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Dr. Coburn Freer’s Legacy Lives on in New Award

by Jessica DeMarco-Jacobson

Dr. FreerDr. Coburn Freer became a professor and head of the English Department at the University of Georgia in 1980. He led the department up until 1992.

Dr. Freer was a well-loved member of the department whose research interests included 16th and 17th-century English literature. As department head, he introduced several new traditions, some academic. For example, he brought in scholars that he knew to give talks to the department and mingle with the students. Some of the traditions were non-academic, like having picnics and canoeing at a lake. 

Mrs. Ramona Freer, his wife, said Dr. Freer loved teaching and his students. 

"He was a tough teacher […] and he really loved being in the department," Mrs. Freer said. "He had wonderful colleagues, and they were very supportive.” 

Outside of teaching, Dr. Freer loved watching American football (especially UGA football!), bicycling, and his Airedale Terriers, all of which had Shakespearean names. He also enjoyed travelling and working on cars.

Mrs. Freer remembers when she and her husband were driving in Germany, and Dr. Freer asked to stop at a house that had famous Formula One race cars. Her husband asked the guard if he could take a look at the car and the race track. The guard offered to let Dr. Freer take his VW bus on the famous race course. 

“It was just hilarious,” said Mrs. Freer. “And for him, that was the high part of the summer as far as I’m concerned.” 

Dr. Freer died of Lewy body dementia in 2019. His wife Ramona Freer, and their daughters Meg and Elinor, wanted to establish a scholarship in his honor and keep his beloved memory alive. 

“My daughters thought it would be a good idea to have extra money available for graduate students,” said Mrs. Freer, “because undergraduates have a lot of opportunities for extra money, but not so much for graduate students.”

Mrs. Freer explained her daughters struggled financially during the last few years of their PhDs. 

“They didn’t want to call Mom and Dad and ask for money,” said Mrs. Freer. “They insisted on doing it on their own, but it was hard [...] So I know what they’re [graduate students are] going through.”

“It’d be nice to be able to help somebody, somebody who really needed the help,” continued Mrs. Freer. 

Although his research interests focused on 16th and 17th-century English literature, Dr. Freer also loved modern poetry. His three favorite things to read were Milton, Shakespeare, and the Bible. 

Because of his various literary interests, Dr. Freer’s daughters did not want the scholarship to be limited to just those wanting to study in the Elizabethan age. Instead, it will be open to graduate students showing great interest in doing further research for whatever their specialty may be. 

The Coburn Freer Family Award was recently created for these purposes: it will provide financial aid to outstanding graduate students in the English Department. But perhaps more importantly, it will allow us all to remember someone integral to the spirit of Park Hall. 


Jessica DeMarco-Jacobson is a master’s student in the English department at UGA.

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