Academic journal article Mennonite Quarterly Review

In Memoriam: J. Winfield Fretz, 1910-2005

Academic journal article Mennonite Quarterly Review

In Memoriam: J. Winfield Fretz, 1910-2005

Article excerpt

J. Winfield Fretz was likely the first Mennonite to receive a doctorate in sociology. He received it in 1940 from the University of Chicago, where he also received a master's degree. Fretz also received honorary doctorates from Bluffton College (1987) and Conrad Grebel College (1989). The long-term passion of his church involvements and the topic of his master's and doctoral work was Mennonite mutual aid. In 1996, he wrote an eighteen-page paper summarizing his interest in and commitments to mutual aid, titled, "My Discovery of, Romance with, and Marriage to Mutual Aid." Fretz credits Harold Bender, editor of The Mennonite Quarterly Review, for affirming his interest in mutual aid and motivating him to select it as the topic for his doctoral work, when Bender published two chapters on the topic from Fretz's master's thesis in the January and July issues of the 1939 MQR. Bender explained that Fretz had "dug the first spade in the rich soil" of mutual aid with his master's thesis on mutual aid among the Mennonites. In his 1996 paper, Fretz credits Bender's words with motivating and sustaining his commitment to mutual aid activities for the rest of his life. In the same essay, Fretz wrote, "I believe that the philosophy of mutual aid is closer to the ethics of Jesus than it is to the teachings of Adam Smith at whose shrine so many Christians devoutly worship."

Winfield Fretz practiced his theoretical commitments to mutual aid. He was personally involved with numerous local cooperatives and served as chair of the Mennonite Central Committee Aid Section and as executive secretary of the General Conference Board of Mutual Aid, holding both assignments in the 1940s and 1950s. Fretz was one of the founders of the Ontario Mennonite Credit Union. In many informal ways he demonstrated the spirit of mutual aid by providing gifts and making loans to church members to meet urgent needs and to start various ventures.

In 1930 Fretz entered Bluffton College, where he was a student of Mennonite historian C. …

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