During World War II, the government called on industrial arts leaders from across the country to contribute to the war effort. One site where this free exchange of ideas took place was the Armored Forces School at Fort Knox. At that school, the next three actual or acting presidents or Stout were brought together-William Micheels, John Jarvis and Verne Fryklund.
Fryklund, a graduate of Clouquet (Minnesota) High School, came to Stout as a student in 1914. A bout with smallpox and lack of funds almost forced him out. A local doctor, however, loaned him the money to continue and he graduated in 1916. Upon graduation, Fryklund worked in the Detroit school system. During World War I, Fryklund served in the National Guard. Following the war, he served at several schools while earning a master's degree from the University of Missouri and a doctor of philosophy degree from the University of Minnesota. In the decade prior to World War II, Fryklund taught at Wayne University in Detroit and at the University of Minnesota. It was during this time that the bulk of Fryklund's many books and articles were published. In all, Fryklund was the author or co-author of 35 books or bulletins and 70 magazine articles. Several of these publications were translated into foreign languages and are still in use today.
Fryklund returned to the military in 1942 as a lieutenant colonel and was made director of the instructor training department at Fort Knox. He served in several administrative posts and received the Legion of Merit before being mustered out at the end of the war. On October 5, 1945, Fryklund became president of the Stout Institute.
In many ways, the Fryklund presidency would become the most controversial era in Stout history. When Fryklund arrived, the various departments on campus were divided into separate camps, jealously guarding their own responsibilities. The new president sought to overcome the divisions and to build unity. But in doing so, he created a wall of resentment with older faculty. They were less than eager to follow the order that Fryklund established. In later years, many faculty described Fryklund as "demanding, aggressive," and "stingy." Others praised him. They said Stout needed "the Colonel" to pull the school together.
Following World War II, Stout, like many other institutions, was ill-prepared to accept the large number of returning veterans that were taking advantage of the G.I. Bill. Enrollment at Stout more than doubled from 1945 to 1946. Fryklund was challenged to find faculty, housing, classrooms, laboratories and equipment for students.
The problem of housing was most acute. The administration responded by purchasing several barracks-style homes. A prefabricated unit consisted of a living-room kitchenette combination with built-in sink, running water, cupboards, a two-place electric hot plate and a built-in couch. Generally, these units were poorly heated and ventilated. They produced more fond memories than comfort. If occupants were not careful where they slept on especially cold nights their hair would freeze to the walls. In spite of those discomforts, many students remembered their years in the units as "the best days of our lives."
To overcome the shortage of teachers, promising graduate students were hired as instructors. The new staff members were then strongly urged to begin work on doctorate degrees in their spare time. Space for teaching the growing student body was not so easily solved. Money continued to be short. Before more funds could be allocated for buildings, enrollments began to drop as the veterans of World War II graduated. This drop slowed the building program and also led to temporary faculty cutbacks. Fortunately, enrollment again began to increase following the Korean War and, in 1955, the number of students broke the 1,000 mark for the first time.
That same year, the Board of Trustees was abolished and Stout came under the control of the Board of Regents of the State Colleges. President Fryklund had opposed joining "the League," fearing Stout might lose its identity as a unique institution. With the change in administration, came a name change. The Stout Institute became Stout State College.
The administration also focused on the problems of curriculum expansion. In his history of Stout, Dwight Agnew, former dean of the School of Liberal Studies, related Fryklund's reactions to the questions raised by the study. Fryklund's words reflect the pride he felt in Stout and his fear that radical changes would destroy its unique position in higher education: "Stout has held to its two basic majors for more than 50 years despite occasional regional pressure that we expand into academic areas. By concentrating on the two majors we have been able to study our problem and constantly improve our work... Stout has no plans for academic majors. We wish to concentrate on Stout's traditional assignment with supporting academic offerings."
The quality of student life improved under Fryklund's administration. The president had great respect for students and attempted to improve the educational experiences offered at Stout. Perhaps this was due to the financial and emotional problems he experience as an undergraduate at Stout (Fryklund stuttered as a student). In response, Fryklund established Student Personnel Services in 1951, with Ralph Iverson as the director.
Three major building projects were either completed or planned in the 1950's. The first building, the Robert L. Pierce Library (now part of the Stout Vocational Rehabilitation Institute), was ready for use in 1954. Five years later, the Memorial Student Center (now the Communication Technologies Building), was dedicated. Fryklund Hall, the first major shop and classroom building to be erected on campus in nearly half a century, was completed in 1961.
Fryklund announced his plans to retire the same year the building that bears his name was completed. During his 16-year tenure, Fryklund supervised the transition of the Stout Institute from a stagnant small-town college to a medium-sized institution of nearly 1,600 students. More important, he set in place the tools that could be used for the tremendous growth that the institution would experience during the 1960's.