A member of Denison’s board of trustees, Fritz often would set her knitting down on the board table rather deliberately before opining. And as an award-winning investigative journalist, she not only brought important national issues to light but also opened up about her son Daniel’s suicide in the hope of preventing similar tragedies.
Fritz died from a lung infection on Oct. 16, nearly 13 years after her 12-year-old son took his own life. She wrote about that tragedy candidly and painfully in The St. Petersburg Times. “I always thought that was really brave of her to put herself out on a national stage like that and share her experience,” says Fritz’s daughter, Mary Kidney ’08. “I think it was cathartic for her to write it, and she felt she was helping others.” Her experience also led her to champion student affairs and psychological support while on Denison’s board, according to Trustee Dana Hart ’76.
“She was a groundbreaker,” says Jim Kidney, her husband of 38 years. The two met at United Press International in 1974, where Fritz served as the weekend editor and Kidney covered the Supreme Court. Her pioneering ranged from using a private bathroom previously reserved for men in the newsroom to serving as the second woman to lead the White House Correspondents Association.
Starting as a copy editor at the Pittsburgh Press, Fritz went on to United Press International, which took her to D.C. and led to correspondent positions at U.S. News and World Report and the Los Angeles Times. She won numerous investigative reporting awards, including the Everett McKinley Dirksen Award for the best reporting on Congress in 1989. She later served as managing editor for Congressional Quarterly, the Washington bureau chief for The St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, editor of Youth Today, and executive director of The Faith and Politics Institute. She was the author of The Handbook of Campaign Spending and Gold- Plated Politics: Running for Congress in the 1990s. Throughout her career, she covered stories such as Watergate, the resignation of President Nixon, the Iran-Contra hearings, and the Whitewater controversy.
Despite her distinguished career, Kidney says his wife got out of her field just in time, having retired for good from daily reporting a few years ago. A D.C. correspondent for three decades, “she was glad not to cover the current Washington politics,” Kidney says.
Fritz joined Denison’s board in 1993 and served as an active trustee for 15 years. She is remembered fondly for those moments when she slammed her knitting down to speak her mind. “She just always was knitting,” says Hart, who joined the board at the same time. “It was something she developed in the thousands and thousands of hours she spent in meetings and in press conferences.”
In recent years, Fritz had been working on a book about Farmville, Va., where the white residents opted to close the schools rather than integrate during the Civil Rights movement. She was particularly interested in what motivated such hatred.
Fritz spoke to an agent about the Farmville book on the same day she went to the hospital for the last time, said her husband, who remains dedicated to finishing the footnotes and getting the book published. “It’s sad that she died before she got to see it published, but it’s great that it’s at the point where she doesn’t need to work on it anymore,” her daughter said.
Fritz received an Alumni Citation from Denison in 1985 and an honorary degree in 1992, at which time she delivered the commencement address. She was a member of Pi Beta Phi sorority. Preceded in death by her son, Daniel, she is survived by her husband, James Kidney; her daughter, Mary Kidney ’08; and two sisters and a brother-in-law, Judy Farr Demitras, Marge Fritz Henderson ’72, and Jim Henderson ’73.