Humanities & Cultural
Dr. Fred Loew
Drive through northern Indiana from late spring through the early fall and you will see lush fields bursting with one of the state’s most important farm commodities – soybeans.
And you can thank Fred Loew for helping to plant the original seeds of that agricultural advancement.
Fred Loew grew up in rural Michigan, coming to Indiana for an education at what was then the new Central College, in Huntington. He was among the graduates of the school that would be renamed Huntington College. His next academic stop was at Michigan Agricultural College — today’s Michigan State University. He came back to Huntington to teach in 1904.
Now a professor, Loew taught botany and biology for several years before moving into the more specialized study of agriculture. That curriculum proved popular and he soon secured funds to establish a Purdue-affiliated Agricultural Experimental Station in Huntington.
With America at war in 1917, Loew and other Huntington residents did their part on the home front. While the college welcomed the Student Army Training Corps to campus, Loew was appointed by city officials to direct Huntington’s version of what would become popularly known as “victory gardens.” He helped manage a 60-acre plot for citizens to grow vegetables, fruits, and herbs to make up for the provisions being directed to troops overseas.
That work led to Loew being named Huntington’s first Agricultural Agent, in 1918. He served in that capacity for only four years, but in that period was credited with introducing soybeans as a cash crop to farmers in northeast Indiana. It was part of his personal mission to develop a keener appreciation for enterprise on the farm. A Huntington University retrospective on Loew quotes him as telling a Roanoke audience in 1914 that “three qualities are required of the farmer – a knowledge of science, executive ability, and business judgment.”
Loew left a lasting mark on his adopted hometown. He was a champion of 4-H clubs to nurture rural youth. He lent his organizational talents to local 4-H development and served on the board that organized the county’s 4-H Fair. He considered Huntington County’s 4-H program among the state’s best. After his college teaching career of more than 30 years came to a close, Loew was elected Huntington County Clerk, and became a dairy farmer.
His legacy at Huntington College is twofold. With his friend, Huntington businessman Jacob L. Brenn, he was instrumental in forming the Huntington College Foundation in 1938. The foundation raises gifts and resources from the broader community to support the university’s educational mission. Loew also oversaw development of the college’s Botanical Gardens and Arboretum and what is now the Huntington University Herbarium. Some of the arboretum still exists as a wooded outdoor laboratory for the study of environmental science and botany. The herbarium has gained national renown. Its collection – dating to the 1880s – contains more than 12,000 species of flora, including, as Loew was fond of noting, “every single species from Huntington County.”