Fronk: 10 year anniversary as Chaplain
He graduated from Stetson in 1974 with a degree in religious studies, and he’s the father of two Stetson alumni.
“Stetson has shaped me as a person in a number of ways, certainly academically and intellectually,” explained Fronk. “It was very helpful to my faith pilgrimage. Stetson was a place of values that I thought were refreshing. They challenged my idea of what education could be. You weren’t just a number.”
“I have too many good memories,” Fronk said with a smile. “Some of them are memories of friendships in which discussions and new ideas stretched me to ask questions I wouldn’t have asked before. Also many great speakers visited Stetson when I was attending, such as Ralph Nader. Even the band, Yes, came and played in the Pit in the middle of fraternity row when they were just starting out. There are so many great memories. Overall, it’s an education I’ve taken with me forever.”
In 1979, Fronk went on to earn a Master of Divinity degree from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. He worked full-time as a pastor in various churches in both Indiana and Florida until 1986, when he served as chaplain for the Independent Funeral Directors of Florida for 12 years, before becoming chaplain of Stetson University in 2004.
“I love being back; it’s an emotional thing. There is something unique about Stetson University that I’ve always been infatuated with.”
“Michael’s contributions to the Stetson community have been tremendous,” said Vice President of Student Affairs Christopher Kandus-Fisher. “He has been a sensitive and caring leader who deeply wants to assist faculty, staff, and students in their spiritual journey. As we continue to support the university’s value of personal growth, the work that Michael has done will certainly contribute to advancing the conversation about religion and spirituality.”
As anyone who enters his campus office and sees the multitude of religious symbols displayed on his desk–including a little golden Ganesha of the Hindu faith and a dradle of the Jewish faith–would immediately recognize that Michael Fronk is truly an interfaith advocate. He is also part of the Values Committee Steering Team as a member of the Religious/Spiritual Life Council.
Fronk conducts a weekly service called The Gathering every Sunday at 5 p.m. in Lee Chapel.
“The Gathering is, ideally, where the community gets together for a time of remembrance, meditation, and reflection,” said Fronk. “It’s not a church service, but it’s a short, informal, warm service of no particular denomination where one can really feel the spirit of God or the spirit of the universe.
“In January we reflected on the end of Martin Luther King, Jr. Week. We had the amazing talent of the Music School play “Elijah Rock,” which is a song that was sung during the Civil Rights movement. It’s a way of reflecting on civil rights, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy, and more than just African American issues–but any issues where there’s injustice.”
Fronk also hosts monthly events, Fridays at Noon, in the Lee Chapel.
“We typically have an interfaith experience,” Fronk said. “We’ve had a Jewish experience during Ramadan. We also cooperate with Stetson’s Food Services and they’ll make foods that complement each tradition. We’ve had math and computer science professor and successful chef and culinary genius Hari Pulapaka talk about Hindu celebrations and he did the cooking and talked about the cuisine. We’ve also had a Bahá’í faith experience which very few people are familiar with.
“We had a Wicca experience recently. There are misconceptions about what Wicca is and people don’t know much about it so we had one of our alumni lead an understanding of it.”
Fronk always has something interesting planned for his monthly events.
“Sometime in the near future, I plan to have our Secular Student organization share the beliefs of people who say they don’t need a god, said Fronk. “It will be entitled ‘Good without God.’ And so it’s another perspective of making values and values decisions because not everyone is theistic. On a college campus we should begin to examine other ways of making moral and value decisions.
“Many students are really interested in different faiths and different ways of approaching faith so the events have been packed. It’s been 10 years since I started in the chaplain position but it feels like yesterday. Being here has been wonderful. It really feels like home.”
“Michael is committed to Stetson University,” said Kandus-Fisher. “He is an essential part of our rich history and will continue to be part of the university’s prosperous future.”
By George Salis