Why We Are Called the Friesen Center
Founded in 1992, the Center for Volunteer Community Service was originally started through funds from The Joseph E. Mertz Memorial Educational Foundation, Inc. and named for Joseph Mertz, whose love and caring for people started early in his life. Joe was the youngest of six children. Even as a teenager he took responsibility for his aging parents, willingly and lovingly caring for them even when his high school friends wanted him to be with them. Neither his mother nor his father could drive and he would drive them to all their appointments in his own car.
He spent many hours in his shop, making things-mostly for other people-he was a true craftsman. He welcomed questions from his or other children and loved to have them around.
When his sister became very ill, Joe asked others to help get her a television. No one else was willing to help with this project. So he personally borrowed money and got his sister a TV (his own family didn't even have a TV at the time!) so she could have it for her long road back to health. In his last years, he got his real estate license and sold numerous homes to older people moving to Florida for retirement. Many were on a fixed income and he always helped them. He would often drive them to doctor's appointments and other places.
Joe died at 49. At the funeral and afterwards there were so many, many people who came to his daughter and told her how he had helped them when they were in need and gave examples of the things he had done for them.
In May 2013, the center was renamed the Friesen Center for Volunteer Service in honor of Dr. Norris Friesen, who holds a lifelong commitment to serving others. Dr. Friesen became Dean of Student Services in 1985, and then was named Vice President for Student Development in 1993. In 2002, he was appointed Interim Academic Dean and in 2003 was appointed Vice President and Dean of the University while continuing to teach German. He currently serves as the Director of the Friesen Center for Volunteer Service.
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