Students work in the Fritsche Theatre at Cowan Hall

Ernest G. and Neva Fritsche

The Otterbein University Department of Theatre and Dance has provided invaluable experiences for students and faculty both on and off stage. Dr. Ernest G. ’38 and Neva Fritsche have been instrumental in making those opportunities possible for students and faculty, as well as the patrons who enjoy the performances.

The Fritsches made a charitable gift to Otterbein for the 2005 renovations of the Cowan Hall theatre, which is now known as the Fritsche Theatre at Cowan Hall.

A native of Westerville, Ernest attended Westerville schools and enrolled at Otterbein for two years. He also attended Franklin University for three years before being drafted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1941. After five years of service, he was honorably discharged from the army in 1946 as Lieutenant Colonel. For eight years, Ernest worked for his uncle, George W. Fritsche, in construction and real estate brokerage before launching his own construction and real estate company in 1949, The Fritsche Corporation.

Known as an innovator in the building industry in concept and finance, Ernest has developed, constructed, sold and leased more than 8,000 homes and apartments, as well as commercial and industrial work. He was inducted into the National Association of Home Builder’s Hall of Fame in 1979 and was named one of the 100 most influential people in the U.S. housing industry by Builder Magazine in 1999.

Ernest was involved in numerous housing associations and served as president of the Columbus Home Builder’s Association, now known as the Building Industry Association of Central Ohio; president of the Ohio Home Builder’s Association; a member of the executive committee and life director of the National Association of Home Builders; a member of the U.S. Housing Study Delegation- Russia; and a member of the Advisory Board to the Federal Housing Commission, among others.

He participated in many civic organizations including the Citizens Research, Inc., the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority, Big Brothers of Columbus, United Appeals, the Columbus Rotary Club, and the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, among others. He was named one of the Ten Outstanding Men of the Year by the Columbus Citizen Journal in 1961 and listed in Who’s Who in America from 1968-80. He was also inducted into the Westerville South High School Alumni Hall of Fame in 2003.

Despite his extensive business and civic accomplishments and positions, Ernest remained involved at Otterbein. He served on the Development Board for more than 30 years and as a former and honorary trustee on the University’s Board of Trustees. Ernest was granted an Honorary Doctorate of Law from Otterbein in 1965.

Ernest and Neva are dedicated Otterbein donors, giving regularly to the Otterbein Annual Fund, the “O” Club and the theatre program. The Fritsches generously donated $1 million for the 2005 renovation of the Cowan Hall theatre. In 1986, the Fritsche’s established the Garfield H. and Clara D. Fritsche Memorial Endowed Scholarship in honor of Ernest’s parents.

The opportunities the Fritsches’ donations have provided to Otterbein, its students, its faculty and staff, and its friends over the years are immeasurable. From the stage of the Fritsche Theatre to the many classrooms in Otterbein’s academic buildings, the Fritsches’ impact is making a difference in many lives on campus. Their legacy is not only remembered physically in Cowan Hall, but academically as graduate students take the theatre stage and cross the graduation stage each year.

Mary B Thomas Award Seal

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Contact Donor Recognition 
Cathy Carson, Director of Donor Relations & Stewardship
p/ 614.823.1261