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E. K. Fretwell, Jr. papers

Identifier: MS0200

Scope and Contents

This collection contains materials from the life and work of E.K. Fretwell, Jr. from his service as United States Vice Consul in Czechoslovakia in the 1940s to his extensive involvement in higher education throughout the rest of his life, including his time at the City University of New York, the State University of New York at Buffalo, and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, as well as with numerous associations and committees on matters of higher education such as the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, and the North Carolina Education Standards and Accountability Commission. Other commissions documented in this collection include the New York State American Revolution Bicentennial Commission and the North Carolina Transit Commission. Topics of interest include the presidential office in higher education, including women presidents in the 1970s, matters of accreditation, foreign partnerships in education, and local Charlotte organizations such as the Boy Scouts and the Rotary Club. Although consisting heavily of speeches, correspondence, and subject files, the collection also includes research notes, publications and reports authored or co-authored by Fretwell, personal memorabilia from numerous trips abroad, plaques and certificates, cassette tapes of personal reflections, and photographs. This collection does not include material related to Fretwell’s childhood and contains only limited material concerning his family life. Inclusive dates: 1945-2008.


  • Creation: 1945 - 2008


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.

Biographical / Historical

The second chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Elbert Kirtley (E.K.) Fretwell, Jr. (1923-2012) was a man whose life was deeply connected to higher education. Born in New York on October 29, 1923, E.K. was the son of two teachers, Elbert Fretwell and Jean Hosford Fretwell. In 1944, he graduated with distinction from Wesleyan University, having earned a B.A. in English. From 1945-1947, Fretwell served as United States Vice Consul in Czechoslovakia before returning to education in the United States. He earned an M.A. in Teaching from Harvard University in 1948 and a Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1953. During these years, Fretwell taught junior high in Massachusetts (1948), taught at a high school and community college in Illinois (1948-1950), served as secretary for the John Hay Whitney Fellowships (1951-1953) and married Dorrie Shearer (1951). He served as Associate Professor at Columbia University (1953-1956) and would later receive three honorary degrees from the Technical University of Wroclaw in Poland (1976), Wesleyan University, and UNC Charlotte (1998).

Fretwell’s career as an administrator in higher education began in 1956 when he served as Assistant Commissioner for Higher Education in New York. He held this position until 1964 when he became the Dean for Academic Development at City University of New York. From 1967-1978, Fretwell served as president of the State University of New York College at Buffalo. In 1979, he moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, to become chancellor of UNC Charlotte where he would remain until his retirement in 1989. As Chancellor Emeritus of UNC Charlotte, Fretwell continued his work in higher education, serving as interim president of the University of Massachusetts (1991-1992) and the University of North Florida (1998).

Throughout his life Fretwell served on numerous committees and with a variety of associations, some of which included the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) with which he traveled to several countries including China, the New York American Revolution Bicentennial Commission, and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB). In addition, Fretwell wrote several articles and books on matters relating to higher education, some of which were part of his work with the Carnegie Council on Policy Studies in Higher Education in the 1970s.

A train enthusiast, Fretwell found time to include train activities during his world travels and was involved with the North Carolina Transportation Museum and the North Carolina Transit Commission back at home. Other community involvement during his time in Charlotte included work with the Boy Scouts and the Rotary Club. Fretwell resided in Charlotte until his death on October 18, 2012.

Outside sources:

Charlotte Observer. “E.K. Fretwll Jr.: Obituary.” October 21, 2012. Accessed June 25, 2015.

Fretwells: Genealogy and Family History Website. “E.K.Fretwell.” Accessed June 25, 2015.

Romine, Dannye. “E.K. Fretwell Jr.: Featured.” Charlotte Observer. October 19, 2012. Accessed June 25, 2015.

University of North Carolina at Charlotte. “E. K. Fretwell.” 2015. Accessed June 25, 2015.


54 Linear Feet (34 boxes; oversize items)

Language of Materials



Personal papers of Elbert Kirtley (E.K.) Fretwell, Jr. (1923-2012), the second chancellor of UNC Charlotte (1979-1989). Includes files regarding his service as Vice Consul in Czechoslovakia; his education and early teaching days; his positions at City University of New York, State University of New York at Buffalo, and UNC Charlotte; his involvement with various associations and commissions concerning higher education and transportation, including numerous trips abroad; his publications, including research on women presidents in higher education in the 1970s; and his involvement with the Boy Scouts and the Rotary Club.


The collection is divided into nine series, four of which are further divided into subseries. The series are as follows: Education and Early Career (1945-1956), Administrative Positions in Academia (1965-2008, bulk 1968-1989), Education Consultant and Trustee (1967-2000, bulk 1990-2000), Committees and Commissions (1959-2000), Community Involvement—Charlotte (1981-2000), Writings (1955-2000, bulk 1960s-1970s), Subject Files (1988-2008), Awards (1962-1998), Oversize.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Transfer from University Archives, 2015.

Related Materials

See also: Chancellor's Papers (1979-1989), University Archives [UA0029 and UA0030]

Processing Information

Olivia Eanes, 2015

E. K. Fretwell, Jr. papers
Olivia Eanes
2015 July
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscript Collections, J. Murrey Atkins Library Special Collections and University Archives, UNC Charlotte Repository

Atkins Library, UNC Charlotte
9201 University City Blvd
Charlotte NC 28223 United States

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