Above / The photo shows then-North Central College President Harold R. Wilde with Rita Harvard during opening night festivities at the Wentz Concert Hall and Fine Arts Center in October 2008.
NAPERVILLE, Ill. (June 18, 2012)—North Central College is remembering Life Trustee Rita G. Harvard, a Naperville native, community leader and loyal friend of the College, who passed away on June 15, 2012. She was 82.
Harvard’s many connections to Naperville made a significant impact on the College, including her role as honorary chair of community fundraising for the $30 million Wentz Concert Hall and Fine Arts Center.
“Twenty-two years ago, when I was first interviewed for North Central’s presidency, Rita told me that this community needed an additional fine arts center to go along with Pfeiffer Hall and she thought it one of the things that should occur on my watch,” says North Central College President Harold R. Wilde. “Year after year, I kept hearing her voice … there’s no doubt that she helped inspire the effort that got us to this point. She did that in so many ways on so many projects throughout the community and that’s really her legacy … a kind of spirit that says ‘we can do it.’”
Harvard had been elected a trustee of the College in 1982 and served as vice chair for business affairs and vice chair for institutional advancement. In 1995, Harvard chaired the North Central College-Naperville 125th Anniversary Campaign, and that same year the College presented her with the Gael D. Swing Award for Meritorious Service. At that time, Board Chair Steve Bergerson praised her exceptional leadership skills and her ability to inspire the efforts of volunteers.
From age 12, Harvard was involved in her family’s business, Cock Robin Ice Cream Company. Her parents Walter and Grace Fredenhagen were its founders, builders and operators of dozens of stores in the area, including its original store in Naperville. Later, she was a partner in the private real estate management partnership of Harvard Management Associates. In 1996, Harvard and her brother Ted Fredenhagen a 1950 alumnus of North Central College, donated to the city of Naperville the Naperville Cock Robin store site, which became Fredenhagen Park to honor their parents. The 1-acre landscaped park provided a key link between the College’s property and the Riverwalk.
“The Fredenhagen family legacy lives on in Fredenhagen Park, which is adjacent to the College’s new Riverwalk Gateway,” says Rick Spencer, North Central College vice president for institutional advancement. “Those two properties together really meld the community of Naperville and North Central together.”
Spencer adds that he knew Harvard throughout his lifetime and she inspired him during her years as an active trustee. “She was just a rock … so reasonable, so smart, so aware of her surroundings, so aware of what was going on, so aware of what people needed,” he adds.
Over the years, she was honored by various organizations for her exemplary leadership and generous support. Notably, in 2010 she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rotary Club of Naperville, which honored her status as one of its first female members and its first female president by renaming the award The Rita Harvard Lifetime Achievement Award.
An active member of Naperville’s Grace United Methodist Church, Harvard was a member of its board of trustees, committee chair of the steering committee for construction of a new church building, and a lay delegate to the Northern Illinois Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Born June 28, 1929, in Aurora, Ill., Harvard earned a biology degree from Monmouth College and taught two years in Dixon, Ill. She is survived by her husband John Harvard; daughters Susan Krosko and Jodie Anderson; son Tom Castagnoli; stepdaughters Kelly Pelland and Kerry Irwin; and brother Ted Fredenhagen of Amboy, Ill.