Robert F. Froehlke
Robert Frederick Froehlke, 93, former U.S. Secretary of the Army and Stevens Point resident, died Friday, Feb. 12, 2016, in Scottsdale, Ariz.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Friday, July 22, at the Frame Memorial Presbyterian Church in Stevens Point.
Burial will be at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.
Mr. Froehlke was born Oct. 15, 1922, in Neenah, a son of the
late Herbert Otto and Lillian (Porath) Froehlke. He was the second of two
children. He graduated from Marshfield High School as class salutatorian in
1940 and enrolled in the University of Wisconsin (UW)-Madison that fall.
He was a member of the Army Reserve Officers Training Corps
unit at UW. In 1943, he was called to active duty. After Officer Candidate
School at Fort Benning, Ga., he went to Fort Carlson, Colo., where he had
combat training responsibilities.
He was honorably discharged at Fort Sheridan, Ill., in 1946
with the rank of captain.
He was married to Nancy Barnes, a Marshfield native and a
graduate of the UW, in November 1946. At the time, he was a student at the UW
He graduated from UW in 1949 in the top 10 percent of his
class, earning membership in the Order of the Coif.
After 18 months working for a Madison law firm and teaching
at the Law School, he accepted an appointment in the office of the general
counsel for the Hardware Mutual Insurance Company (now Sentry Insurance) in
In 1957, he was put in charge of Sentry Life Insurance, a
new venture that eventually gave its name to the entire organization. In 1968, he
moved to the Boston area to become responsible for company-wide regional
operations in New England.
Following the election of Richard Nixon as president of the
United States, Nixon appointed Melvin Laird, then representing Wisconsin’s
Seventh Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, as
Secretary of Defense.
Laird prevailed on Froehlke, his childhood friend and
director of Laird’s congressional campaigns, to move to Washington and serve in
the Pentagon with him.
Mr. Froehlke was named Assistant Secretary of Defense for
Administration in January 1969. Much of his time in the Pentagon was spent
trouble-shooting for the Secretary of Defense, with an initial responsibility
for vetting candidates for presidential appointments to Pentagon positions.
In May 1969, Laird asked Mr. Froehlke to evaluate the
performance of the military’s intelligence agencies, which had more than 6,000
employees, and gave him the additional title of Special Assistant to the
Secretary for Intelligence.
In December 1970, Laird shifted control of all military
intelligence services from the Joint Chiefs to a civilian, Mr. Froehlke,
bringing him into a working relationship with NSA and the CIA.
In 1971, Mr. Froehlke was nominated to become Secretary of
the Army, succeeding Stanley Resor and was sworn in on July 1, 1971, at the
Pentagon; and he was involved in the gradual withdrawal of American troops and
the transfer of combat responsibilities to the South Vietnamese by 1973.
He remained Secretary of the Army until May 1973, with the
elimination of the draft possibly the signal achievement of his tenure as
Secretary. The draft officially expired
June 30, 1973.
He donated his papers from the period of his service to the
Wisconsin Historical Society in 2002.
When leaving service as Secretary of the Army, he was named president
of Sentry Insurance in Stevens Point and returned to Stevens Point.
In 1975, he accepted an appointment as president and CEO of
the Health Insurance Association of America in Washington, D.C.
He left that position in 1980 to become president and CEO of
the American Council of Life Insurance (ACLI), also headquartered in
He stayed at ACLI until 1982, when he became chairman of the
board of the Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States in New York
City, the country’s third largest life insurance company.
Mr. Froehlke served at Equitable for five years, until
reaching 65, the mandatory retirement age there.
Subsequently, he accepted an offer from IDS, a financial
services company in Minneapolis, Minn., to become CEO of its Mutual Funds
Group, the investment arm of that firm. The Group controlled $18 billion in
assets contributed by more than one million investors. He held that position
for five years, retiring again in 1992 at age 70.
While in the private sector, his volunteer activities were
numerous. They included membership on the boards of directors of the
Metropolitan Opera Company and Columbia Teachers College in New York, the
Minneapolis Symphony in Minnesota and the UW Foundation in Madison.
He was the national chairman of the first comprehensive
capital campaign for the UW Foundation, raising more than $400 million and far exceeding
the campaign’s original goal.
In recognition of his professional accomplishments and
volunteer work at UW, he was honored with the Law School’s Distinguished
Service Award in 1990.
He and Mel Laird shared an abiding commitment to the
Marshfield Clinic, a major regional medical center in their hometown. He helped
raise $13 million for the Laird Center for Medical Research on that campus,
where a conference center has been named for him.
He was also instrumental in raising $15 million for the Morehouse
School of Medicine in Atlanta, Ga.
He held numerous corporate board positions, including with the
Phillips Petroleum Company.
Throughout his adult life, he and his wife maintained
memberships in the Presbyterian Church USA.
From Minneapolis, he and his wife moved to Scottsdale, Ariz.,
where they resided until his death.
Survivors include his wife; four children, Bruce (Carol),
Jane, Ann (Tim) Walters and Scott (Traci Peloquin); four grandchildren, Douglas
(Courtney) Froehlke and Margaret, Caroline and Tessa Walters; and four
He was also preceded in death by one brother, John “Jack”