Obituary: Murrae Freng, executive director of MSHSL, helped girls' sports take hold
- Article by: JOEL RIPPEL
- June 9, 2014 - 8:16 PM
Murrae Freng worked in education for 38 years. At the time of his retirement, he told the Star Tribune, “One-half of those 38 years I had the opportunity to work with high school students and the other half working for high school students.”
Freng spent 19 years as a high school teacher before joining the staff of the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) in 1965. In October 1970, Freng became the acting executive director of the MSHSL. He became the permanent director in March 1971.
Freng died May 31 at his home in Plymouth. He was 89.
During his 14-year tenure as executive director — he retired in January 1985 — Freng oversaw significant changes, including the addition of girls interscholastic sports, a two-class system in basketball and a football playoff system.
David Stead, the current MSHSL executive director, said Freng, “was a man whose personal touch spanned the breadth of every extracurricular program in schools throughout Minnesota, and his leadership, as well as his commitment to excellence to fair play, was the standard set for administrators in each of the member schools of the league.
“Murrae championed the fine arts, but he also fully supported athletics. When difficult decisions needed to be made, Murrae researched the questions and formulated answers that best met the needs of all of the member schools and their athletic and fine arts programs.”
Freng, a Pelican Rapids, Minn., native, graduated with a bachelor of arts in music from Concordia College, Moorhead, in 1946. He started his teaching career at Brooten. After six years, he moved to Alexandria, where he spent 13 years.
He joined the MSHSL staff in 1965 as an assistant to the executive director. Freng became the acting director when executive director B.H. Hill died.
When his retirement was announced, the Star Tribune wrote: “When Murrae Freng became executive director of the Minnesota State High School League in 1971, he spoke of the need to anticipate and plan for change. Freng resigned yesterday, after adhering to that philosophy through 14 years of policy changes by the league. During his tenure, Freng changed the league from an organization perceived by the public as closed to change to one of openness.”
Freng told the newspaper that the most gratifying moment of his tenure was, “the day in March of 1969 when the [MSHSL] Representative Assembly adopted bylaws to add a program for interscholastic athletics for girls. That, above all, is most significant.”
Freng, who earned a master of arts in music education from MacPhail College of Music, also directed church choirs during his career. In 1986, Freng received the F. Melius Christiansen Memorial Award for lifelong contributions to choral music, and last year Freng received the Concordia College Alumni Achievement Award.
Former Minnesota State University, Moorhead, sports information director Larry Scott said, “My hometown, Alexandria, was blessed with a rich music tradition, and much of that can be traced to Murrae Freng, That he built a marvelous choir was just part of his legacy, and the inspiration and leadership he provided the students of Alexandria can never be overstated.
“While we were disappointed that he left us too soon … we were very proud of his rich contribution to the state high school league. He was a remarkable man with great talents, great patience and great kindness.”
Freng is survived by Helen, his wife of 64 years, three daughters and a son, seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
A service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Maple Grove.
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