Douglas L. Frost, a former vice president of development for the Maryland Institute College of Art who wrote a history of the institution, died Friday from heart failure at Springwell Senior Living in Mount Washington.
The longtime Roland Park resident was 80.
“For almost five decades, Doug Frost was both the face and spirit of MICA,” said Fred Lazarus IV of Roland Park, who served as president of MICA from 1978 until 2014. “He knew and loved the college’s history, and built its relationships with so many people and the whole community.
“His personal values, his concern for people, his love of the city and his passion for the arts and artists influenced everything MICA did,” said Mr. Lazarus. “MICA could not have become what it became under his tenure without Doug. He was a great friend and mentor.”
Samuel Hoi, MICA president since 2014, called the legacy of Mr. Frost “profound and deeply cherished.”
“As the college’s chief fundraising officer for four decades, his singularly personal way of making friends and inspiring support were legendary and critical to our growth and success,” said Mr. Hoi, a Bolton Hill resident.
“After retirement in 2006, he did the college an invaluable service by writing the definitive MICA history book, ‘Making History/Making Art: MICA,’” he said. “We owe Doug so much of what we know of and how we understand MICA. Having dedicated a lifetime to the college, he will be remembered for his unparalleled love and impact.”
“He was one of the most creative people I’ve ever met and certainly one of the loveliest,” said Baltimore City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, a longtime friend. “His work with Mount Royal Station certainly set a pattern for adaptive reuse for old buildings in Baltimore, and not just at MICA.
“He loved MICA, his neighborhood, and the world,” she said.
Douglas Lee Frost was a native of Pelham, N.Y., and the son of William Henry Frost, who worked in real estate, and Jean Thayer Frost, a bookkeeper.
After graduating from Pelham High School in 1955, he entered Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., and received a bachelor’s degree in 1959 in English. In 1961, he obtained a master’s degree in history from Yale University.
He worked in development at Trinity until 1966, when he joined the administration of then-MICA president Eugene W. “Bud” Leake, who headed the institute from 1961 to 1974.
Mr. Frost taught creative writing classes and later was given the assignment of assisting in the transformation of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad’s landmark Mount Royal Station. The Renaissance Revival structure, with its red tile roof, 150-foot-tall clock tower and long gable-roof train shed, had been designed by architects E. Francis Baldwin and Josias Pennington.
It opened to travelers on Sept. 1, 1896, but with the decline of post-World War II passenger traffic and the popularity of the automobile, the B&O made the decision in 1958 to discontinue all through-passenger service between Baltimore and Washington, Philadelphia and New York on its fabled Royal Blue Route. The last commuter train was in 1961.
Three years later, in what became one of the nation’s first conversions of a former railroad terminal for adaptive reuse, the B&O sold the station and land to MICA for $250,000, guaranteeing its survival while at the same time adding space at the school for studios, galleries and a library.
“Where once passengers bought tickets, waited for trains and crossed tile floors to board a waiting Capitol Limited or Royal Blue, student artists now worked,” reported The Baltimore Sun in 2007.
“Mount Royal station turned out to be the first of many high profile historic preservation projects that created a campus environment from a patchwork of properties in Bolton Hill and the North Avenue area,” states a biographical profile of Mr. Frost by MICA. “With his fountain pen and stacks of yellow legal pads, Doug wrote and shaped the proposals that transformed the school.”
Other projects involving Mr. Frost included the conversion of the old Cannon Shoe Co. into the school’s Fox Building, AAA of Maryland into a library, the Brown Center auditorium and studios, and The Gateway residence hall, theater and career center, all on Mount Royal Avenue. Another key project was the renovation of the old Maryland Women’s Hospital in Bolton Hill into the Robert and Jany Meyerhoff House residencies.
“Fundraising can become a tricky dance but Doug made it straightforward and smooth, with smarts, honesty, personal goodness and singular and focused dedication to MICA,” said Elizabeth “Betsey” Heuisler, a Baltimore artist and MICA graduate and former teacher who lives In Roland Park.
MICA, she said, “would not be the superb institution today without him.”
Upon retiring in 2006, Mr. Frost was given the title of vice president for development emeritus, and special counsel for development. He began a new assignment, to research and write his book from a basement office in the library — prompting a new business card title: Historian.
Published in 2010, “Making History/Making Art: MICA” commemorates the founding of MICA in 1826 as The Maryland Institute for the Promotion of the Mechanic Arts. The book featured essays by Doreen Bolger, then-director of the Baltimore Museum of Art; artist Jeff Koons, a 1976 MICA graduate; Gary Vikan, then-director of the Walters Art Museum; and Mr. Lazarus, as well as contributions from hundreds of alumni, faculty and friends.
Jim Burger, a former Baltimore Sun photographer and writer, graduated in 1982 from MICA and contributed photographs to Mr. Frost’s book.
“Any competent historical writer can probably write a history of anything, but Doug was a walking encyclopedia of MICA,” said Mr. Burger, of Remington. “He absolutely loved our school, it came through in every word he wrote, and that’s what made his book so exceptional.”
Mr. Frost, a lifelong advocate for civil rights, was profoundly affected by the death of childhood friend Michael H. “Mickey” Schwerner, who with fellow civil rights workers James Chaney and Andrew Goodman was killed by the Ku Klux Klan in 1964 in Philadelphia, Miss.
Mr. Frost marched in protests against the Vietnam War and became an environmental activist who focused on the rehabilitation of Stony Run stream and park. He also organized volunteers for city trash cleanups, and was a birdwatcher, an inveterate gardener and a lifelong student of the Civil War.
He liked taking leisurely drives through the Maryland countryside observing wildlife, rambling stone walls, freshly painted white fences, houses, barns and silos with “Amish laundry on the line,” according to the MICA profile.
Mr. Frost also enjoyed attending art shows in Washington and New York, and liked fishing the Moosic Lakes in northeastern Pennsylvania. Other pastimes included reading, writing and listening to jazz. He was a member of the Hamilton Street Club.
“Doug approached life with openness, enthusiasm, creativity and high standards,” said Cary M. Woodward, a longtime friend and Roland Park resident who taught English at Gilman School for 35 years before retiring in 2001.
“He was always fully engaged — with his family, his work, his friendships, his reading, his garden,” Mr. Woodward said. “He was an historian by nature and training, and his broad interests were reflected in his devotion to MICA, it history and personalities.”
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In addition to his wife of 31 years, he is survived by a son, Christopher Frost of Oakland, Calif.; two daughters, Tenny Frost of Albany, Calif., and Hannah Frost of Palo Alto, Calif.; three stepsons, Dr. Robert Miller of Charlotte, N.C., Dr. Doug Miller of Davidson, N.C. and Dr. Ken Miller of Vienna,Va.; a stepdaughter, Carol Lewis of Chapel Hill, N.C.; a sister, Virginia Frost “Ginny” Pusey of Berwyn, Pa.; and 13 grandchildren. An earlier marriage to the former Nancy Weeks ended in divorce.