It’s impossible to speak about international education at Whitworth without mentioning Ron Frase. A retired sociology professor and chaplain, Frase has opened the eyes of countless students to the cultural diversity of Latin America. Over the years, Frase and his wife, Marianne, led hundreds of Whitworth students on semester-long visits to Central America. And after spending their time in homestays in the region and experiencing poverty first-hand during these Central America Study Programs, many alumni consider their CASP experience the defining moment of their time at Whitworth – a moment that continues to shape their lives today.
Frase is a grand example of Whitworth’s mission of serving humanity in action, through introducing students to places and to people whose lives are different from their own, and through teaching them how to act as global citizens. Before coming to Whitworth in 1973, Frase earned his bachelor of divinity degree from Fuller Theological Seminary and his doctorate from Princeton Theological Seminary. Through his work in ministry, he found a passion and a gift for mentoring ministries, particularly in connecting First- and Third-World church communities.
CASP brought together other faculty leaders, such as Don Liebert, Ed Miller, Jim Hunt, Ross Cutter and Joanne Atwell-Scrivner, in the 1980s; others who have since led or participated in the experience include Michael LeRoy, ’89, Terry McGonigal, Esther Louie and Karla Morgan. Even after retiring, Frase was still a guiding force. Since his time as a faculty member, Whitworth’s goals for the number of students who study abroad have increased as has students’ interest, and the connection to Latin America has been strengthened through the Costa Rica Center.
CASP reunions have been perhaps the clearest indicator of the lasting effects of the program. Julienne Gage, ’95, reflected on this in a 2007 issue of Whitworth Today magazine, saying, “As a 1993 Central America Study Program alumna, I can vouch for the fact that lessons learned on the trip aren’t comfortable. Even today, maybe after I’ve nabbed a bargain at Macy’s, I sometimes awaken from dreams about street kids I knew in Central America. I still experience a certain post-trauma response every time I eat a banana.” She went on to quote Ron Frase at the 30-year CASP reunion in 2007: “‘Nothing compensates for experiential learning,’ Ron Frase told CASP alumni at last summer’s reunion, his voice cracking as it does whenever he speaks of past journeys to Central America. I’m glad it does, because his intense emotion is part of what piqued many a student’s curiosity to go to the region in the first place.”