Fred Easter

27 September 2022
Fred Easter

Fred Easter, age 81, died on September 24th after a long battle with cancer. Fred began working at Carleton in 1968 and served in multiple capacities including: Assistant Director of Admissions, Director of Black Activities, Director of Project ABC (“A Better Chance”), Associate Dean of Students, Director of the ABC Regional Office, one season in 1972 as the Freshman Basketball Coach, and Lecturer in English from 1974-76. Fred’s work at Carleton and throughout his life was dedicated to helping Black and other students of color gain access to higher education. He brought a sharp wit, strong intellect, and deep wisdom to all he did. 

Because of their impact on Carleton and the Black student experience here, including helping to establish and support a Black Studies program, an endowment for Africana Studies was named this summer in honor of Fred and Mary Easter, his former wife. (Mary continued to support students and the Black Studies program as a professor of dance and the performing arts until her retirement in 2008.) See the family’s more complete obituary and an October 13 article on Fred from the StarTribune.

A memorial service to celebrate Fred’s life was held on Saturday, November 5, in Skinner Memorial Chapel.

Audio Tribute by Mark Hunter

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  • 2022-09-28 10:57:08
    Gretchen Hofmeister

    I was honored to meet Fred for the first time this past summer. He was warm and gracious to me, and he offered mementos and artwork, gathered over the course of his life, for the Africana Studies Program at Carleton. Fred's work to recruit and support Black students at Carleton has had a lasting impact--both on their individual lives and through their contributions to the college. Fred expressed great pride in his daughters and his grandchildren, who have followed in his and Mary's footsteps as people of accomplishment. I share his love of plants and was pleased talk with him about his extensive collection. My condolences to Fred's family and many friends; he has been an important influence on many people and he will be deeply missed.

  • 2022-09-30 11:36:07
    Deanna Dammer Kimbrough

    Had the honor of working with Fred for ABC Programs & Minority Admissions. We were friends til he passed. Hope they name a building for this awesome man. He changed so many lives!💕

    • 2022-10-18 07:43:13
      Lori McCracken

      I was a “Townie”. Thank you Carleton college for bringing this man in to my life. I was a young female that absolutely loved sports in a world where it wasn’t completely acceptable for a female to have this passion without acquiring a label. Girls weren’t allowed to play Little league so the womens softball league allowed me to join. This is where I met Coach Fred.
      “We had a great run” he said to me. This man taught me much of almost everything I know about the game of softball from when I was age 13-24. My summers were so enriched and fun spending them with Fred Easter. He challenged my brain as well as my physical ability on the ball field. He left Minnesota for a job in Miami.
      I would have spent every summer with his leadership and wisdom if life hadn’t changed the course. He was a father, coach and teacher of life. He even taught me how one dies gracefully. He promised to watch over me after he left. I’ll be looking for the signs. Forever in my heart💙💔🥲
      Ironically I was playing softball in senior qualifier when he passed last night….I couldn’t miss with my bat..(well maybe just once..ha ha)

    • 2022-11-05 10:51:59
      Terence Farrell

      Hello, Deanna -

      Terence Farrell here. Carleton’69. Hopefully you remember me from my time at Carleton, particularly my involvement with the ABC Program both in 1966 and 1969. I got to talk with Fred and visit with him (virtually) a couple of times earlier this year. Hope all is well! T

  • 2022-10-04 13:02:44
    Mark Andrew Clark

    Fred was the blessed connection to my invaluable college experience at Carleton College. I knew little of and had little interest in attending Carleton. My knowledge of and interest in Carleton dramatically changed when I met Fred. He was recruiting Black students from the Summer Study Skills Program (SSSP) based in hot Atlanta, Georgia to attend Carleton College located in freezing Northfield, Minnesota. Initially, I thought I from Albany, Georgia would not choose to attend Carleton. Thankfully, Fred worked persistently with me and patiently influenced me to make one of the best decisions of my life. Rest In PEACE (RIP) Fred Easter from your productive work while living on earth!

    • 2022-11-03 17:17:05
      Mike Hartung

      In the Fall of 1971, Fred held tryouts as coach of the freshman basketball team. About 25 of us showed up. We all made the team, thanks to Fred’s inclusive spirit and boundless energy. It was an example I’ll never forget.

  • 2022-10-06 17:29:47
    Sarah Johnson Entenmann

    I knew Fred from when he interviewed me to come to Carleton. That was at a boarding school in Massachusetts. In Northfield, I babysat his daughters. When I was a waitress at Dino’s in 1973, some Black students walked out after they were disrespected by a server. All white hell broke loose. It was disgusting and scary. I walked over to Fred’s house, near St Olaf, and asked him to intervene. He did so with enormous grace and convinced the daytime staff and owner to completely let the matter drop. It didn’t take him long to make lasting peace.

  • 2022-10-07 18:56:48
    Anthony Scott

    I worked with Fred at Control Data...We were in the same unit...A lot of fun to work with...while sharing a lot of wisdom.....

  • 2022-10-08 05:20:02
    Charles Hayden

    I first met Fred Easter during the summer of 1971 as an accepted student in the national A Better Chance Orientation Program which was being held at Carleton that year. As a rising 10th Grader from the inner city (Philadelphia, PA), raised in a single parent home, Fred, Leroy Richardson and all of the Black male Carleton Student Counselors such as George Ashford, Mark Clark, and Sylvester Foreman had a tremendous impact on me and that cohort of ABC students. I am not certain if the the Class of '78 had the largest number of ABC graduates but there were many of us who had attended elite Boarding Schools from the likes of Phillips Exeter and Dana Hall as well as top notch private day and public schools through the program. Looking back on it, I don't know how Fred did so much with so little in such a short period of time-three weeks, but he did it. Today, I am known as Judge Charles Hayden and I attribute whatever success I have achieved to date to a determined Black mother from Shorters, AL and that ABC Summer Program headed up by Fred Easter at Carleton.

  • 2022-10-09 15:25:24
    Joe Nathan

    Took a class from Fred in 1968 - changed my life forever. Looking forward to the November 5 celebration of his life and legacy

  • 2022-10-13 20:19:19
    Warren Simpson

    I grew up on the south side of Chicago and came to Carleton in 1966 shortly after turning 17. I first met Fred at a long late-night session with several other African American classmates as part of the interview process leading to him being hired at Carleton. He told us he had to leave Harvard after his second year for academic reasons but was able to return a year later and then graduate. At the time, I was struggling trying to balance academics and athletics in an environment lacking the support I had been accustomed to. I had never experienced failure, but the inspirational message I extracted from his undergraduate experience is that: 'If you have a setback or get knocked down (which I now know will happen to all of us in some form during our life's journey), you can always pick yourself up, dust off and keep moving forward. I am so thankful that once Fred saw something in me of value and kept nudging me forward in his quiet but firm way.

    After Carleton I attended and graduated from Northwestern University School of Law and returned to the Twin Cities where I practiced corporate law with several major corporations and served on a number of non-profit boards including The City Inc., of which Fred was the CEO and Board Chairperson. What I recall most from my time on that board was his strong unwavering commitment to serving disadvantaged youth in Minneapolis by providing them with educational opportunities and support.

    I am honored to have known Fred. Thankfully I had chance to have lunch at his home last April and recall old times. He had just been informed that his cancer had spread. His demeanor and courage in the face of that adversity, and willingness to live life to the max and fight until the end was exemplary and once again, inspiring.

  • 2022-10-17 06:23:01

    Wise beyond this life- big strong and wise. Thanks Fred, for everything you’ve brought to our family!

  • 2022-11-02 13:24:29
    Rita Carpenter

    For well over 40 years I knew Fred as many things in my life. He was my softball coach when I was much younger, my constant compass in finding my way through social issues, my fellow Twins fan, my friend, and a true inspiration. I have never met a smarter, more fun and likeable person. He loved baseball and his Twins in particular, and when he attended a game he quickly made friends with everyone in the nearby seats. I am so grateful to have known him, and blessed to call him my friend. I don't know who I will talk baseball with now, but I will think of him every time I watch a game. Rest in great peace my so deserve it!

  • 2022-11-02 17:14:17
    Zach Irvin

    My sincerest condolences to Fred’s family and friends. I had the pleasure to speak with Fred over the phone last October. We chatted about Carleton, his family, and his love of baseball. Fred had a lasting legacy that made Carleton a better school. Thank you, Fred.

  • 2022-11-03 22:00:33
    Claudette Coleman Adams

    I first met Fred Easter in 1970. He came to my high school in Jackson, Mississippi to recruit students. I knew nothing about Carleton College, but Fred's presentation encouraged me to apply. On campus, Fred was always welcoming, friendly, and sincerely committed to students. He served his different roles at Carleton well. To all Fred's friends and family, you have my condolences.

  • 2022-11-04 17:23:53
    Cornell D Hills

    Fred set my life on a trajectory that had my life going places and experiencing things I never imagined as a child. I was one of those black kids at a New England prep school on a direct scholarship, mixed in with the ABC program students Fred came to check on and recruit for Carleton. Carleton was not on my radar screen, and I told Fred as much. But he recruited my fiancée, who got accepted. Beyond the application deadline, I called Fred, on my virtual knees, and made some cockamamie excuse about why I was applying late. "You want to come here because of (her), don't you?" Fred saw through me probably before he picked up the phone. At least, I wasn't stupid enough to deny it. The 'love of my life' didn't turn out to be that, but a Class A education, a year's studying and living in a foreign country and meeting the best, most loyal, closest friends of my life were the precious gifts I received in spite of myself. And it was all because of Fred. We laughed about this story occasionally over the years, including at the celebration some of us had in 2020 for a now lost Carleton classmate (Erich Brooks, '75). We knew Fred's time was drawing near then, and I am so glad I got to be with him then. Thank you, Fred, for believing in me in spite of my hard head.

  • 2022-11-05 11:30:53
    Joe Nathan

    Here's a column I wrote about Fred that has appeared in a number of suburban & rural MN newspapers:

    A teacher who changed lives

    Fred Easter transformed thousands of lives — including mine. Over 50-plus years of teaching, mentoring, writing and friendship, Easter encouraged, inspired and challenged students from all backgrounds. After living 81 remarkable years, he passed away on Sept. 24. There’s much to learn from him.

    Let’s start with Warren Simpson, who told me: “I was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago. I came to Carleton College at age 17, in 1966. When I first met Fred, he told me that he had to leave Harvard University after his second year, for academic reasons. However, he returned after a year and was able to graduate.”

    Simpson recalls, more than 50 years after that conversation took place, what Easter taught him: “I was having a tough time at Carleton and had never experienced academic failure. The inspirational message I extracted from Fred’s undergraduate experience is that, ‘If I get knocked down (which I now know will happen to all of us in some form or another at least once during our life’s journey), you can always pick yourself up, dust off and keep moving forward.’”

    Easter was an incredible teacher. I was one of three white students, along with about 25 Black students, in a Carleton College class that he taught in 1968. He welcomed everyone. We read a book titled “Black Families in White America,” by Black scholar/sociologist Dr. Andrew Billingsley. Easter’s questions to us opened new ideas that had a huge positive influence on my life.

    I was raised in Wichita, Kansas, during the 1960s with two strong views about Black Americans. First, I was taught that they deserved equal rights in housing, education, jobs, health care and every other field. Second, I read several books presenting many Black people as “culturally deprived.” They needed “fixing.”

    Easter and Billingsley had a different view. They pointed out that many Black Americans had succeeded, despite terrible challenges. This was a time when Black churches were being bombed, Black (and white) teens were being badly beaten for the “crime” of sitting next to each other at a lunch counter or on a bus, and some Black (and white) people were murdered because they tried to register Black people for voting.

    Easter asked us to recognize and build on strengths of Black Americans. He readily acknowledged shortcomings that everyone has. He encouraged students to avoid bitterness and self-pity. He inspired us to spend our lives trying to make things better.

    Simpson, like many others, did that. He became an attorney, working with corporations such as Cargill, Honeywell, Supervalu, Jostens and GELCO. He also served on numerous nonprofit boards, including the board of The City while Easter was CEO. This was a Minneapolis agency/school serving young people who struggled more in traditional public schools.

    According to an email from Carleton’s chaplain, Carolyn Fure-Slocum, Easter had previously spent about eight years serving as, among other things, Carleton’s assistant director of admissions, director of Black Activities, associate dean of students, freshman basketball coach, and lecturer in English. In a history of Easter’s era at Carleton by Carleton grads Benjamin Wood and Sarah Entenmann, now in the college’s archives, other students recall him as the primary reason they entered, stayed and graduated from the school.

    He also spent 10 years directing a statewide University of California program promoting math, science and engineering achievement. Simpson recalls “Fred’s strong, unwavering commitment to serving disadvantaged youth and providing them with educational opportunities and support.”

    Easter and I last talked a few days before he died. He was weak from cancer. We talked about the campaign I’ve previously described, in which high school students successfully challenged the state of Minnesota. Attorney General Keith Ellison’s legal brief affirmed that the student’s research was correct: High school students who were laid off due to the pandemic deserved federal “Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.” But it took two Minnesota Court of Appeals rulings before students received what they had earned.

    This is exactly the kind of constructive action that Easter urged and modeled for decades. He responded with a huge smile and commented, using one of his highest compliments: “Outstanding.”

    That’s the right word for Fred Easter: “outstanding”! A service honoring him will be held at the Skinner Memorial Chapel on the Carleton College Campus on Nov. 5 at 2 p.m.

    Joe Nathan, Ph.D., formerly a Minnesota public school teacher, administrator and PTA president, directs the Center for School Change. Reactions welcome: or @joenathan9249 on Twitter.

  • 2022-11-06 14:04:26
    Benjamin Mchie

    I knew Fred through A Better Chance, he was a good brother to so many who came to Minnesota after King and Malcolm were killed.

  • 2022-11-06 15:51:18
    Joe Nathan

    Here's the story that the Star Tribune, Minnesota's largest daily paper, ran about Fred Easter

    Fred Easter, who helped countless Black students access higher education, dies at age 81

    Easter died in September, about three years after he was diagnosed with cancer.
    By Liz Navratil, Star Tribune | OCTOBER 16, 2022

    Fred Easter devoted his days to improving the lives of Black people. Often that meant helping students access higher education. Sometimes that meant supporting a grocery store in a food desert or joining a podcast with members of his historic class at Harvard University.

    "Fred clearly has a legacy of probably thousands of people whose lives he touched, who when I say touched, he didn't just touch. He really had an influence," said Joe Nathan, a former student who remained in contact with him.

    Over the course of his eight decades, Easter held a variety of titles: instructor, dean, coach and father, among others. Easter, 81, of Prior Lake, died in September, about three years after he was diagnosed with cancer. A memorial service will be held in the chapel at Carleton College on Nov. 5.

    Easter's intellect set him apart at an early age. He skipped two grades and graduated from high school at 16. While a counselor encouraged him to get a job, Easter's parents were determined to help him become the first person in their immediate family to go to college.

    Easter was one of the first Black students to attend a prep school called the the Gunnery and then went on to join a barrier-breaking class at Harvard University. While the elite school had in the past accepted one or two Black students at a time, Easter was part of a group of 18 Black men to start their studies there in 1959.

    "It was a fair amount of pressure. We were 18 guys representing the whole kind of Black population," said Kent Garrett, a classmate who chronicled their experiences in a book called "The Last Negroes At Harvard: The Class of 1963 and the 18 Young Men Who Changed Harvard Forever."

    Those who knew Easter said his years at Harvard helped shape his views on education. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, he led a crucial division for A Better Chance, a program that helps high-achieving children of color access quality schools. He held a litany of roles at Carleton College, including serving as an associate dean, Black activities director and one season as a basketball coach.

    Easter believed that education could transform people's lives "but it had to be the right kind of education," said Nathan. Easter pushed them to think critically by asking pointed questions like: How would taking over a building at Carleton College reduce the Vietnam War by a single day or a single hour?

    "Fred's enormous legacy was: Take constructive action. Build alliances. Make a difference. Don't be satisfied with symbolic gestures," Nathan said.

    Easter sought to create a supportive environment both for his own daughters and for the many students he worked with over the years. When Warren Simpson struggled in his early days at Carleton College, Easter told him about his own struggles at Harvard, how he had taken time off and later returned and graduated.

    "That was very motivating to know that if you get knocked down, you can get back up, dust yourself and stay in the game. That was very inspirational to me," said Simpson, who went on to become a successful lawyer and shares Easter's lessons with his own mentees.

    Over the years, Easter also worked for a program supporting students interested in math, engineering and science, and another training Black students to work on computers. For years, he led The City Inc., a non-profit organization that ran alternative schools, offered after-school programs and provided social services programs.

    "His commitment to those kids, his passion for what he was doing was just extremely strong," said Simpson, who served on the group's board.

    Easter volunteered for political campaigns. He frequently joined a podcast with Garrett. He had also been hoping to work on a project opening grocery stores in food deserts.

    "In some ways, I think just the need kept him going," said his daughter, Allison Easter. "He just looked at the world and saw what was going on and was trying to make it better."

    Liz Navratil covers Minneapolis City Hall for the Star Tribune. She previously worked in Pennsylvania, where she covered state government and crime — and sometimes both at once. She was part of the team that won a 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting.

  • 2022-11-08 06:58:48
    Mallory Easter Polk

    I think Dad would have approved of the memorial service.
    The speakers were able to encapsulate his spirit in so many beautiful ways - affirming his efforts to help black and brown students gain access to higher education and encouraging them when they hit bumps in the academic road.
    In addition to fighting the good fight himself, he really was a cheerleader for others in the fight. Thank you, let’s all “keep on keep in’ on” as he would say.

  • 2022-11-08 23:05:25
    Warren Simpson

    These are comments made at the Memorial Service for Fred Easter, November 5, 2022 at Skinner Memorial Chapel on the Carleton College Campus

    My name is Warren Simpson. I am from the Class of ’70 and am honored and humbled to be here today to join you in celebrating the life Fred Easter, a man entrenched in the culture of Carleton who inspired many of us with his dedication to making this campus a more diverse and inclusive environment.

    I first met Fred in the spring of 1968 when I and several other Black students participated in a 2–3-hour late night rap session as part of his on-campus interview process. We talked about a lot that night but what I remember most was his story about having to leave Harvard after his sophomore year for academic reasons, only to return a year later and graduate. That may not sound like a big deal, but as an 18-year-old sophomore from the southside of Chicago who had never struggled academically, yet was struggling at Carleton and considering transferring, Fred’s message, though unstated, was simple:

    If you get knocked down, you don’t have to stay down.
    Pick yourself up, dust off and get back in the game.

    I have relayed that story to many a young person over the years.

    There’s much more I could say about my interactions with Fred but since my time is limited, I want to share some paraphrased remarks from a handful of my Carleton peers who responded to my solicitation for input regarding Fred.


    Let’s start with Rey Harp – Class of ’69, who along with Salimah Majeed (Sue Compton), Class of ’68 and Judy Brown Harmon, Class of ’69, was a leading voice for Black students on campus. Rey went on to become a successful attorney after graduating from the University of Chicago Law School. Though Salimah and Judy are no longer with us I am sure they would agree with his comments.

    “As a young Black teen, I left the Chicago cityscape and journeyed to Carleton. I was among the first wave of Black students recruited by Carleton in its effort to better understand and act upon its educational and social responsibilities to make its institutional mission more diverse and inclusive – to better serve all its students.

    There were few if any cultural support systems at Carleton relevant to Black students, so we struggled mightily to understand this new “alien” environment and to understand our place in it. Mistakes were made, as there were no models to go by... that is, until Fred Easter came along. Under Fred, we slowly learned the true meaning of in loco parentis.

    Fred’s steady, self-affirming hand was instrumental in guiding me and numerous other Black students thru the many pitfalls we were to encounter in growing up and succeeding at Carleton. Thank you, Fred, you will forever be with us.”

    Emmitt House, Class of 71, a former Trustee of the college and a graduate of Northwestern University’s School of Law, of which I too am an alum, commented:

    “During my first year and a half at Carleton, as part of a group of about 35 or so Black students, we were trying to navigate a relatively all-white environment with no support. We had no relatable adult role models until Fred arrived in the spring of 1968. Fred and Mary Easter instantly provided a much-needed Black adult presence. His New York origins and “be-bop” style were relatable. He was a breath of fresh air.

    Fred was responsible for quadrupling the number of Black students on campus by the early 70’s, using his expansive national network to develop a pipeline for those with impressive academic credentials and also some who had demonstrably strong potential but not so stellar GPAs and SATs. He laid the groundwork for the success Carleton has had in recruiting minority students.”

    Bob Holder – Class of ’71, one of my closest friends, who went on to get an MBA at the University of Maryland stated:

    “I first met Fred when I picked him up from the airport to bring him to Carleton.

    What was most impressive about Fred was not only his concern for Black students, but his inclusion of all students of color. I observed this as a student counselor when Fred implemented the ABC (A Better Chance) summer program for high school students at Carleton, which included students of diverse backgrounds including African-American, Hispanic and Native/Indigenous people.

    During his tenure at Carleton, as an administrator and recruiter, I watched him communicate across social hierarchies, ethnicities and class lines with an effective elegant eloquence.

    This heart for youth never left Fred. Many years later I was fortunate enough to sit on Board of Directors of The City Inc., of which Fred was the Executive Director. Under his leadership The City Inc. graduated a number of "troubled" youths with their high school diplomas and provided meaningful learning opportunities and nurturing for inner city kids labeled as “disadvantaged” or educationally neglected.

    Fred was a remarkable individual who I admired greatly.”

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