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Frederick Ohler served the College community for nearly four decades (1958-1995). He touched and transformed the lives of many students, faculty and staff, giving generously of both his time and resources. The College has established the Ohler Service Scholarship to honor Ohler in perpetuity and ensure that his spirit of giving continues to be shared with Wilson students.
Ohler interned at Warren Wilson while attending Yale Divinity School, and in 1958, after finishing his degree, he was asked to return to the College. Serving as a teacher, chaplain and counselor, Ohler became heavily involved with many of the College’s major initiatives, including the progression of Warren Wilson from a junior college to a four-year college and the incorporation of service in our College Triad. He served on the administrative council and various other committees where his opinion was sought and respected. In the early ’60s, Ohler played an instrumental role in the construction of the current Chapel. He imagined it, helped design it, assisted in supervising student labor on it, and worked with project managers to ensure the project was completed as intended. Once built, he took meticulous care of the building, often making repairs himself.
Ohler was extraordinarily committed to the College and provided longstanding service to the community as a whole. He was a dedicated family man, raising two daughters with his wife Beverly, and a loyal leader on campus. When Ohler considered returning to school for a PhD, Doc Jensen told him “we need you here more than we need you to have that degree.” So he stayed and later completed post-grad work in Chapel Hill during his vacations.
What many people do not know is that Ohler was asked twice to become College President and three times to be College Dean, but knowing himself, he politely refused, saying he was in the right place. The prestige of position was never important to him – he served where he knew his talents matched the jobs that needed to be done both at the College and in the larger community.
Reverend Ohler also published a book with Westminster John Knox Press titled "BETTER THAN NICE and Other Unconventional Prayers" in 1989; it was highly reviewed. Another book written by Frederick was published posthumously by his wife, "Peppermint Christmas/Chocolate Easter", a biography centered around his parents' ice cream and candy store where he grew up. He was also an accomplished violinist who played in the pit for all the Warren Wilson Theater musical productions in his tenure and retirement and was also the principal violin in the Asheville Symphony for 18 years. He often played for musical events in the College Chapel.
In 2010, the College community decided to formally recognize Ohler’s extraordinary commitment to the College with the Ohler Spiritual Center, which includes the College Chapel, Ransom Fellowship Hall, and the Christian Education Building. The Ohler Service Scholarship Fund was also established to further honor Ohler’s admirable generosity.
Fred Ohler was a much-beloved member of the Warren Wilson College faculty and staff for 38 years. He served as chairman of the religion and philosophy department, chaplain of the College, and pastor of the Warren Wilson College Presbyterian Church. This fund was initially established by friends and family as a memorial to Fred following his death in January 2004. In 2010 the fund was expanded through the gifts of alumni and friends to provide a service-based scholarship to a worthy student in addition to the annual award.The Fred Ohler Service Award is granted annually to a graduating senior who has performed exemplary service during the student's time at Warren Wilson College. The recipient is selected by the Office of Service-Learning, and the recipient receives a cash award to be used as the recipient chooses.