Frederick G. P. Thorne ’57, H’05

Frederick G.P. Thorne ’57, H’05 died on August 13, 2016, in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts.

President Rose sent the following message to the Bowdoin community on August 15, 2016:

To the Bowdoin community,

I write with great sadness to inform you of the death of Frederick G. P. Thorne ’57, H’05. Fred died Saturday in hospice care near his Manchester-by-the-Sea (Mass.) home after a period of declining health, which he endured with characteristic courage and dignity. We have lost a great champion whose dedication, wise leadership, and quiet acts of generosity made possible the Bowdoin College of today.  

Fred was born in London, England, on July 18, 1935, to Lt. Col. Gordon C. Thorne and Pamela Grant Thorne. Fred’s father served with the Royal Norfolk Regiment of the British Army and died in 1942, following the Battle of Singapore. Fred graduated from the South Kent School in Connecticut and entered Bowdoin in the fall of 1953. He majored in economics, joined Alpha Delta Phi Fraternity, and was co-captain of the first Bowdoin hockey team to play in the new indoor rink that would later be known as Dayton Arena. As a member of the varsity tennis team, he won a State Series doubles championship in his senior year.

After his graduation from Bowdoin, Fred worked as a security analyst at State Street Bank & Trust Co. in Boston (1957-60), beginning an outstanding career in the investment field. He joined John P. Chase, Inc. in 1961, becoming president in 1974. He then served as president, chief executive officer, and director of the Phoenix Investment Counsel of Boston, Inc., before founding Harbor Capital Management Company, Inc., in 1979. He was the firm’s president and chief executive officer until 1993, when he assumed the positions of chairman and chief investments officer (1993 to 2001). He subsequently held the position of senior advisor. In his “retirement,” he was an investment consultant as the principal of Frederick Thorne, LLC.

Throughout his career, Fred’s leadership, financial acumen, and energy were sought out by the boards of directors or trustees of business ventures and nonprofit organizations alike. He was a board member at the Tiedemann Trust Company and Tiedemann Wealth Management, Access Worldwide Communications, Inc., the Madison Square Garden Club, and Massachusetts Eye and Ear Associates, Inc., to name a few. His service to the common good includes being a trustee of the Francis Ouimet Caddie Scholarship Fund, a director of the Beverly (Mass.) Hospital, a member of the investment committee of the Shore Country Day School, and a board member of the Pioneer Institute for Public Policy Research and the World Peace Foundation. At the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary he established a fund to support the Frederick G.P. Thorne President’s Lecture Series. His quiet philanthropy is a testament to his thoughtfulness and his generosity of spirit. 

Perhaps no other institution has been a greater beneficiary of Fred’s dedication and attention than Bowdoin, where he was an overseer or a trustee under five Bowdoin presidents, and an invaluable advisor and mentor to me (his sixth). Fred’s tenure on the governing boards marked a period of transformational changes that included coeducation, the creation of a residential life program to replace fraternities, and capital campaigns that established a sound financial footing to support professorships, financial aid for students, and multiple renovation and construction projects on Bowdoin’s historic campus. He was chair of the board of trustees from 1996 to 1999, led two presidential search committees, and served as chair of the New Century Campaign. 

Fred was an active alumnus and a strong supporter of athletic programs, especially the ice hockey team. His gifts renovated the 1956 skating rink as Dayton Arena, and later he was a driving force behind the building of Watson Arena, named in memory of Sid Watson, Bowdoin’s legendary hockey coach and Fred’s close friend over the years. Fred often could be found in the stands at hockey games, and it was both an honor and an education to sit next to him and to see the game through his experienced eyes. 

In all that he did, Fred sought the betterment of the College and not personal recognition; he held positions as class agent in the Alumni Fund for 1957, as a BASIC volunteer for the admissions office, and as president of the Bowdoin Club of the North Shore. In 2000 Bowdoin dedicated Thorne Hall—the campus’s main dining facility—in his honor, in recognition of his leadership and his commitment to the College and its educational mission. Fred was awarded the honorary degree of doctor of humane letters by Bowdoin in 2005. 

Today, I’ve heard from our board chair, Michele Cyr, and from my predecessors, Bob Edwards and Barry Mills, all of whom expressed their thoughts about Fred and their deep condolences at his passing.

From Shelley: “When I was named chair-elect of the board, Fred wrote to congratulate me and apologized for being so late in doing so…it was only days after the announcement. He said, ‘The job can be difficult at times, but overall great fun.’ Fred was an exemplary leader—always upbeat, always looking for the brightness in life, no matter the challenges. Fred showed us all that optimism, wisdom, and insight are the most effective characteristics of leadership. Today, Bowdoin is stronger than ever because of his careful attention, his generosity, and his wish that every generation know the love for Bowdoin that he so clearly felt. He will be missed, but his legacy lives on.”  

“Fred Thorne’s goodness of heart and loyalty were one of my early Bowdoin impressions,” wrote Bob. “After a rocky beginning to my presidency, came a genuine calamity. The hockey rink—one of Bowdoin’s centers of identity—stopped functioning. But this particularly expensive problem simply disappeared. Months later I heard that Fred had quietly paid for the repairs. This was the sort of thing—close in, sensitive, immediate—he did for his college throughout his trusteeship and as chair of the board. What a man—kind, perceptive, generous, and then a friend. The College and I will miss him greatly.”

And from Barry: “Fred was ‘Mr. Bowdoin.’ His devotion to the College was unwavering and unconditional but he always knew Bowdoin could be better. He was involved in nearly every major decision at the College during the past four decades and he never allowed himself to be stuck in time—he moved with the times. All of us associated with the College are the beneficiaries of Fred’s powerful intelligence, his judgment, and his common sense. I will miss him and his friendship very much.”

Fred provided me with great wisdom, encouragement, and support during my first year as president. Our discussions made so clear to me his humanity, courage, wisdom, and love for Bowdoin. I am grateful for having known him and having learned from him.

A memorial service for Fred will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, August 26, 2016, at St. John’s Episcopal Church (705 Hale St.) in Beverly Farms, Mass. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to Beverly Hospital (85 Herrick St., Beverly, MA 01915).

Fred is survived by his wife, Susan Whittlesey Thorne, whom he married in 1957; three sons, Gordon (Barb) of Finland, Minn., David (Julia) of Los Angeles, Calif., and Stuart (Emily) of Wenham, Mass.; four grandchildren; one great-grandchild; and a sister, Jennifer C. Hayden of Brunswick. We share with them a deep sense of loss at his passing, but we also celebrate his remarkable life, his spirit, and the ways in which he has enriched our lives and the lives of Bowdoin students for generations to come.

Sincerely,

Clayton