Biology professor Robert Friar has had a variety of experiences in nearly 50 years at Ferris State University, and will add another Saturday, Sept. 24, when he serves as grand marshal of the homecoming parade down Michigan Ave.
The procession through Big Rapids’ downtown will begin at 12 p.m., a highlight of “We the Bulldogs,” a week-long schedule of activities marking Ferris’ 90th homecoming celebration. Associate Vice President for External Relations Jeremy Mishler said that this is a wonderful opportunity to recognize a man who is committed to excellence as an educator, and is a supporter of the university.
“Bob Friar is a Ferris icon who has had a positive, and literal impact on multiple generations of the Ferris State University community,” Mishler said. “He has been a dedicated and generous contributor to The Ferris Foundation, offering both his service and endowed scholarships. We’re elated that Friar agreed to serve as a key contributor to this signature event.”
Born and raised on an Indiana dairy farm, Friar went to Purdue University and earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees there. He joined the faculty at Ferris in 1967, and was honored as a Fulbright Scholar and Distinguished Teacher Award recipient before he retired from full-time instruction, in 2014. Friar continues as an adjunct professor in Human Sexuality. He began presenting this class, in 1974, by team-teaching with professors Leon Keys and George Janzen and continues, alone, as instructor of a subject that has gained him international prominence and attention, with quotes in Time and Newsweek, and video coverage of his “Sex and the College Student” presentation by the Canadian Discovery Channel, and television crews from South Korea and El Salvador.
He is also a member of The Ferris Foundation Board of Directors, serving as the chair of their grants and gifts committee. Friar, whose late wife, Frances, was a Ferris alumna, has, along with his children Kenneth, David and Debra, all Ferris alumni, established three endowed scholarships, which have been distributed to students in a variety of programs.
“I had a scholarship at Purdue, which covered my tuition, which then was $76 a semester,” Friar said. “My father taught me the importance of giving back, so my wife and I decided, after getting our kids through school, that we would help Ferris students meet the costs of their education.”
Friar acknowledged that his original plan, as he joined the university’s faculty, was to remain at Ferris for a couple of years as he established himself in his career.
“I had the opportunity to join up with prestigious schools in major cities, including a research lab at Case Western Reserve, in Cleveland,” Friar said. “There, people were worried about getting to their cars before it got dark. Living in Big Rapids, I have deer running through my property. I was raised in a small town in Indiana. I have greatly enjoyed my experience here, and I still enjoy it.”
Friar said his experience with Nursing, Pre-Pharmacy and Pre-Medicine students teaching Anatomy and Physiology has fostered many friendships and acquaintances that continue to this day.
“My sons are doctors, and pharmacists and nurses will ask them if they’re related to the ‘Dr. Friar at Ferris,’” Friar said. “It’s great when you have the opportunity to have such fine students over the years.”
Friar has learned that later this fall, he will be welcomed back onto the Purdue campus to receive a Distinguished Alumni award. As he was being informed of this honor, word came that the Homecoming committee hoped he would agree to serve as grand marshal for Saturday’s parade, and other festivities.
“I never anticipated being such a thing,” Friar said. “I am thankful for the opportunity.”
PHOTO CAPTION: Ferris State University professor Robert Friar has been named grand marshal for the 2016 Homecoming parade and festivities to follow on Saturday, Sept. 24. Friar continues to teach the Human Sexuality class at Ferris, now in his 43rd year of instruction on this subject. Friar came to Ferris in 1967, and will be honored as a Distinguished Alumnus of Purdue University in mid-November.