Monday, December 11, 2006

In Memoriam: Prof. George H. Fried

Today, 20 Kislev, is the sixteenth yahrzeit of my thesis adviser, Prof. George H. Fried of Brooklyn College, מורי יצחק בן אליהו הלוי.

Prof. George Fried was a valued thesis advisor to me and much more. In German the sponsor of a doctoral candidate is known as a “Doktor-Vater,” i.e. “doctor-father.” This close relationship between student and mentor mirrors the Jewish tradition which equates teachers with biological parents. Prof. Fried embodied this academic ideal. Our association was a long and fruitful one, and I benefited in many ways from his warmth and compassion as well as from his scholarship. He was generous with his advice on such seemingly trivial matters as how to dress for an interview, and I could always come to him with problems even of a non-academic nature, knowing that I could rely on him to be cool-headed and non-judgmental.

While Chairman of the biology department, Prof. Fried had the daunting task of allocating shrinking funds among growing needs. While it was impossible under such circumstances to please everybody, and his decisions often engendered bitter quarrels among faculty and graduate students, I can attest that they were made with his usual care and concern for the college, the department and the students for whom they exist.

Prof. Fried belonged to an endangered species of Renaissance man whose knowledge and interests range far beyond their academic specialties, and he nurtured the same inquiring spirit in me. He was particularly intrigued by the interactions of science and religion. We often discussed contemporary bioethical issues. He was a Reform Jew so we often disagreed, but I always came away a better and more understanding person. As a teacher he had the rare gift of making science genuinely exciting for students with little or no background in the subject, and his comments on my teaching were of immeasurable value in my own professional development.

Hashem took Prof. Fried from us suddenly and before his time. The passing of my biological father followed closely on that of his academic surrogate. Reflecting credit on both is a difficult task indeed.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, Zev. It's much appreciated. You describe my father well.

Take care,

Thu Jan 18, 11:32:00 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a childhood friend of Amy Fried, Professor Fried's daughter, and spent a lot of time with the family during my childhood and teen years. I still live (and have my psychotherapy office)in what had originally been my grandparents' home, down the block from Brooklyn College and the Fried's old residence by the railroad cut on Bedford Avenue.

Thank you for your reflections on George Fried. Much of what you say rings true to me, even from my own, different perspective. "Renaissance man" is certainly an apt way to characterize Dr. Fried. I remember many thought-provoking kitchen-table discussions on a variety of topics, including history and current events. I recall that Dr. Fried engaged us kids in the discussion, unlike many adults who wouldn't bother to involve children or teenagers in such lofty matters. And the Fried's home was frequently filled with music.

The Frieds always welcomed me into their home and their family, and I have many fond memories of my time with them. Their hospitality was immeasurably important to me.

Lynne Spevack L.C.S.W.

Sun Jan 21, 12:43:00 PM EST  

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