Marquette Wire

Frechette, co-founder of Marquette journalism fellowship, dies at 79

Pat+%28left%29+and+Peter+%28right%29+Frechette+donated+the+money+responsible+for+the+O%27Brien+Fellowship+in+Public+Service+Journalism.+Photo+via+Marquette+youtube+page
Pat (left) and Peter (right) Frechette donated the money responsible for the O'Brien Fellowship in Public Service Journalism. Photo via Marquette youtube page

Pat (left) and Peter (right) Frechette donated the money responsible for the O'Brien Fellowship in Public Service Journalism. Photo via Marquette youtube page

Pat (left) and Peter (right) Frechette donated the money responsible for the O'Brien Fellowship in Public Service Journalism. Photo via Marquette youtube page

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Peter Frechette, who made significant contributions to Marquette’s journalism efforts, died suddenly Wednesday, Feb. 22. He was 79.

Frechette and his high school sweetheart Patricia O’Brien Frechette donated $8.3 million in 2012 to the Diedrich College of Communication to fund the Perry and Alicia O’Brien Fellowship in Public Service Journalism, named in honor of Patricia’s parents, both of whom graduated from Marquette in the 1930s. Perry O’Brien was a longtime reporter for the Janesville Daily Gazette and 1230 WCLO-AM radio.

Since its inception, the O’Brien Fellowship has provided a total of 14 professional journalists a nine-month residency on campus while working on an in-depth public service project. The journalists are assisted by Marquette students.

“Pete and Pat Frechette were strong supporters of journalism and democracy, and they were looking for an opportunity to use their support to better the press in general but also to provide some student experience,” Kimo Ah Yun, dean of the College of Communication, said.

The couple was married for 55 years before Patricia’s death five months ago due to stroke complications at age 78. They are survived by twin daughters Kathy and Kristy.

“They taught us to look past ourselves,” Kathy told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “They had a lot, but did not take it for granted.”

Peter Frechette was an accomplished businessman. He helped lead Patterson Companies, a dental supply company, to more than $1 billion in annual sales before retiring in 2013.

In his younger years, Frechette was a member of the Army Military Police, and in 1962 helped protect James Meredith, the first African-American to attend the University of Mississippi.

He graduated from the University of Wisconsin Business School and earned an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern. Frechette continued to support the universities after graduation with both time and money. He was a member of the University of Wisconsin Foundation board and the Business School Advisory Board and served on the Kellogg School Board.

The Frechettes also donated to the University of Wisconsin Education School, and provided financial support to arts, environmental and health causes in Minnesota and the Vail Valley in Colorado.

Ah Yun said the Frechettes’ $8.3 million fellowship donation ensures that investigative journalism at Marquette will continue. “The nice thing about a gift of that magnitude is that all of the financing pieces are together, and so it’s just our job to make sure we continue to run it the best way possible,” he said. “It was a great relationship. She is already missed, and he will be missed as well.”

The funeral service for Frechette is Thursday in Minneapolis.

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