Vote Now for Alumni-Elected Trustee
by Cindy Brown '74
Robert Frascino ’74 turned from the practice of medicine to the development of a foundation when an accident changed his life. Danette Wineberg ’68 is an attorney who found a powerful match between her Oberlin values and her employer.
They came to Oberlin through different routes: Wineberg as the daughter of alumni, steeped in the Oberlin culture from birth. Frascino discovered Oberlin late, through the lucky comments of a high school guidance counselor. Once at Oberlin, they thrived; today, each expresses great gratitude for a college experience that continues to resonate in their lives.
Frascino and Wineberg are Oberlin’s newest candidates for the position of alumni-elected trustee. Read on, and then cast your vote.
A complete biography of each candidate appears online at http://www.oberlin.edu/alumni/howToHelp/nominations.html.
Robert J. Frascino ’74
Robert J. Frascino ’74 is well aware that Oberlin College changed his life. “I attended a lower-middle-class, all-Italian high school in New York,” he says. “Few students from my school made it through college.”
With no relatives or friends to serve as career mentors, Frascino was encouraged instead by his high school counselors to pursue college—Oberlin in particular.
“I loved music, and I thought, ‘I can
go to college, I can play the piano, and I can get a degree,’ he says. “Oberlin was the perfect fit—an excellent liberal arts college with an amazing music conservatory.”
Frascino also loved biology, but the idea of medical
school seemed entirely out of reach. “I still remember Biology Professor Dennis Luck advising me to consider becoming a physician,” he says. The idea took hold, and in the end led to Frascino’s life’s work. He earned a medical degree at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and spent 18 years as an associate clinical professor of medicine in Stanford University Medical Center’s
Division of Immunology, Rheumatology, and Allergy.
“Immunology was a small field, but during the early days of the AIDS epidemic, we were called into the field very quickly,” he says. In 1991, while performing a routine medical procedure on a patient with HIV, Frascino himself contracted the AIDS virus. What he found—along with the challenges of dealing with the infection—was an entirely new perspective on life.
“I was a physician by profession,” he says. “But suddenly I began experiencing both sides of the examining table. I could now speak with the knowledge and authority of a physician, but with the eyes and heart and soul of a patient.”
The medical accident that left Frascino HIV-positive became the catalyst for his greatest career change. He retired from his medical practice in 1996 and has since concentrated his efforts on AIDS awareness, fundraising, and teaching. He returned to the piano he had studied at Oberlin, offering a series of fundraising concerts to benefit AIDS service organizations. They proved successful and became the seeds of what would later be the Robert James Frascino AIDS Foundation, which Frascino co-founded with his life partner, Dr. Steven M. Natterstad. Today, living in Los Altos, Calif., Frascino is the founder of two medical clinics devoted to the care of people living with HIV and devotes much of his time to AIDS education and awareness.
“So many of the interests I developed at Oberlin became lifelong passions for me,” says Frascino. “I took piano lessons at the Conservatory. I performed in Warner Concert Hall. Now I am again studying and performing. I studied French at Oberlin and now I am studying French again.
“We often measure life in the wrong dimensions,” he adds. “Especially physicians, who tend to measure life in length. In reality the dimension we should measure is depth, what we do with our lives in the time we are here.
“So why should I commit my time and resources to Oberlin at this point in time, a full 30 years after receiving my diploma?” he asks.“The answer is in my favorite African proverb: ‘The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The next best time is now.’”
Q & A
What attracted you to Oberlin?
Oberlin was recognized as one of only a handful of truly distinctive colleges in America. For me, what set Oberlin apart from its competitors was a talented and diverse student body shepherded by a superb, student-oriented teaching faculty that was involved in cutting-edge scholarship and artistic performance.
What about Oberlin resonates with you today?
First and foremost, Oberlin is for thinkers! My recent visits have reinforced my personal experience that Oberlin is a genuinely intellectual community in which students explore ideas because they are inspired to learn, not simply to pass an examination.
Second, Oberlin professors are both scholars and teachers. I have spent most of my adult life associated with institutions of higher education. Oberlin professors devote considerable time and effort to making important contributions to their disciplines through research and writing. However, unlike major research universities, Oberlin has no graduate students to distract professors from their task of educating undergraduates. Even the most renowned faculty members can be found teaching everything from introductory courses to advanced seminars. I’m proud that Oberlin professors continue to view undergraduate education as central to their calling.
What do you believe will be the most important issues facing Oberlin in the next five years?
Oberlin, like most institutions of higher education, will be confronted with funding pressures that result from increased costs of education, decreased returns on investments, and higher expectations on the part of students. Simply put, it will be a major challenge for Oberlin to develop and obtain funding sufficient to meet its many needs.
Institutions, increasingly driven by the bottom line, will need to demonstrate immediate productivity; defending the value and content of a true liberal arts education may become a major challenge for Oberlin. I have no doubt that Oberlin will continue to serve as a beacon for the value of a liberal arts education.
Finally, Oberlin will be continually forced to cope with the tension between continuity and change. Finding the best balance between tradition and new ideologies will remain critical.
With limited financial resources, what would be your top funding priorities at Oberlin?
Academics, without question. A world-class institution of higher learning will never remain eminent without the highest-quality faculty and resources to help them teach well and pursue cutting-edge scholarship. Residence halls, physical plants, and athletic fields can be built, refurbished, and replanted within a few years. An excellent faculty, however, once lost, would take a generation to replace. When resources are scarce, we must focus on accomplishing the College’s mission by adhering to strict guidelines developed within a cohesive strategic plan. That said, I would add that a well-constructed strategic plan would certainly include appropriate attention to and allotment of resources for the development and maintenance of the campus and its infrastructure.
What elements of your personal and/or professional life would be helpful in your service as an alumni trustee?
My postdoctoral training, medical degree, and Oberlin education have honed my ability to think critically, to assess situations accurately, and to solve problems creatively. As a consequence
of my involvement with multiple executive boards, I have developed a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities entrusted to elected directors/trustees, and I have had in-depth experience with strategic planning and corporate governance. As founder and president of a not-for-profit charitable corporation dedicated to providing services to people living with HIV/AIDS, I have cultivated the skills to build, manage, focus, and enrich relationships with the business, governmental, financial, philanthropic, and political communities.
Next Page >>