Deep Family Ties Yield a Big Gift to a School’s Conservation Field Station

About 40 miles east of Cleveland, there’s a 533-acre plot of land owned and operated by nearby Hiram College, which runs a combination of outdoor education, wildlife rehab, and conservation and research projects on site. The James H. Barrow Field Station was established in the 1960s, when Paul and Maxine Frohring bought a 75-acre dairy farm and donated it to the school, but it’s since grown to seven times that. 

Thanks to ongoing purchases, donations, and restoration projects, the Barrow Field Station has become a real gem of Midwestern conservation and a unique outdoor classroom for the small private school. The legacy of the station and of the family that started the project got a significant boost, as daughter Paula Frohring recently donated $1 million to the program. 

The donation comes from the family’s Paul and Maxine Frohring Foundation, and is the largest of $6.5 million in total gifts it's sent to Hiram College. The cash gift will go to scholarships, stewardship and maintenance, and faculty and student research at the site. 

As you might expect, there’s a family connection here, and a big one, although not an alumni connection. The Frohring family, starting with Paul and Maxine, has longstanding ties to the school, a private campus with a student body of fewer than 1,000. Paul Frohring, deceased, actually graduated from Case Western Reserve University before developing a type of baby formula suitable for commercial use. With wealth derived from his biochemical company, he became a big supporter of the nearby school, including but not limited to its science program and the field station. In total, the family has given about $15 million to Hiram.

But it’s the couple’s daughter Paula Frohring, now a college trustee, who has really embraced the field station since. An environmental philanthropist, she’s served as the station’s first assistant director, overseeing its first K-12 outreach program. Other environmental causes the Frohring Foundation has backed include the Cleveland Botanical Garden, Western Reserve Land Conservancy, Scenic Rivers Land Trust, Friends of the Everglades, and the Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper.

The foundation often gives six-figure grants, but the Hiram College gift is unusually large, showing its dedication to the outfit. Thanks in large part to philanthropic support, the Barrow Field Station has come a long way. In terms of land, it boasts the state’s second largest uncut maple-beech forest, and as recently as 2012, the school worked with the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, the EPA, and others to restore 152 acres of stream and wetland habitat. 

As far as programming, the field station runs a wildlife rehabilitation center that cares for injured birds and an endangered duck species. The site is host to a number of conservation and research projects by Hiram faculty and students, as well as citizen science projects. And K-12 students still come to the field station for seasonal nature camps. 

The relationship between Hiram College and the Frohring family is a unique one. But as more universities turn to large-scale private donors to cut huge checks on a fundraising deadline, it’s a testament to how longstanding relationships can, over extended periods of time, develop something special for a school and a community.