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Photo courtesy Bill Olmsted, The Janesville Gazette

Fruzen School Honors Alum’s Career in Education

Fran Fruzen ’52, known by many simply as Mr. Beloit for his dedication to his community, will add another accolade to his already large collection when the south central Wisconsin city names its latest school for him in late September.

“It’s a huge honor and it’s very humbling to have a school named for you,” says Fruzen. “It’s especially meaningful since it’s an educational building and children will be coming through every day and learning.”

Fruzen retired in 2011 after working for the Beloit School District for 55 years. His career included time spent as a teacher, an assistant principal at Beloit Memorial High School and a district administrator, with his last position serving as Beloit’s Safe & Drug-Free Schools coordinator. (The 2011 retirement was actually his third time leaving the paid workforce; he previously retired twice, only to return to help the district out in another capacity.) In addition to his job with the school district, Fruzen also has been heavily involved with community organizations and projects through the years. They include the American Red Cross; Youth2Youth Coalition; he started a youth hockey club in Beloit to provide a new activity for students; and he helped to develop the Beloit Health Department’s two community-needs assessments. He is still involved with the schools, heading up the Beloit Memorial High School Hall of Fame annual ceremony. (It was Fruzen who established the hall of fame in 1994.)

“I suppose I got the name ‘Mr. Beloit’ from all the stuff I’ve done,” Fruzen says. “I’m not sure who came up with it. I’ve just always had the philosophy you have an obligation to give back to your community, your profession and your faith.” 

Fruzen traces that philosophy back to his time on the St. Norbert campus, where he arrived in the late 1940s. “I was a poor boy from Green Bay and playing football got me into college,” he says. “I’ll always be indebted to St. Norbert for providing me with my training and helping form my values.

“I’ve tried to carry St. Norbert’s forward in little ways, too, in my career. When I was teaching at the high school, they were looking for a new mascot and I suggested the Purple Knights to play off the Green Knights of St. Norbert.”

When the Beloit School Board made the decision in 2012 to build a new state-of-the-art school to house students in grades four through eight, a committee was formed to collect name suggestions. Fruzen’s name quickly rose to the top of the list. 

“When it came time, the board approved naming it after me, unanimously, which just made me feel more honored,” he says. “I’ve always been very active in all kinds of educational issues and the community, and not just because it was part of my job. Education is very important to me and it can make such a difference in a child’s life.”

After graduating from St. Norbert, Fruzen served in the United States Army for two years during the Korean War, providing training for new recruits. After that, he taught for two years at a school in Menasha, Wis., before heading to the University of Wisconsin to earn his master’s degree. Then the Beloit schools contacted him about teaching history and he hasn’t looked back.

Fruzen has amassed several honors throughout his educational career, including being named a St. Norbert Distinguished Scholar of Education in 1998 and winning a Faith In Action Award from Catholic Charities in the Madison diocese. 

“They’ve asked for some of my different awards to put in a case at the school so people can learn more about me,” Fruzen says.

Looking ahead to the Sept. 27 ceremony, Fruzen is unsure of what he’ll say, but knows the occasion will be emotional. 

“To have your name associated with youth and their formation is just such a great honor,” he says. “My name will carry on and be associated with educating students for years to come. That’s a lot to absorb.”

Sept. 1, 2015