Eldon Fredericks retired in 1997 from Purdue University where he had served seven years as Education Technology Specialist and previously for eight years as Head of the Department of Agricultural Communications Service and Assistant Director, Cooperative Extension Service. A native of Elkhart County, Fredericks graduated from Purdue University in 1956 with a B.S. in Agriculture. He earned his M.S. in Extension Communication, also from Purdue, in 1969.
Fredericks is a pioneer and innovator in extension communication, but he began his career, as did many of his generation, in the United States Army. After graduating from Purdue, he served two years of active duty as an information officer in the Army Ordinance Training Command in Maryland. In 1984 he retired after completing an additional 26 years in the Army Reserve where he used his extensive communication talent at postings throughout the United States, including three summers of active duty at the Pentagon. In 1958 Fredericks became publications editor for Purdue’s Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, serving until 1967 when he moved to the University of Minnesota as publications editor. He then served as acting head of the department of information and agricultural journalism at Minnesota from 1974 to 1977 before going to Michigan State to become manager of extension research information. After three years at Michigan State, he worked for one year at the U. S. Department of Agriculture in Washington in 1980 with the Science and Education Administration. In 1981 he came to Purdue as department head in Agricultural Communications Service and served for eight years, returning to USDA for a year in 1989 to work with the extension service on national computer networking. He continued this appointment half time until his retirement, though he returned to Purdue in 1990 as and Education Technology Specialist in the Department of Agricultural Communication Service.
Fredericks was a true innovator and early adopter of computer technology in all aspects of extension communication. He recognized the benefits of this technology, and not only worked to implement it, but developed training programs to teach Extension professionals how to use it and how to teach their clients to use it. Early in his career he developed a computerized inventory system to predict publication usage and schedule revisions and printing. He later used an early computer (a cathode ray tube connected to a keyboard) to produce publications, and in 1979 he pioneered electronic transmission of news releases to newspapers. In the mid 1980’s he helped introduce thousands of Hoosiers to emerging computer technology through exhibits at the Indiana State Fair. During his stint at USDA in 1989 he helped bring Extension into the Internet world, and was part of the team that set up the first White House World Wide Web site. Back at Purdue, he developed the national water quality database of digitized Extension publications that could be retrieved by electronic mail, as well as a computerized photo and video feature that allowed high-speed transmission of field problems for identification and recommendation to Purdue’s Agronomy Department. In the mid 1990’s he developed a course to teach Extension staff how to use electronic mail, and the course was taught via electronic mail.
Fredericks service activities to the profession are numerous and include Agricultural Communicators in Educator (ACE) (director 1977-82, vice president 1979-80, president-elect 1980-81, president 1981-82, and retirees director 1999-2001); Association of Agricultural Computing Companies (1981-85); Purdue University Cooperative Extension Specialists Association (1981-97) and Epsilon Sigma Phi (1970-present).
Likewise Fredericks’ community service has been noteworthy. From 1984 to 1989 he served as faculty advisor to Alpha Gamma Rho Fraternity, a period during which the house burned in the midst of a remodeling project. Other service to Alpha Gamma Rho includes: alumni board member (1991-present); Regional Vice President (1998); chaired 50th anniversary of 1956 AGR class, raising $100,000 scholarship endowment; annual organizer of Purdue AGR reunion in Florida. He is a volunteer for the Prophetstown Living History Farm, the Wabash and Erie Canal Center, and the Lafayette Historic Automobile Club (LHIAC) and has helped all three organizations to set up computerized membership data systems and, in the case of Prophetstown and LHIAC, a web page. From May to November he is a volunteer at the Dauch Alumni Center at Purdue, serving as receptionist and public relations host. Active in Immanuel Church of Christ, he has been elected an elder and served as president of the congregation, and he has chaired one ministerial search committee and served as a member of another. In Florida during the winter he and wife Marsha volunteer at the Community Congregational Church Thrift Store that raises $75,000 per year for local community and church charities. In his local housing community in Florida, he serves the housing association as secretary and has set up web pages to keep non-resident owners apprised of renovations and repairs. He also volunteers at the annual garage sale, raising $6,000 for community charities.
Fredericks has received numerous awards for his professional and volunteer contributions, including the ACE Award of Excellence in Computers (1987); ACE Gold Award for Innovative Use of Communication Technology (1994, 1995, 1996 and 1997); USDA Team Superior Service Award (1989); Outstanding Fraternity Advisor, Purdue University (1986-87); and Outstanding Fraternity Advisor, Alpha Gamma Rho National Fraternity (1987-88).