PORTLAND — Dave Frohnmayer, a widely respected leader in Oregon politics and academics, has died at 74.
A statement from the family said Frohnmayer died Monday night after “a quiet battle” for five years against prostate cancer.
Frohnmayer, a Republican, was a former attorney general, president of the University of Oregon and candidate for governor.
He served in the Legislature before he was elected attorney general in 1980, a job he held through three terms. He ran for governor in 1990 but lost in a three-way race to Democrat Barbara Roberts.
Frohnmayer owned a home in Bend, where he lived part time. He served on a committee for the Ford Family Foundation that links rural leaders in Oregon with training and development, and he served on the foundation’s board of directors from 2004 to 2012.
Bend Rep. Knute Buehler, a fellow Rhodes scholar, called Frohnmayer a friend and mentor and said the two spoke before and during his time as a freshman legislator in Salem about good governance.
“Dave gave his all to the state he loved dearly. On days like this, I can only think of what might have been if his run for Governor in 1990 had been successful,” Buehler wrote in a statement.
Frohnmayer represented an old-school strain of Republican politics in Oregon, marked by moderation and liberalism in figures such as Tom McCall and Mark Hatfield that has been eclipsed in an era of sharper partisan differences.
“A giant has fallen,” said longtime friend and law partner Bill Gray. “And Oregon and her citizens have lost a champion, and we’re all diminished by that.”
After his career in elective office, he went to the University of Oregon, where he served as dean of the law school and then, for 15 years, as president of the school.
During that time he fought to restore dwindling state funding, enlisted the university in efforts to battle climate change, supported American Indian students building a longhouse on campus and adopted the “O” logo made famous by the football team for the entire university. He also lost a feud with Nike founder and Ducks mega-booster Phil Knight over the athletic apparel company’s labor practices.
As state attorney general in the 1980s, Frohnmayer prosecuted followers of Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh as they tried to establish a political power base on a commune outside the tiny High Desert community of Antelope. At the time, authorities said his efforts earned him a spot on the group’s hit list.
Tributes came from both sides of the political aisle as well as from the academic world.
Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, called him “my wonderful and brilliant friend.” She said state flags would be at half-staff when a memorial service is held. No date has been announced
House Republican Leader Mike McLane, of Powell Butte, cited Frohnmayer’s “vast contributions to the state of Oregon” and said he would have a “legacy as a faithful public servant and advocate for the state and its people.”
Scott Coltrane, the university’s current interim president, said Frohnmayer had been a friend, colleague and adviser. He cited Frohnmayer’s ability to “bring people together and build successful partnerships.”
His family said he had been determined to keep his illness private, and “he was able to accomplish this and continue a full public schedule to the end.”
Born in Medford, Frohnmayer graduated from Harvard and went to Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. He earned his law degree from the University of California, Berkeley. He and his wife, Lynn, started a foundation to combat Fanconi anemia after the rare genetic blood disorder killed two of their daughters.
In addition to his wife, Frohnmayer is survived by children Mark, Johnathan and Amy, sister Mira and brother John, a former director of the National Endowment for the Arts and independent candidate for U.S. Senate.
— Bulletin reporter Taylor W. Anderson contributed to this report.