New initiative to focus on civil discourse, free markets

Gift from Robert and Barbara Frick will establish pilot program

Washington University in St. Louis Emeritus Trustee and alumnus Robert Frick and his wife, Barbara, have made a gift to establish a pilot initiative at the university to encourage an understanding of, and commitment to, civil discourse, free and open markets, free speech and personal responsibility.

Washington University in St. Louis Emeritus Trustee and alumnus Robert Frick and his wife, Barbara, have made a gift to establish a pilot initiative at the university to encourage an understanding of, and commitment to, civil discourse, free and open markets, free speech and personal responsibility. The multidisciplinary Frick Initiative will support a broad range of grants, opportunities and university events in support of these areas over the next three years.

“At WashU, we take seriously our commitment to prepare our students to make change in the world. A key element of this process is engaging with a diversity of thoughts and ideas,” Provost Beverly Wendland said. “This gift from Robert and Barbara Frick will help ensure that faculty, students, staff, and select community members can be immersed in the civil discourse and open exchange that are the hallmarks of a best-in-class educational experience.”

The initiative will be led by Mahendra Gupta, the Geraldine J. and Robert L. Virgil Professor of Accounting and Management and former dean of Olin Business School; and Russell Osgood, dean of the School of Law. In partnership with a steering committee representing university leadership, faculty, and students, they will have responsibility for funding allocation, sponsorship opportunities and tracking and monitoring the program’s success. The committee also may recommend funding for course or research support or for student experiential learning, internships or community projects.

In addition to Gupta and Osgood, initial steering committee members will include Anne Marie Knott, the Robert and Barbara Frick Professor of Business at Olin; Becko Copenhaver, professor of philosophy in Arts & Sciences; university trustee and Olin National Council member Jeff Fox, chairman and CEO of Harbour Group Ltd.; and law student Ryan McLaughlin. An additional committee of advisers will be formed to provide input and highlight relevant projects that can benefit from this newly created funding opportunity.

The proposal application process will open to Washington University faculty and students Jan. 20. To learn more, visit the Frick Initiative website. 

“The leadership and wise counsel of so many faculty members during my education at Washington University were instrumental to my professional success,” Bob Frick said. “Barbara and I are grateful that we can give back to the institution in a way that helps the next generation of faculty and student leaders better understand and embrace the principles of freedom that are a bedrock of our American democracy.”

About the Fricks

Bob Frick, a former vice chairman of the board of Bank of America, graduated from Washington University in 1960 with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and earned a master’s degree in business administration from Olin Business School two years later.

The Fricks have a long history of generous support of Washington University. In 2016, the couple made a $2 million commitment to support Olin Business School. The popular second-floor commons area in Knight Hall is named Robert and Barbara Frick Commons in recognition of their generosity. They previously had made a $5 million commitment to name the multilevel, multifunctional Robert and Barbara Frick Forum, which adjoins the Frick Commons.

In 2004, the Fricks established an endowed professorship in business, which Knott today holds. They also have made ongoing contributions for named annual scholarships at Olin Business School. They are life patrons of the university’s William Greenleaf Eliot Society.

Bob Frick has held numerous roles serving the university, including co-chair of the San Francisco Regional Campaign Committee for Leading Together, a fundraising initiative that raised more than a record amount of gifts and commitments. For his university service, Bob Frick received the Olin Distinguished Alumni Award in 1988 and the Founders Day Distinguished Alumni Award in 2011. Olin Business School honored the couple’s exceptional dedication to the school by awarding them its dean’s medal in 2015. Bob Frick currently serves on Olin National Council and is an emeritus trustee on the Board of Trustees.

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