Frederic L. Pryor

Frederic Pryor, a 1951 graduate of Mansfield Senior High School, died Sept. 2 at his home in Newton Square, Pa. He was 86.

Frederic L. Pryor, a former long-time resident of Swarthmore, passed away peacefully on September 2, 2019 at White Horse Village in Newtown Square, where he had lived for the previous 11 years. He was 86 years old.

He and his twin brother, Millard (deceased), were born in Owosso, Michigan but spent most of their childhood in Mansfield, Ohio, where they graduated from Mansfield Senior High School in 1951.

Fred received a BA in chemistry from Oberlin College in 1955. He spent a year after graduation living and working in South America and Europe, including a three month stint on a commune and a job tending engines on a freighter carrying birdseed. Upon his return, he enrolled at Yale University to pursue a graduate degree in economics.

Choosing to focus his doctoral thesis on communist foreign trade, he moved to West Berlin and frequently visited East Berlin to conduct research. Shortly after finishing his dissertation in August 1961, he drove his Karmann Ghia to East Berlin to deliver a copy to a colleague and was arrested on suspicion of espionage.

After six months in an East German prison, Fred was released as part of a prisoner exchange that included Francis Gary Powers, a US Air Force pilot, and Rudolf Abel, a convicted KGB spy (later dramatized in the Steven Spielberg film Bridge of Spies). Upon returning to the United States, and subsequently receiving his PhD in economics from Yale, he took a teaching position at the University of Michigan.

In 1964 Fred married Zora Prochazka, a fellow economist he had met several years before at an American Economic Association meeting, and began working at Yale University. In 1966, he took a position at Swarthmore College, where he remained until his retirement in 1998.

Over the course of his career Fred authored 13 books and over 120 scholarly articles, mostly in the area of economic systems. His writings span a wide variety of economic systems, ranging from those of chimpanzees and baboons, to human hunting and gathering tribes, to feudal and other types of agricultural societies, as well as industrial economies both capitalist and communist.

Outside of his academic work, Fred loved to see and experience new cultures. He and Zora traveled extensively through Europe, Asia, South America and Africa, as well as lived abroad for several years. They also shared a belief in the importance of education, and for many years Fred served as Trustee of several historically black colleges, including Miles College, Wilberforce College and Tougaloo College.

Fred was a devoted husband, married to Zora for 44 years until her death in 2008. He was also a loving father and grandfather, affectionately known as Pop and Grandpa, with a dry sense of humor and a playful side, as well as an endless supply of facts and trivia about every conceivable subject.

He is survived by his son Daniel A. Pryor, and his three grandchildren Kathleen, Thomas, and Zora, all of Washington, DC.

A celebration of his life will be held at the Swarthmore Friends Meeting House at 3:00pm on Saturday, September 28th.

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