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Farewell to Gerry Frank

by Taylor Robertson,

Gerry Frank

Gerald “Gerry” Frank passed away on March 13, 2022, at age 97. He was one of the longest-serving trustees on Willamette’s board and a proud fourth-generation Oregonian with deep roots in the retail, restaurant, political, civic, and business activities throughout the state.

“The Willamette community – along with the entire state of Oregon – has benefited from Gerry Frank’s lifetime of service and leadership. Although he did not attend Willamette, he was long an integral part of our community, and his life was the embodiment of our motto, Not Unto Ourselves Alone Are We Born,” said Willamette University President Steve Thorsett.

Born in Portland, Oregon in 1923, Gerry attended Stanford University, where he enrolled in the Reserve Officer Training Program. After nearly two years at Stanford, Gerry was called to active duty in the U.S. Army in 1943, and served in World War II in the field artillery of the 89th Infantry Division. After his discharge in 1945, he remained in England and attended Cambridge University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1948 and a master’s degree in politics in 1950.

After graduating from Cambridge, Gerry returned to Portland and worked at his family business, the Meier & Frank department store. He opened the Meier & Frank store in Salem in 1955 and managed it until the business sold in 1966, after which he became chief of staff to the late U.S. Senator Mark Hatfield, earning the moniker “Oregon’s third senator” in the process.

In 1982, Gerry opened the beloved Salem dessert shop, Gerry Frank’s Konditorei, a favorite of the Willamette University community. He also wrote for The Oregonian’s travel section for over 28 years, and authored the guide “Where to Find it, Buy it, and Eat it in New York.”

Gerry joined Willamette’s Board of Trustees in 1959, and became a life member in 2000. He was honored with several awards during his lifetime, including the Salem First Citizen award in 1964, Glen Jackson Medallion Award in 1984, and Oregon’s Premiere Citizen Award in 2000. In 2017, Willamette University awarded him an Honorary Doctorate of Public Service in recognition of his leadership and sense of civic duty to Oregon.

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