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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University September 29, 2008 | Vol. 38 No. 5
Obituary: Frederick DeKuyper, Longtime University Attorney, Dies at 70

Frederick DeKuyper at Guilford Elementary School.
Photo courtesy of Mary Dekuyper

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

Frederick DeKuyper, an original and longtime attorney with the university's Office of General Counsel and a founding member of the Johns Hopkins Federal Credit Union, passed away on Sept. 21 at the Keswick Multicare Center, where he was recovering from a fall. He was 70.

DeKuyper, a beloved figure on campus well-known for his wry sense of humor, spent a total of 32 years working for his alma mater.

He joined Johns Hopkins in 1967 as executive assistant to the dean of the School of Arts and Sciences. He would later serve as executive assistant to university President Lincoln Gordon.

In 1973, the administration asked DeKuyper to write a paper on whether the university should have an attorney on campus. At the time, JHU referred all legal questions to an attorney on retainer.

DeKuyper found that there were 632 lawyers serving American colleges and universities, many from outside firms. Yet, he wrote, in the near future universities could face a soaring number of lawsuits and increased government intrusion. He recommended the university hire its own attorney.

Two years later, the university hired Estelle Fishbein to be its first general counsel. DeKuyper became assistant (and later, associate) general counsel, and the office was born.

During their long tenure, Fishbein and DeKuyper carried the university through an era of monumental change in terms of legal rights and laws that affected it, including civil rights, Title 9, animal use in testing, human subjects, and health and safety.

In an Aug. 21, 1995, article in The Gazette, DeKuyper spoke of a job that was never boring.

He mentioned an instance when a man in California brought a suit against the university because he believed it operated a "brainwave modification machine," staffed around the clock, that sent electronic emissions to the West Coast. These emissions, he said, "were entering the man's left ear and doing harm to him." The case was eventually dismissed.

He told The Gazette: "I realized later I should have said, 'You're right, there is such a machine — but it's at Harvard."

DeKuyper was no stranger to such oddness. During his time as executive assistance to the president, his legal advice was called upon when John Waters was on campus filming, without permission, a scene involving a naked hitchhiker for his 1969 film Mondo Trasho. Campus police famously chased down the nude man and the film crew, who were later charged with conspiracy to commit indecent exposure.

In the early 1970s, DeKuyper served as a human blockade when students staged a takeover of Homewood House, then the location of the President's Office. DeKuyper locked the door and stood against it as the students attempted to break in.

During his tenure with the General Counsel's Office, DeKuyper specialized in business, labor, intellectual property and technology transfer law. The office represents the university in all legal matters and concerns. It provides services on litigation and issues concerning faculty, staff and student problems, commercial matters and government regulation.

In the first 10 years of its existence, the office consisted of just DeKuyper and Fishbein. Currently, the office has nine full-time attorneys, a paralegal and four staff members.

Derek Savage, deputy general counsel, said that DeKuyper was a magnet for the "oddball cases," about which he always had a good sense of humor. Savage, who joined the office in 1985, said one of his favorite "Fred" stories was when DeKuyper changed his name in the city phone book to Titus Andronicus (the title of one of Shakespeare's early tragedies) to "protect himself from odd plaintiffs finding him."

Savage said that DeKuyper was devoted to Johns Hopkins and particularly well-liked by the faculty. "He really was a beloved figure to them, especially on the Homewood campus," Savage said. "I remember about 10 years after I came I went to see a faculty member about a matter, and he said, 'Where's Fred? I don't know who you are.' He probably was like, Who is this wet-behind-the-ears lawyer — although I was about 50 at the time [laughs]. That was just the level of respect and loyalty the faculty had for Fred."

Savage remembers his former colleague as a collegial, colorful character, a friendly man "who loved to walk." He walked to work each day from his home in Guilford and regularly vacationed in Switzerland so he could hike its mountains and hills.

DeKuyper is also credited as being the father of the Johns Hopkins Federal Credit Union. In the spring of 1971, DeKuyper approached then President Milton Eisenhower to support the formation of a credit union that would benefit the faculty and staff. Later that month, DeKuyper and six other JHU employees each contributed $25 to start the credit union with the approval of Eisenhower. He would then serve on its board for several years. Today, the JHFCU has grown to 37,000 members and $250 million in assets.

Michael Mesta, its current CEO, said, "I think it is safe to say that if it weren't for Fred, the Johns Hopkins Federal Credit Union may never have come into being. Fred's work has probably saved people in the Johns Hopkins community over $1 million in interest and fees that would have otherwise gone to bank stockholders."

DeKuyper also served on the board of directors of the Johns Hopkins Club from 1977 to 1996 and as its president from 1991 to 1993.

Mary Hundley DeKuyper said that her husband loved his time at Johns Hopkins. "He was very fond of the university," she said. "He enjoyed working there — a place full of bright, strange and wonderful folks, he often told me."

Born in Baltimore, DeKuyper attended Loyola High School and graduated from Johns Hopkins in 1962 with a bachelor's degree in history. He earned his law degree in 1965 from the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

Before joining the university, DeKuyper spent a year of military service with the Army Security Agency and then worked for nine years as a trust officer with the Mercantile Safe Deposit and Trust Co.

DeKuyper left Johns Hopkins in 1999 to work for the law firm of Astrachan Gunts and Thomas, specializing in the areas of university law, intellectual property and technology transfer.

Upon retirement in 2004, he joined the Greater Homewood Community Corp.'s Experience Corps program, volunteering five days a week at the Guilford Elementary School with third- and fourth-graders, primarily doing one-on-one tutoring in math. "He loved it," Mary DeKuyper said. "He told everyone that it was the most satisfying work he had ever done. He cherished his students and really wanted them to succeed."

In 2006, the American Association of Physical Anthropologists presented him with its Gabriel W. Lasker Service Award in honor of his extraordinary service to the organization through his counsel in negotiating a new publishing agreement between the AAPA and John Wiley & Sons, the publisher of its journal. The award was established in 2005 to recognize and honor individuals who have demonstrated a history of excellence in service to AAPA, its members and/or the field of physical anthropology.

In addition to his wife, DeKuyper is survived by two children, Sarah and Gordon, and two grandsons.

Funeral services will be private.


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