95 - Mary Ann Frugé

Beloved, former S.H. Mary Ann Frugé‘s Chi Omega experience began at the University of Mississippi when she joined Tau Chapter. It was here that her love for the Fraternity was fostered so much that she would later go on to serve as Tau Personnel Advisor for years.

Mary Ann Frugé, second row and fourth from the left, with her Tau pledge class

“As an advisor for Tau Chapter, I had the good fortune of participating in many Firesides and Conventions where I got to know other advisors, collegians, and national officers. The topics of these meetings centered around teaching Chi Omega history, recruiting, scholarship programming, and reviewing the Book Of Rules… These topics gave me a strong background to serve as an advisor and later a national officer. Furthermore, I saw the love and commitment to the Fraternity exhibited by the national leadership, advisors, and collegians. This inspired me to give more and more,” says Mary Ann.

After becoming more involved at the national level by helping to put on national meetings and serving as alternate NPC delegate, Mary Ann was asked to work on the high priority of extension, the process of starting new Chi Omega chapters. Many years of her life involved traveling across the country for countless Installations and recruitment efforts. From 1987-2002, she played a major role in furthering the reach of the Fraternity.

In 1992, Mary Ann joined the Governing Council as S.K.A., then transitioned to S.T.B. in 1994.

“My two years as S.K.A. and four years as S.T.B. gave me varied experiences, from assisting chapters with special situations to learning about fundraising with the Chi Omega Foundation. As Governing Council members are, I was involved with each aspect of the Fraternity, regardless of position. Nevertheless, as S.K.A., I took minutes for Governing Council meetings which quickly gave me a thorough overview of issues with which the Council deals. As S.T.B., while still helping with chapters, extension, and financial decisions, I devoted much time to scholarship,” she says.

Mary Ann Frugé at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Executive Headquarters that would open in 1995

“Both national offices, the involvement I had with NPC, the Chi Omega Foundation, and national extension taught me about programs, procedures, working with various leadership styles, and the importance of retaining unity in our purpose. Those with whom I worked had great knowledge, made solid decisions, worked hard, and had fun!” she adds.

With years of experience and supportive Sisters in her corner, Mary Ann was nominated as S.H. in 1998 and would go on to serve as the leader of Chi Omega until 2004. During her time as S.H., she was also the National Vice-President of the Foundation Board of Directors 1998-2004 and on the Chi O Creations Board of Trustees 1999-2004.

In 2001, Chi Omega partnered with Make-A-Wish to form a community service alliance that now boasts over 26 million dollars raised and over 1.2 million hours volunteered!

Mary Ann Frugé with collegians and Hannah, center, who was the first child for whom Chi Omega helped to grant a wish!

“When I became S.H., an important issue was whether or not to adopt a national philanthropy, which changed our focus from strictly supporting local philanthropies to adding a national one. After researching appropriate philanthropies and getting input from our chapters, Chi Omega chose Make-A-Wish which has proven to be beneficial to that philanthropy and Chi Omega… The decisions and activities were varied but all centered on ways to strengthen our sisterhood while providing relevant programs for alumnae and collegians,” says Mary Ann.

After serving as S.H., Mary Ann became a member of the Foundation Board of Directors 2004-2010. In addition to her work to raise funds on the Foundation Board, she and her husband, Don Frugé Sr., were and continue to be generous donors to the Foundation themselves.

When we asked Mary Ann what advice she would give to Sisters entering leadership roles, she said, “I would be tempted to suggest a list that includes:

  • Knowing thoroughly the organization you lead
  • Caring deeply about it
  • Developing a vision and establishing goals to realize that vision
  • Using and learning new organizational skills
  • Speaking with voice energy, i.e., enthusiastically
  • Being present with each person you meet
  • Keeping alive the most important relationships, like your family
  • Doing any task you ask anyone else to do
  • Having fun while working hard”

“Being a leader isn’t all about ‘self,’ but about who and for what purpose one leads. Taking time to build relationships and affirming others is important- just as important as having notable accomplishments,” she adds.

The Support of the Sisterhood

Along with the countless, wonderful moments Chi Omega and Mary Ann experienced together, she says she would be remiss not to mention one of the toughest.

“While it would be nice to say that all of my Chi Omega experiences have been pleasant, that would be dishonest. One of the most difficult was in 1987 when Tau Chapter was involved in an accident that took the lives of five Sisters and injured nineteen more. As Personnel Advisor, I was deeply involved with helping the chapter members while sharing the pain of the families of the women most affected. While I, all the advisors, chapter members, and members of the University, and town communities were impacted directly, the incredible support we received sustained us,” says Mary Ann.

“S.H. Kirk Cocke and S.T.B. Roselyn Dabbs spent time with the chapter and attended funerals; the national organization sent a former Council member, Barbara Brightwell, who counciled the chapter and individual members; the University provided overwhelming support; hundreds of notes, calls, memorials, and flowers from Sisters across the country brought comfort. We weren’t alone. To have loving arms not only reach out, but enfold us was a first-hand experience of how Chi Omegas take seriously the lessons of our Ritual. We felt united with our Sisters as we clutched the hands reaching out to us with strength and courage. For the incredible outpouring of love to Tau Chapter, we all will be grateful forever,” she shares.

And Chi Omega was forever grateful for Mary Ann’s support as Tau grieved through this tragedy. She was so appreciated that in 1988, she was given the Outstanding Advisor Award to honor her devotion to all those affected, Sisters, friends, and family.

Continuing her Chi Omega Support Today

Today, Mary Ann resides in Oxford, Mississippi, with her husband, Don, Sr., who is the Chairman/CEO of Oxford Investment Advisors, LLC; President & CEO Emeritus of the University of Mississippi Foundation, Professor Emeritus of Law, University of Mississippi; and is the current Chair of the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation. Don is also one of few to be given the Friendship Pin, reserved only for the closest friends of the Fraternity to honor their generosity and support. Her son, Don, Jr., also lives in Mississippi with his family.

Mary Ann Frugé, photo courtesy of the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy

In 2006, Mary Ann was awarded the Chi Omega President’s Award for her decades of devotion to the Fraternity. She left a mark on Chi Omega that has made her one of our Sisterhood’s most beloved leaders and still remains one of Chi Omega’s most requested speakers. She continues to be a member of Tau House Corporation, and in addition to her many Chi Omega accomplishments, Mary Ann is the immediate past Chairman of The Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy and has been recognized by her community of Oxford as Citizen of the Year and Woman of Distinction.

As we near the 125th anniversary of Chi Omega, we asked Mary Ann what she was most proud of when she recollects on all that our Fraternity is, to which she answered, “When I think of Chi Omega, I am most proud of the ways our members thoughtfully and compassionately deal with situations while excelling at the same time. The accomplishments of our members are as varied and noteworthy as any in the world. Indeed, I am proud of what Chi Omegas do and even more proud of who they are – women of integrity leading in difficult times and places with genuine concern for others. Leading with honesty and strong moral principles has characterized Chi Omega throughout our history. For these values, I’m both grateful and exceedingly proud.”