian Churches, and was an elder and elected head of the largest Presbytery in the country at the time. She regularly conducted worship services and taught Bible study classes.

The institutions she and her husband served benefited from her taste, dedication, and hard work. She led a rewarding life of service to others and set a fine example in that regard. The Performing Arts Center at Ohio Northern University is named for her, as is the annual outstanding senior female student leadership and service award at Ohio Northern University, the Catherine Freed Mortar Board Chapter at the University of Findlay and the Freed Contemporary Christian Lecture Series of the University of Findlay and Winebrenner Theological Seminary.

The dedication plaque of the Freed Performing Arts Center at Ohio Northern University states that she, “a former faculty member and church leader brought exceptional abilities and grace to many areas of University and community life. Her quiet confidence, hard work, Christian concern and kindness, and encouragement of cooperative endeavors helped to bring faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends together to move the institution forward in remarkable ways.” She was strongly committed to the institutions the Freeds served, and was always active with students and student organizations.

She was strongly service oriented. Her friendly manner, elegant presence, and frequent direct contact with students and faculty had highly beneficial impact on the campus atmosphere, and made lasting impressions on students, parents, and visitors. The total of her activities was that she was seen as a person who was for the good features of the institution, good features of the faculty and staff, and good features of the student body.

She is prominently included in the room which is dedicated to the Freeds at West Point and in the book, West Point Leadership, Profiles of Courage, which profiles 180 West Point graduates since its founding who are characterized as having helped to shape our world. The text notes the key roll and unique contributions she made in the Freeds lifetime of service to the nation.

She is survived by her husband, DeBow Freed, in Ada, and her sister, Elizabeth Ross of Lake Lure, N.C/

A memorial service will be held in the Chapel at Ohio Northern University at 11 a.m., Dec. 17, 2016. A memorial service for her will also be held at a later date in the Old Cadet Chapel at West Point, N.Y., prior to her burial in the West Point National Cemetery,

The family suggests no flowers or memorial contributions. Condolences or other messages can be sent to or mailed to him at 205 West Lima Avenue, Ada, Ohio 45810
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