Frederick Hovde was elected to a Rhodes Scholarship and spent three years at Oxford University where he received two degrees in chemistry. While at Oxford, he was a member of the varsity rugby football team and in 1931 he became the third American in history to win his Oxford blue in the annual Oxford-Cambridge rugby union match. Frederick Hovde became the President of Purdue University in 1946 and remained President until his retirement in 1971. While Frederick was President the student body quadrupled and over 80,000 students graduated.
It was also during this time that Purdue established the schools of industrial engineering, materials engineering, technology, and veterinary medicine.
While at Purdue, he served on numerous government boards on scientific research, including military research. He also served as a member of the Board of Visitors to the United States Naval Academy, Board of Visitors to the Air University, Air Training Command Advisory Board, Board of Consultants to the National War College, and Board of Visitors to the United States Air Force Academy. In 1961, he served as chairman of the President-Elect’s Task Force Committee on Education. From 1970 to 1973, he served on the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.
Hovde served as President of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (1953-1954), as vice chairman of the American Council on Education (1955-1956), and a member of the President’s Committee on Education Beyond High School (1956-1957).
After his retirement in, Frederick was named President Emeritus of Purdue.