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May 12, 2022

SVSU alumnus makes gift to Athletics in honor of former track and cross country coach Doug Hansen

doug hansenSaginaw Valley State University today announced the largest donation in the history of its athletic program.  The gift of $300,000 was given by Fred Harring ’84, a former Cardinal track and cross-country runner, to honor his coach, the legendary Dr. Douglas Hansen, and support current and future student-athletes in those programs.

At Fred’s request, the donation will both support scholarships and provide something tangible that SVSU student-athletes can enjoy for years to come.  Half will go towards scholarships for the men’s and women’s cross-country and track and field programs to support student-athletes, while the other 50 percent will finance a new high-definition video scoreboard in the SVSU Fieldhouse.  Fred cited his pleasure working alongside Deputy Athletic Director Angela Pohl, praising her active and thoughtful counsel and vision in overseeing the effective deployment of the donation. 

Director of Athletics John Decker said the gift would be transformative for Cardinal athletics. “Providing scholarships and elevating our video and multimedia capabilities are a huge priority for us, so this donation is a real game-changer for SVSU,” he said. “We are thrilled and grateful that we have generous-spirited donors like Fred whose support is aligned with these priorities and who understands the impact that both increased scholarships and an enhanced video display will have on current and future Cardinals who visit and compete in our Fieldhouse.”

Fred did not begin college at SVSU; his freshman year was spent at Michigan State University. There were many things to like about MSU, but Fred realized he would be better served at a university that could provide him with a more personalized education, as well as the opportunity to run competitively.  In his search, he found SVSU and the coach who would change his life.  “Leaving Michigan State and attending SVSU was without question the best thing I could have done,” he said.

Decker and Harring standing togetherGrowing up in Spring Lake, Michigan, Fred had never even been to the Saginaw area, but he had heard good things about SVSU and Coach Hansen.  So, he went out on a limb and wrote him a letter about why he wanted to join his team.

That led to a phone call, and Dr. Hansen told Fred that he was the type of athlete he loved to develop and that if he came to SVSU, there was a spot on the team for him.  “I wasn’t the typical state champion Doug was recruiting,” Harring recalled, “but he saw something in me and gave me a chance.”

Fred walked on to the team and was a mainstay of SVSU’s 1982 and 1983 teams that won the indoor track and field national championships. Those titles, won thanks to Hansen’s innovative training and coaching methods, are shocking in retrospect, given that SVSU did not even have an indoor track at the time.

While Fred is quick to point out many of his teammates often posted faster times, he did set a 5,000-meter meet and SVSU track record in 1982.  Many of the lessons he learned from Dr.  Hansen have stuck with him to this day.  “He singlehandedly built a program from scratch, and against incredible odds turned it into a national powerhouse within a couple of years,” said Fred.  “He never raised his voice yet was quietly – and completely – in control; even though he was 20 years older than we were, he ran with us every day, showing that he could, literally, lead from the front.”

His training programs made an impact, too. “There were no hills in and around Saginaw,” said Fred.  “So Doug improvised – and would have us run up and across highway overpasses over and over.  We won major meets against larger and better funded programs.  He could have coached anywhere.  Doug showed me that with creative thinking and a commitment to hard work, there was nothing that couldn’t be achieved.”

Fred took that same determination to make the most of his college years in the classroom as well.  He was immediately inspired by SVSU’s academic offerings, the smaller class sizes in which they were offered and the care and creativity with which students were taught by first rate professors.  Fred received numerous academic awards, graduated magna cum laude and served as President of SVSU’s Student Government.

After pursuing post-graduate studies at Georgetown and Marquette University, Fred received his law degree at Wayne State University, also magna cum laude, and was editor of The Wayne Law Review, followed by a prestigious two-year judicial clerkship for renowned Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice James H. Brickley.

Fred’s legal career took him into “Big Law” as well as work at smaller firms and pursuing public interest law before he took on his current role of General Counsel for a prominent global investment firm.  During Fred’s nearly 20 years at the company, it has grown from 250 to nearly 7,000 employees with offices worldwide and he currently oversees numerous internal teams and the work of scores of legal and regulatory compliance professionals across the globe.

With his wife and two children, Fred lives today in the Pacific Northwest.  But he still traces much of his success to lessons learned during daunting SVSU practices and competitions.

It all starts with discipline.  Every day for the past 16 years, whatever the weather or other pressures he faces, Fred has run for at least an hour.  “Going out every day at any hour has become central to who I am,” he said.  “Like Doug taught us, whenever I see a hill, I attack it.  I try to take that mentality into every aspect of my life.  Don’t shrink from a challenge.  And finish strong.”

Rod Cowan, head coach for the men's and women's cross country and track and field at SVSU, said that the impact of Fred’s gift could not be overestimated. “The establishment of an endowed scholarship fund for walk-on student-athletes, who comprise over fifty percent of our roster, will allow us to expand our recruitment efforts,” he said. “Earning a scholarship demonstrates great motivation and a strong work ethic, qualities that Fred embodies. I can't wait to recruit and develop future Cardinals like him with this generous gift.” 

Cowan also believes that the new high-definition video scoreboard, which is scheduled to be installed before the 2022-23 indoor track and field season, will be a massively important addition for Cardinal athletics. “What makes this gift so impactful is that it is something that can be shared by current and prospective students who are a part of the track & field community and beyond,” he said. “We are tremendously proud of our ability to host large, quality, and efficient track and field meets. This addition will allow us to provide a best-in-class experience that matches the championship-level program we have.”

Coach Hansen stated, “There is no higher honor for a professor than to have an endowed scholarship for students, donated in your name by a former student.  I am sincerely humbled and thankful for Fred’s generosity.  I hope we can run together forever.”

For Fred, the benefits are simple: “I want to show my gratitude, as I reflect on my time at SVSU and how Dr. Hansen transformed my life – and the lives of hundreds of others.  This is a small thank you to him, my teammates and SVSU for the wonderful gifts they gave me that resonate to this day.”