Herkimer County Community College retired English professor Richard Friedrich is described by his students and fellow faculty as someone who is deserving of emeritus status and it has become a shock for them to hear he was denied such a prestigious award.
Friedrich arrived at HCCC in 1994 and he served first as department chair of English, then as assistant associate dean of liberal arts and social science. Starting in 1998, Friedrich served as a professor of English, a position he held until he retired on his birthday on May 11, 2011, at age 75.
In May 2012, the elected faculty Senate voted unanimously to forward Friedrich and one other to the executive committee for emeritus consideration. After the nominations were made, Friedrich’s colleague, Dr. Timothy McLean, followed procedure and wrote a letter of support in favor of Friedrich.
The package went to the executive committee of the college’s Board of Trustees, who unanimously put the two names on the agenda for the board. One month later, the board of trustees voted and unanimously denied Friedrich the award.
On June 29, 2012, a letter sent to Friedrich from board of trustees Vice Chair Isabella Crandall stated he had the right to appeal the decision within 10 days of receiving the letter.
At the time the letter was sent to him, Friedrich was on vacation and would not return until after July 4, ultimately missing the deadline to appeal.
Since he could no longer appeal, Friedrich said his co-workers tried to help. “About 30 faculty members held a meeting and signed a letter to the board asking to reconsider their decision,” he said.
In August, Friedrich decided to write a letter to the board himself asking how they came to the validity of their decision, but has since heard no response.
Friedrich said he was confused and could not understand why the board would not give an answer.
“I thought the reasoning could be due to academic jealousy as I’ve had a number of academic accomplishments, but various people had reported to me a number of reasons the president gave them for this denial, which include a lack of support from the faculty, a letter from Dr. McLean which lacked in substance and even a pretended bewilderment on the part of the same president who finally said she had to support her dean,” he said.
“Herkimer County Community College is a public, tax-supported institution and one of the basic academic values of higher education is information be public. I don’t believe in doing such matters in secret and I find it to be anti-academic. To my knowledge I am the only faculty member to have been nominated for emeritus status and have been denied by the board,” added Friedrich.
During a telephone interview, HCCC Director of Public Relations Rebecca Ruffing said emeritus status is an honor granted by the board of trustees for retirees, but not all retirees receive the status.
Page 2 of 2 - “We appreciate the fact that there are alumni who support their former faculty member, but the college does not comment on personnel matters and therefore I cannot discuss matters related to Mr. Friedrich,” said Ruffing.
By the fall of 2012, Friedrich was contacted by several students, colleagues and alumni who had heard he was denied emeritus status and wanted to show their support in several ways, including an online petition and Facebook.
Former student and alumni Chase Dominick created a petition on the website care2.com in January to gain support from fellow alumni, colleagues and friends of Friedrich.
On his last day of class Dominick said Friedrich explained how a person throughout their life plays different roles. Above all the roles Friedrich played, he considered himself a teacher.
“I will never forget the sense of determination and passion that those words ignited in my soul. A determination to find out who and what I truly am, and at the end of whatever career I chose, to carry the conviction that my life had been purposeful, not just to other people, but most importantly to myself,” said Dominick in a statement made on the petition site.
Once Dominick heard the board of trustees denied Friedrich the emeritus honor he said he was appalled and decided to take a stand and create a petition against the board’s decision.
Since the petition was first signed on Jan. 3 it has gained over 80 signatures.
When asked how he felt about the petition Friedrich said, “I was very touched and I really didn’t expect to find a petition fighting for me. It came out of the blue. To see students signing and writing kind things about me is very gratifying and overwhelming.”
Alumni Robert Mann graduated in 2005 and works as a sales writer at a waste management company in Syracuse. While in college Mann said he had trouble expressing his words on paper.
“Friedrich was willing to take the time and work with me, as well as other students, to better understand how to write properly. His office door was always open and if you stopped by he helped you. He wasn’t a teacher who focused only on grades, he really wanted his students to succeed,” Mann said during a telephone interview.
Mann said he has joined together with fellow alumni in a Facebook movement and press rush to promote the re-consideration of emeritus status for Friedrich.