It's been more than 60 years since Dr. Donald Hofreuter marched in step as a student at Linsly Military Institute, yet his cadence has never faltered as chairman of the board of what is now The Linsly School.
Hofreuter, a 1950 graduate of Linsly, retired as chairman of the The Linsly School's Board of Trustees on Friday, after 35 years at the helm. In total, he has served on the board for the past 42 years.
Hofreuter plans to remain an active member of the board, focusing on assisting in fundraising as the school builds toward 2014, when the private co-educational preparatory institution celebrates its 200th year serving the youth of the Ohio Valley.
Photo by Andy Lloyd
Members of The Linsly School’s administration and Board of Trustees on Friday honored Dr. Donald Hofreuter, center, for his longtime commitment to the school, which began as a student and included 35 years of service as board chairman. Pictured, from left, are Chad Barnett, Linsly headmaster; Robert Nutting, chairman of Linsly’s Board of Trustees; Hofreuter; Joseph Gompers, board vice chairman; Scott Bond, board secretary; and Reno DiOrio, Linsly president.
"Linsly has always held a special place in my heart. I came to Linsly as a freshman with a full ride scholarship and have benefited every day since my experience here," Hofreuter said. "It opened the doors to the rest of my life."
That life has included a fulfilling career as a family practice physician in Wheeling. He joined Wheeling Hospital in 1982 as director of Medical Affairs and retired in 2006 after serving as the hospital's president and chief executive officer.
Hofreuter received his bachelor's degree from Princeton University. He earned his medical degree from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University in New York City and served an internship at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh. He took part in post-graduate training in occupational medicine at Kettering Institute of the University of Cincinnati.
During his tenure at Wheeling Hospital, Hofreuter was recognized by former Gov. Bob Wise and received the 2004 Distinguished West Virginian Award for his work and dedication to improving the medical malpractice issues that faced the state.
Hofreuter believes The Linsly School, formerly an all-boys military school from 1877 until 1979, has earned its status in the local community and beyond because it has not wavered in its mission to provide the best possible college preparatory education that focuses on each and every student. It maintains a 100 percent college placement record among its graduates.
Hofreuter has guided the school through the transition from a military school to a college prep facility and to the current status as a co-educational college preparatory campus of 440 students including 108 boarders.
"It was not easy to let go of the military status Linsly had for more than 100 years, but military schools all over the country were losing enrollment quickly during the Vietnam War. We knew we had to do something," Hofreuter said.
He said those changes and the ensuing transformation to a co-ed school were accomplished through strong leadership from the board and from former headmaster Reno DiOrio, who now heads the school's fundraising endeavors.
DiOrio recently handed over the reins of the school to current Headmaster Chad Barnett, who had 15 years experience at Linsly prior to being named to replace DiOrio.
DiOrio said his job was made easier because of Hofreuter's leadership.
"My career in independent education began in 1965 and over the last 45 years I have had the opportunity to visit a number of schools, and have friends who are heads of schools around the country," DiOrio said. "As we compare notes, the one item that always stands out is Linsly's board chair. When I mention Dr. Hofreuter's longevity in that position, other heads find it incredible. When I explain how supportive he has been to my career, they assume I am exaggerating. Statistics show that the length of a head's service at a school is very much connected to the length of a board chair's service. In my case that is certainly true.
"His commitment to Linsly has never waned. At the peak of his professional career, and his work throughout the community, he always had time for Linsly - and its headmaster. Month after month, year after year, I was amazed by Dr. Hofreuter's attention to detail, his vision for the school, and his unbelievable memory. On a personal basis, I was indeed fortunate to have served my entire career as Linsly's headmaster with Dr. Hofreuter as the board chair. The school has indeed been fortunate to have his steady hand at the helm for 35 years."
Barnett said Hofreuter has been extremely helpful as he transitioned into the headmaster's position.
"Through our day-to-day challenges and major decisions at Linsly, Dr. Hofreuter has been a voice of reason and clarity. His experience, intellect and humility combine to form a unique light, illuminating our path forward during the most complex times. I have the utmost personal respect for Dr. Hofreuter and feel truly blessed to have begun my headship at Linsly under his counsel," Barnett said.
Hofreuter said he's proud of the "Linsly family" - which includes current and past students and families - for their loyalty to the school. Through their generosity and support, the school has grown to include 18 buildings, four dormitories, many modern amenities and sports facilities for grades five through 12.
The student body includes youngsters from 20 states and 18 countries, Hofreuter noted. "We are proud of the very broadening experience we provide our students."
During his tenure as board chairman, Hofreuter worked with six headmasters and coordinated education programs with the former Mount de Chantal Visitation Academy, which allowed Mount girls to study math and sciences at Linsly and Linsly boys to study art and music at the Mount.
Hofreuter also led Linsly's 1968 Capital Fund Drive to raise money to build Banes Hall, East Hall and West Hall dormitories, Stifel Field House, Kuchinka Hall, Dallas Apartments, Williams Fine Arts Center and the Hess Center.
Robert Nutting, president and chief executive officer of Ogden Newspapers Inc., has been named to succeed Hofreuter as board chairman.
Hofreuter said he is pleased to be able to have Nutting step in as chairman.
"It's been my privilege to work with Bob Nutting here at Linsly and at Wheeling Hospital when he served on the board. ... He is a brilliant, hard-working and dedicated person who I know will provide the leadership for the board and the school for years to come," Hofreuter said.
Nutting said he is pleased that Hofreuter will continue his involvement with Linsly.
"I have a great deal of personal respect and admiration for Dr. Hofreuter. He masterfully guided Linsly through two major transformations and led the selection and transition processes for five headmasters. Most importantly, he embodied Linsly's values in his wise counsel and principled decisions. I am honored and humbled to follow Dr. Hofreuter as Linsly's board chair and look forward to assisting Chad in carrying out his vision for Linsly moving forward," Nutting noted.