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Chris Frye '10, First African-American Mayor of New Castle

Published: 02/09/2021

Chris Frye '10, First African-American Mayor of New Castle

Chris Frye '10, First African-American Mayor of New Castle

Chris majored in Social Work at Gannon and was a member of both the Social Work and Leadership clubs. He also worked as a Resident Assistant and a Campus Tour Guide.

He was recently featured in Gannon Magazine, excerpt below. 

If the world is going to change, leaders like Chris Frye ’10 will be the ones to change it.

Frye became the youngest mayor of New Castle, Pa. following his election last November. Frye, an African- American Republican in a majority Democratic city, knew he had to overcome a number of obstacles to win the executive post. But he explained that facing daunting challenges was nothing new for him.

"Honestly, attending college was an anomaly for me," Frye said. "My mom had aspirations for me, but I had a lot of challenges growing up without my father. I needed to go to work, really. I wasn't a mature 18-year-old getting out of high school. I had tremendous life skills - I had to have them growing up in the neighborhood I did - but applying them to school and to living were a challenge. Gannon University accepted be when no one else believed in me and saw something in me that maybe I didn't see." 

 

Frye's leadership skills quickly made themselves known as he plunged into a range of campus organizations.

"I was a resident assistant, I joined campus ministry, the social work club and the leadership club, and that gave me the structure to succeed," he said.

Perhaps the most stalwart pillar of that structure was Parris Baker '92, Ph.D., MSSA, who is the director and assistant professor of the social work, mortuary science and gerontology programs. 

"At Gannon, I was a lost boy," Frye said. "I didn't have the guidance that some kids have from father figures, and Dr. Baker became my family, friend, mentor, pastor and teacher... I have to credit him with me staying at Gannon. I remember semesters where, returning to campus, I couldn't wait to learn from him again."

Even a decade after his graduation, the connection with his mentor remains strong.

"I go back to him for his knowledge and expertise and he continues to deliver on a spiritual and mental level," Frye said.

Looking back on his days as a student, Frye remembers that "there as never a question about whether Gannon was open to diversity because it as all around you, and we know the university's commitment to diversity."

It's a commitment he hopes his university will keep and having ascended to a leadership role in his own city, Frye said he looks to Gannon to take a similar role in Erie.

"With one of the poorest ZIP codes in the country close to campus and with the resources it has, I would ask what Gannon could do for its community," Frye said.

"My sister-in-law is a physical therapy student, so family-wise we're still connected. If Gannon continues to move in the direction of being accepting to a variety of different people, focusing on diversity and inclusion and supporting the surrounding community, Gannon will go in the direction of great success," he said.

He should know. Chris Frye is headed in that direction himself. "Gannon University believed in my possibilities," he said. "That's the best theme line I've ever heard."

Follow Gannon University Alumni Association for more spotlights throughout Black History Month.