Only in Lawrence: Margey and Bob Frederick’s trail of generosity

Margey and Bob Frederick

Margey Frederick remembers the precise moment when she caught her first glimpse of her future husband, Bob.

At the time he was working under Ted Owens as an assistant basketball coach at Kansas University.

“It was September 20, 1971,” she’ll say without hesitation. “I remember him standing outside Allen Fieldhouse with one of his freshman ball players. I can tell you what he was wearing. I called the equipment manager and inquired about him, and he fixed us up. It was a blind date for him, but not for me.”

The two were married in 1972, irrevocably intertwining their stories and beginning an adventure that would lead them through Kansas, Utah, California and Illinois.

“He was the solid one, and I was the one with the loud mouth,” she says. “He was the quiet and reverent one, and I was the ornery and irreverent one.”

From school to school, town to town, the couple worked together, striving to make education a priority, Frederick recalls.

As Bob Frederick worked as assistant basketball coach at Kansas University, Brigham Young University and Stanford University, Margey worked in the public school districts.

A Des Moines, Iowa, native, she earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism and advertising from KU in the mid-1960s. She finished a master’s degree in special education from KU remotely after the couple moved to Provo, Utah.

“I just got interested in kids with special needs. It was one of those things that pulls at your heart strings, and you just follow through with it,” she says. “It was clear we were going to be a mobile family and there were a lot of students with special needs. It was something I could do everywhere.”

Throughout the years, the couple held a number of different positions in a number of different locations, but they always remained educators, said longtime family friend Dave Ambler.

“I think all of us were greatly influenced by Bob, in terms of his dedication to young people and to education. I think he saw something more to athletics than just winning,” Ambler said. “And I think Margey is a very active person and a constant ball of energy.”

After 15 years, four children and several moves to and from Lawrence, the couple returned to town in 1987. Bob had been hired to work as KU’s athletics director,.

“We were back and we’d been here four times now,” Frederick said. “I said, ‘Bob, we can’t keep doing this.'”

So the family settled in. And they began giving back to the community.

Frederick continued to support her husband in his work at the university while she raised their four boys, eventually coming to work at KU’s visitor’s center.

Over the years, literacy served as a common theme within the couple’s contributions, Frederick explains. For a time, Bob joined the board of the Lawrence Public Library, while Margey served on Kansas University’s Library Board.

Longtime members of Plymouth Congregational Church, 925 Vermont St., the Fredericks also worked to cover expenses for the church’s annual Thanksgiving and July 4 activities, Ambler said.

“She did a lot at Plymouth Church, different projects. She’s a great woman with an incredibly big heart, and she’s always been very generous with the community,” he said.

Over the years the couple built a legacy of generosity around town, Ambler said. And following Bob’s death in a 2009 bicycle accident, Margey has worked alongside her four sons to ensure the longevity of that generosity, he added.

After Bob’s death the Fredericks, alongside family friends, colleagues and even students, worked together to form the Dr. Bob Reader program at the Lawrence Public Library, explains Kathleen Morgan, the Lawrence Public Library Foundation’s director of development and strategic partnerships.

The program gives each child under 18 a brand new book when they sign up for a library card, Morgan said. In just over two years, the program has given out nearly 3,000 books, and an endowment has been established to ensure the program’s continuation.

Frederick is quick to aim the spotlight away from herself, but Morgan said she deserves much praise.

“Margey is a force,” Morgan said. “She is amazing. She is one of those people who gets things done. She has a great vision on where to take projects and knows a lot of people in Lawrence and how to connect the dots.”