Posted on Mar 1, 1995

A. Lee Fritschler '59

In a sense, A. Lee Fritschler '59 has never left the classroom. And as president of Dickinson College, it doesn't look as though he'll leave it anytime soon.

Even though his presidential responsibilities can seem endless, Fritschler still finds the time to teach a senior seminar in political science-a job he says is perhaps his most enjoyable task as president.

“It's great to be working with the students and really be involved in their educational programs,” he says.

Fritschler tries to divide his time between the external and internal business of running the 2,000-student college. Since he arrived in 1987, he has helped increase the college's endowment by 150 percent-from $30 million to $85 million. He currently oversees a three-year capital campaign that has raised more than $31 million in only a year and a half.

“Some of it is just economic growth,” says Fritschler of the impressive progress in the college's endowment. “But some of it is good management.”

Management skills have assumed great importance for the presidents of
the nation's small, liberal arts colleges. Not only do they have to lay out academic agendas, they must also make sure the school is running at optimum efficiency.

“These colleges are like small towns,” Fritschler says. “You've got 600 employees, 100 buildings, and 2,000 students who have to eat three meals a day. Being the president is really a lot like being a city manager.”

Fritschler first worked in academia in the 1970s, when he was dean of the College of Public and International Affairs at American University. There he developed several innovative programs for undergraduate students in the liberal arts, including expansion of the Washington semester programs.

After writing a book on the politics of regulation and the Federal Trade Commission's
cigarette-labelling controversy, he was appointed chairman of the U.S. Postal Rate Commission by President Jimmy Carter. The post was an ideal opportunity to observe government from the inside.

“One begins to see that government has a hard time solving problems,” Fritschler says. “I think that what the last elections showed was a massive public discouragement with the government's attempts. Working there you can see the problems you might not notice as quickly on the outside.”

Instead of immediately returning to academia when Ronald Reagan arrived in Washington in 1981, Fritschler moved to the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based research organization. There he directed the Center for Public Policy Education, leading
research projects on civil service and regulatory reform, international education, and business-government relations.

A longtime critic of government regulation, Fritschler notes that the cost of educating a student is less at a private college than it is at a public institution-just another example of the private sector's ability to deliver both higher quality and more efficiency than the government.

Today, Fritschler feels both sympathy for and frustration with those left to carry out the federal government's business.

But when Dickinson called to offer Fritschler the chance to lead one of America's oldest and most respected colleges, the opportunity was too sweet to pass up.

Fritschler has worked to maintain the kind of broad-based education that can come under criticism from those who believe students need specific skills. Dickinson, for example, has one of the strongest foreign language programs in the country, with approximately half of its students studying overseas during their college years and twenty percent majoring in languages.

Fritschler knows that this kind of success must spread to other, similar, small colleges. As a result, he founded the Annapolis Group, an association of sixty presidents of liberal arts colleges who discuss how they can raise their visibility, share their strengths, and improve their weaknesses. (The Annapolis Group includes Union's Roger Hull.)

“I live on campus and I get to participate and observe so many of the programs the students are involved in, from football to Spanish,” he says. “I just hope to make Dickinson even more visible and help the institution continue to prosper.