Freeh Memoir Celebrates Prairie Upbringing,
Jelsing, Catherine "Freeh
Memoir Celebrates Prairie Upbringing, Lifetime
Achievements." Bison Briefs, Fall 2005.
Born July 10, 1926, on the family farm seven miles south of Harvey,
N.D., one would never guess LaVern Freeh, BS ’51, would someday
influence international relations and serve the administrations
of three U.S. Presidents. But he did, and he’s recorded memories
of his modest beginnings and his exchanges with world leaders in
a memoir published by NDSU Libraries’ Germans from Russia
Freeh wrote “Child of the Prairie, Man of the World: The
Memoirs of LaVern ‘Vern’ Freeh” with his daughter
Lori Freeh Tufte. While the memoir includes many stories of Freeh’s
professional accomplishments, such as meeting with Fidel Castro
in Cold War Cuba, it is also rich with colorful personal anecdotes,
like an eventful television interview with a sheep.
Predicting Freeh’s experiences “will resonate with a
broad spectrum of readers,” friend and colleague Ronald Roskens,
former administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development,
noted, “it is a unique person who can write about himself
with such openness and gentle, often subtle, humor ….”
Freeh leaves everything in his story, from crazy tricks he taught
the farm dogs and driving Roman chariots at the county fair to what
it was like living with a father who once struggled with alcoholism.
?Although Freeh eventually would travel to more than 60 countries,
his roots are in the German-Russian community where he grew up.
He first left home to serve in the Marines. He returned to North
Dakota and taught in a one-room school before enrolling at NDSU.
At NDSU Freeh became captain of the football team; earned honors
as an ag education student; was elected student body president;
and met and married the girl of his dreams, Mable “Mabes”
Freeh tells how, as NDSU student body president, he was called
into President Frederick Hultz’s office to discuss what Hultz
labeled “three meaningless witch hunts.” The student
council wanted faculty evaluations, fairer textbook prices and more
resources for football. The students eventually won on the first
two issues, but — to Freeh’s dismay — the football
budget didn’t budge.
Freeh’s first job out of college was teaching vocational
agriculture and coaching football at Linton, N.D. Six years later
he enrolled in graduate school and became a football coaching student
assistant at Michigan State University. He earned his doctorate
in 1962 and began an 18-year career at the University of Minnesota.
He was serving as the U of M’s director of international programs
when he left academia to become vice president for public and international
affairs at Land O'Lakes, Inc.
During his 12 years with Land O’Lakes, Freeh became increasingly
involved with international affairs and represented his company
in Washington, D.C. He also worked on international aid and development
projects for the administrations of Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald
Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
Freeh’s memoir is a “legacy” for all of who have
known him, “especially his children, grandchildren, and all
those who follow,” writes William “Bill” Hueg,
Jr., one of Freeh’s former colleagues and past vice president
for agriculture at the U of M.
This is the second Freeh book published by NDSU Libraries. Freeh’s
first title, “Couldn't Be Better: The Russian Farm Community
Project,” traced the history of the Russian Farm Community
Project, a joint effort of U.S. and Russian people to create a model
for privatizing and revitalizing rural Russia, which Freeh helped
establish in 1991 and has been involved with ever since. That book
was published in 2000.
To order “Child of the Prairie, Man of the World,” send
a check for $25, plus $4 postage, payable to NDSU Library, to: Germans
from Russia Heritage Collection, Child of the Prairie Book, NDSU
Libraries, PO Box 5599, Fargo, ND 58105-5599. To order online, go
At the request of the author, proceeds from the sale of the book
will go to the Freeh Family Football Scholarship, NDSU Athletics
and NDSU Libraries Dakota Memories Oral History Project.