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David Frohnmayer
David B. Frohnmayer.jpg
15th President of the University of Oregon
In office
July 1, 1994 – June 30, 2009
Preceded by Myles Brand
Succeeded by Richard W. Lariviere
12th Attorney General of Oregon
In office
January 5, 1981 – December 31, 1991
Governor Victor Atiyeh
Neil Goldschmidt
Barbara Roberts
Preceded by James M. Brown
Succeeded by Charles Crookham
Member of the Oregon House of Representatives
In office
Personal details
Born July 9, 1940
Medford, Oregon, U.S.
Died March 10, 2015(2015-03-10) (aged 74)
Eugene, Oregon, U.S.
Political party Republican
Relatives John Frohnmayer (brother), Mark Frohnmayer (son)
Education Harvard University (BA)
University of California, Berkeley (JD)

David B. "Dave" Frohnmayer (July 9, 1940 – March 10, 2015) was an American attorney, politician, and academic administrator from Oregon. He was the 15th president of the University of Oregon, serving from 1994 to 2009. His tenure as president was the second-longest after John Wesley Johnson. He was the first native Oregonian to run the University of Oregon. Frohnmayer previously served as Oregon Attorney General from 1981 to 1991, and subsequently served as dean at the University of Oregon School of Law before serving as president of the university. He served in an "of counsel" attorney role with the Oregon law firm, Harrang Long Gary Rudnick P.C.

Early life and education

David Braden Frohnmayer was born in Medford, Oregon. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1962. He attended Wadham College, Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship, and received his law degree from the University of California, Berkeley in 1967.

Political career

Frohnmayer, a Republican, served three terms in the Oregon House of Representatives from 1975 to 1981, representing southern Eugene.

Oregon Attorney General

Frohnmayer 1984
Frohnmayer in 1984

Frohnmayer was elected as Oregon Attorney General in November 1980, defeating Democrat Harl H. Haas, Jr., and was sworn into office on January 5, 1981. He was re-elected in 1984, when he defeated former State Sen. Vernon Cook (D), and 1988, when he was nominated by both the Democratic and Republican parties, and defeated Fred Oerther, the Libertarian nominee. Frohnmayer served as Attorney General until his resignation on December 31, 1991, when he became Dean of the University of Oregon School of Law. As Attorney General, one of his most notable cases involved leading the prosecution of members of the Rajneesh movement (followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.)

Supreme Court Litigation

Frohnmayer prevailed in six out of the seven cases that he took to the United States Supreme Court: Oregon v. Kennedy (1982), Oregon v. Bradshaw (1983), Oregon v. Elstad (1985), Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife v. Klamath Indian Tribe (1985), Whitely v. Albers (1986), and Employment Division v. Smith (1990). His one unsuccessful Supreme Court case was Tower v. Glover (1984).

1990 gubernatorial election

Frohnmayer was the Republican nominee for Governor of Oregon in 1990. Popular Democratic incumbent–and former UC Berkeley School of Law classmate–Neil Goldschmidt withdrew after Frohnmayer's campaign manager, Donna Zajonc, said "'ve got to believe that the best family will win" at a news conference, which was then reported by Jeff Mapes in The Oregonian. Zajonc's statement was interpreted at the time as a threat to use Goldschmidt's collapsing marriage as a political issue. ..... Frohnmayer subsequently lost the election to Barbara Roberts, the Democrat who was nominated after Goldschmidt's withdrawal, in a three-way race that included independent, Oregon Citizens Alliance-backed candidate Al Mobley.

Academic career

Frohnmayer taught law at the University of Oregon from 1971 to 1981, before he became state attorney general, and returned to the university as law school dean on January 1, 1992. He was appointed president of the university in 1994. Frohnmayer announced his retirement as president on April 29, 2008, and was succeeded on July 31, 2009 by Richard Lariviere. Frohnmayer's tenure was widely acclaimed; The Register-Guard's editorial "Retiring from the University he Remade" opined that "Dave Frohnmayer has steered the University of Oregon through grim and changing times and he's leaving a different and stronger institution." The Oregonian called Frohnmayer's presidency "one of the most remarkable higher education performances in Oregon history."

During his tenure as president, he established an enduring relationship between the university and Phil Knight and Nike, which has continued to provide significant financial support to the university's athletic program. In April 2000, students protesting labor conditions at Nike blocked Frohnmayer from leaving his office, until they were arrested. Later in April, the University joined the Workers Rights Consortium. In response, Knight retracted a $30 million donation. After Frohnmayer withdrew the university from the consortium in February 2001, Knight restored his donation.

Personal life

Frohnmayer met Lynn Johnson, a native of Grants Pass, Oregon and returned Peace Corps volunteer, while working in Washington, D.C. as executive assistant to Robert Finch, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare in the Nixon administration. They were set up by both sets of their parents, who were friends in Southern Oregon. After marrying, they returned to Oregon where they raised their five children—Kirsten, Mark, Katie, Jonathan, and Amy—in Eugene.

In 1983, during Frohnmayer's first term as Oregon's Attorney General, daughters Kirsten and Katie were diagnosed with Fanconi anemia, a rare and life-threatening recessive genetic illness. Their third daughter Amy, born in 1987, also inherited the disease. Lynn and Dave together founded the FA Family Support Group in 1985 to help share disease and treatment information with other families afflicted by the illness and in 1989 established the Fanconi Anemia Research Fund to fund research that would lead to a cure. All three Frohnmayer daughters died of complications related to Fanconi anemia: Katie in 1991 at age 12, Kirsten in 1997 at age 24, and Amy Elizabeth Winn in 2016 at age 29.

Frohnmayer was also a founding Director of the National Marrow Donor Program and served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Frohnmayer's upbringing was heavily influenced by his father Otto's dedication to the law and public service and his mother MarAbel's love of music. His elder sister, Mira, had a distinguished career as a vocalist and music professor. His brother, John, served as chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts under the administration of President George H. W. Bush and briefly challenged incumbent senator Gordon Smith in the 2008 election as an independent. His late brother, Philip, who resided in New Orleans, Louisiana, was professor of music at Loyola University. In 2005, the University of Oregon's MarAbel B. Frohnmayer Music Building was named in honor of his mother.


On March 10, 2015, Frohnmayer died of prostate cancer, aged 74. "I am heartbroken at the loss of my wonderful and brilliant friend Dave Frohnmayer," Gov. Kate Brown said in a statement. "His deep love of Oregon is reflected in a lifetime of leadership and public service. My thoughts and prayers go out to Lynn and the Frohnmayer family at this difficult time."

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