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Published: Saturday, 4/6/2013

Glen R. Frey, 1940-2013: Ex-professor at BGSU taught climatology

BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
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BOWLING GREEN — Glen R. Frey, who brought the discipline of climatology to university students as he for decades collected the measures of local weather, died Tuesday in Advanced Specialty Hospital, Toledo. He was 72.

The cause of death was not known. He was in poor health for several months, his son, Kurt, said.

Mr. Frey retired in 2006 as an associate professor of geography after 38 years at Bowling Green State University. In recognition of distinguished service, BGSU trustees granted him emeritus status.

He taught a core group of weather-related courses. He analyzed maps and charts and directed a crew of graduate and undergraduate students who collected 20 or more daily weather and climate measurements from equipment outside Hanna Hall on campus. With that archive of data, he often was asked for his take on the weather by reporters — but also by biologists who needed precipitation data to help with mosquito counts; shippers dependent on an accurate forecast of dry weather, and lawyers seeking accurate readings of wind and hail and temperature for damage suits. For instance, local storm data might vary greatly from readings taken by the National Weather Service at Toledo Express Airport, Mr. Frey told The Blade in 1983.

“A summer thunderstorm may be only 10 miles wide, and the weather bureau is 25 miles away,” Mr. Frey told The Blade.

“He had the intellect for that kind of science,” said Alvar Carlson, a former department chairman and retired professor of geography. “We spent many hours talking about all sorts of things. He was a good listener.”

Mr. Frey enjoyed teaching the small classes in map and chart reading and weather forecasting, his son said, and he was an enthusiast for archiving the data collected at BGSU over decades.

“He persevered. He was very dedicated and exacting in the work he did,” his son said. “There definitely were no shortcuts.”

And he just plain enjoyed following the weather. He never saw a tornado and didn’t chase storms. But during vivid late-night lightning displays, he regularly awakened his young son so they could watch together.

Mr. Frey wasn’t particularly computer savvy, his son said, but as technology took an increasing role later in his career, he advised students who planned to make meteorology their life’s work to major in physics or computer science and minor in meteorology.

Several hundred students took basic courses in weather and climate annually, and those who had the notion that they’d found an easy way to meet their science requirement quickly learned otherwise.

“He had very high standards, which I really appreciated as chairman of the department for 10 years,” Mr. Carlson said.

Mr. Frey’s son added: “He did not tolerate people who were there just for the grade.

“He could be a gruff and demanding person,“ his son said. “If you worked with him and put a lot of work in, he was an old softy.”

He was a member of the American Meteorological Society; the American Geophysical Union; the American Water Resources Association, and the Association of American Geographers.

He was born Dec. 7, 1940, to Rose and Otway Frey in Milwaukee, where he grew up. He received a bachelor of science degree in mathematics and a master’s degree in physical geography from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He had a doctorate in climatology from the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee and Madison.

He liked construction and working with his hands. The goal wasn’t perfection in a first effort, but to return for a second or third attempt.

“He contributed a lot to building and maintaining my parents’ house in Bowling Green,” his son said. "He didn’t do electrical work, but he did a lot of carpentry and the cabinets and woodwork and a good deal of the masonry.

“He was very much a systematic person — do it by the book, and learn what you’re doing along the way."

His wife, Dorothy Frey, died Feb 21, 2010. The couple married Aug. 19, 1972.

Surviving is his son, Kurt Frey.

Visitation will be from 9-11 a.m. today in the Dunn Funeral Home, Bowling Green. Services will be private.

The family suggests tributes to the BGSU department of geography.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.



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