Oberlin Alumni Magazine

Fall 2006 Vol. 102 No. 2 OAM Home | Oberlin Online

Polls Are Open: Vote for Alumni-Elected Trustee

All Oberlin graduates received a ballot this fall to cast a vote for alumni-elected trustee, a tradition that dates back to 1892. To supplement the biographical information contained on the ballot, candidates Robert Frascino ’74 and Bern Singsen ’64 agreed to an in-depth interview with OAM. A shortened version of the interview appears below. For more details, please refer to your paper or online ballot (www.oberlin.edu/alumni). Voting deadline is November 22.

Robert J. Frascino ’74

Dr. Robert Frascino is president and founder of the Robert James Frascino AIDS Foundation in Los Altos, California, where he also performs as a classical pianist. He is currently serving out the term of an alumni-elected trustee.

What is important to you; what do you spend your time thinking about and/or working on?

Humankind’s confrontation with the Global AIDS Pandemic rushes to the top of the list, without question or hesitation. Every 10 seconds, someone’s life is snuffed out by HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, the worst infectious disease catastrophe since the bubonic plague. And my country spends more each year on potato chips than on AIDS globally? I find that more than a bit disconcerting. With more than 40 million people currently infected, AIDS has permeated every country of every continent; yet, as a global community in a civilized world, we are presently failing to treat 90 percent of people with the disease.

How HIV/AIDS affects the human condition is not only my passion, but also my conviction. I have founded two medical clinics devoted to the comprehensive and compassionate care of HIV-positive individuals. In addition, I am president and founder of the Robert James Frascino AIDS Foundation, a not-for-profit charitable organization that has raised more than $1 million for its mission to provide crucial services for men, women, and children living with HIV/AIDS worldwide and raise awareness of the HIV/AIDS epidemic through advocacy and education. I devote my time, resources, and energy to raising both funds for and awareness of the pandemic and its devastating consequences.

What do you most want alumni to know about you as they consider how they will vote?

I bring deep commitment and a high sense of ethics to my responsibilities. In essence, my philosophy for being an effective Oberlin trustee is “get it done, get it done right, and get it done in a way you would be proud to see painted on a rock in Tappan Square.”

Whether as physician, academician, musician, HIV/AIDS activist, or philanthropist, I receive great joy from my commitment to and active involvement with specific worthy endeavors. I firmly believe in Oberlin’s mission to provide a transformative experience by offering a relevant and genuine liberal arts education in the context of modern society. I would be honored to help the College continue to accomplish this mission as we face future challenges.

What attracted you to Oberlin?

Oberlin was recognized as one of only a handful of truly distinctive colleges in America. I was attracted by the unique combination of a liberal arts college with the highest academic standards, offering exceptional educational opportunities, and one of the nation’s leading professional music schools, the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, with its distinguished faculty and atmosphere supportive of artistic growth.

What about Oberlin resonates with you today?

First and foremost, Oberlin is for thinkers! My intense involvement over the past two years as a trustee has 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. They devote considerable time and effort to making important contributions to their respective disciplines through research and writing. They also view undergraduate education, as well as the coordination and supervision of independent study projects, as central to their calling.

Third, “fearless”—Oberlin’s mission, promise, and ability to effect positive change in the future. Oberlin continues to challenge the conventions that limit the evolution of knowledge, understanding, and/or social progress.

What do you believe are the most important issues facing Oberlin in the next five years?

Within the next five years, Oberlin, like most institutions of higher education, will be confronted with funding pressures that result from the 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 all of our many needs—academic, residential, physical plant, and others.

Within the next five years, Oberlin continually will be forced to cope with the tension between continuity and change. Finding the best balance between tradition and the incorporation of new ideologies will remain as critical during the next five years as it has been in past decades and centuries.

With limited financial resources, what would be your top priorities for investment?

Without question, the leading priority for investment would be academic—more specifically, the faculty, as well as resources required to support faculty. When resources are scarce, we must focus on accomplishing the College’s mission by adhering to strict guidelines developed within our cohesive and well-constructed strategic and financial plans. That said, I would add that a well-constructed integrated strategic and financial plan would certainly include appropriate attention to and allotment of resources for the development and maintenance of the campus and its infrastructure, such as residence halls, physical plant, etc.

What elements of your personal and/or professional life would be helpful in your service as an alumni trustee?

My overlapping careers as physician, musician, and academician, coupled with my administrative and philanthropic responsibilities, have prepared me well for my first two years of service as an Oberlin trustee. I remain confident these life experiences will continue to serve me well in the future should I be elected to remain on the Board as an alumni-elected trustee.

The last two years have afforded me not only the opportunity to work closely and constructively with my fellow Board members, but also to develop close working relationships with the College’s leadership, the Alumni Association leadership, and alumni at large. In January, my life partner, Steve Natterstad, and I hosted an alumni event in which a trio of performance majors from the Conservatory performed at a musical soirée in our home for 50 invited alumni guests. In addressing the guests prior to the concert, I discussed recent developments at Oberlin and encouraged them to further their involvement with their alma mater. We are planning a similar musical soirée in our home for January 2007.

In sum, the elements of my personal and professional life, coupled with the relationships I’ve cultivated and the work I have accomplished as a trustee over the past two years, will continue to help me be an effective alumni-elected trustee going forward. Should the collective wisdom of the voting members of the Alumni Association choose to entrust me with their continued support, it would be an honor to continue to serve.

Bernhard H. Singsen ’64

Dr. Bern Singsen is a recognized authority on arthritic diseases affecting children. He is the founder of four academic divisions of pediatric rheumatology, and he currently heads rheumatology at Oakland Children’s Hospital in California.

What is important to you; what do you spend your time thinking about and/or working on?

I enjoy interacting with others to identify problems and accomplish goals. Training in medicine concentrates upon the right question to ask, how to devise accurate and non-biased measures, what population to survey, and how to best disseminate new infor-mation. I am dedicated to measuring student and faculty achievement, organizational efficiency, and health out- comes. Also, mentoring colleagues and serving on major scientific journal editorial boards have been gratifying. I have worked with Project Hope with the Navajo in El Salvador, and for four years as a weekly volunteer at Free Clinics. Recent involvement has been with musical and ecological groups, medical education, and museums. I have focused upon ways that under-funded non-profit organizations can most effectively grow fiscal resources to achieve their mission.

Music is central to my life. Other passions include almost daily running and biking. I belong to environmental organizations and the National Trust for Historic Preservation; I think about our natural resources and our built culture, the people who have inhabited them over centuries, and how critical it is that we not lose our historical perspective. My father was a naturalist who saw recycling and conservation as effective paths to continuous improvement. These views are central to how I approach my life, profession, volunteer work, and recreation.

I love art, including film. Ellen Johnson at Oberlin profoundly affected my view of the world and led to my passion for prints and lithographs. Recently, I have focused more on primitive weavings, baskets, pottery—anything designed with a purpose and actually used. Now my bookshelves sag with the explorations of cultures, and how their art defined regions, beliefs, and everyday activities.

What do you most want alumni to know about you as they consider how they will vote?

I am committed to implementing Oberlin’s strategic plan, and I strongly support the unique partnership between the Conservatory and the College. But enhanced financial planning, an improving endowment, and raising new capital funds are critical. I am experienced in the multidisciplinary “best practices” approach, which industry, medicine, and some colleges use to improve outcomes. Oberlin has many needs, which I would address as a Board member:

What attracted you to Oberlin?

I grew up in a small, rural town; my extended family included scientists, educators, artists, and musicians. I knew that a small, academically challenging college with diverse geographic, cultural, and political perspectives was my goal. I was fortunate to have had a high school guidance counselor with a passion for Oberlin’s diversity, scholarship, music, and leadership in social justice. My time at Oberlin was a transforming experience. It was exactly the right choice for me.

What about Oberlin resonates with you today?

Creativity, activism, dialogue, high academic standards, and growth of the student as a person are Oberlin attributes. Its students, faculty, and graduates are thoughtful, vocal, involved, passionate, and always in search of making a difference. Its Conservatory of Music and outstanding art museum are special attributes. Experiencing this immense diversity of music and art enriches Oberlin and the surrounding community. The ability to live in a co-op, special program house, traditional residence hall, or private home was unique when I attended Oberlin, and it remains important today.

Oberlin is working hard to evolve. It is improving information access among alumni, faculty, and students. It is striving to meet high student expectations regarding recreational, athletic, and living facilities, while also maintaining its traditions in core liberal arts disciplines.

What do you believe will be the most important issues facing Oberlin in the next five years?

With limited financial resources, what would be your top funding priorities at Oberlin?

What elements of your personal and/or professional life would be helpful in your service as an alumni trustee?

A pediatrician focuses on growth and development, which requires critical decisions while taking a long view. Expertise in research grants and publications depends upon detailed analysis. Experience with new academic programs and the not-for-profit sector requires organizational, political, communications, fiscal, and outreach skills. A musician listens and is sensitive to others. Detailed preparation, strategic thinking, and consensus building are important attributes for a Board member. I am deeply aware of the educational, fiscal, and administrative challenges facing Oberlin, and I am dedicated to serving the College as an alumni-elected trustee.


To vote for alumni-elected trustee, complete the electrion ballot at www.oberlin.edu/alumni/. Any Oberlin graduate who has not recieved either a paper or electronic ballot should call the Alumni office at (440) 775-8692. Voting deadline is November 22.