Frank Friers ’71, a business administration major from New York came to Central in 1969 as a non-traditional student, following military service in the Vietnam War. Having grown up in an “old, old Dutch community where the Reformed Church dated to the 1650s,” Friers completed his first two years of college locally until his childhood stutter and a required public speaking course collided.
“Public speaking scared me to death,” Friers recalls, so he dropped out of college, joined the U.S. Army as an infantry medic and served in Vietnam for two years. After discharge, a friend encouraged him to resume his college education at Central. Again, a required public speaking course made Friers hesitate. “My friend said, ‘you’ve already been shot at, how bad can it be?’” he says.
When Friers arrived on campus he still had a slight stutter. After faculty member Stephen Hofer listened to Friers’ class presentation, Hofer suggested that Friers consider work at KCUI, the campus radio station. Friers remembers Hofer’s encouraging words: “the more public speaking you do, the better.”
So Friers dove in, doing play-by-play for football and basketball games, recalling that his first broadcast was in then-new P.H. Kuyper Gymnasium and his last broadcast in the old gym near Gaass Hall.
At the radio station, Friers was aided by an instrument panel with a modulator, which measured the amplitude and frequency of the sound being transmitted.
“The modulator helped me lower my voice, lose my stutter and wipe out my fear,” Friers says. “Once I overcame my fear, half the fight was over. By conquering my fear, everything else dovetailed and I could focus on my presentation and delivery.”
His voice victory also led him to become a better student. “I went from being a C+ student to a B+ student, and it all started because of Stephen Hofer’s interest in me,” Friers says.
His personal experience also piqued his interest in teaching. After his Central graduation, Friers worked for Boy Scouts of America, fundraising and gaining experience in youth programming while he completed his teaching certification. He taught in elementary schools in southern Iowa school districts for a few years before moving to Florida where he taught full-time until 2003.
Over a 30-year teaching career and now as a substitute teacher, Friers says he felt a common bond with students “to face their fears.”
“I’ve told many students my story of overcoming my stutter and fear of public speaking,” he says. “The worst thing was hiding my fear, until I found someone (Hofer) who took an interest in helping me. That’s the advice I give students today—find an adult who will help and be totally honest about your fears and needs.”