TRUMBULL, Conn. — Ernest C. Trefz of Trumbull, a longtime member of the University of Bridgeport's Board of Trustees and the owner of 44 McDonald's restaurant in the area, died Saturday, Feb. 25. He was 84.
A U.S. Army veteran, Trefz managed 44 area McDonald’s restaurants as the longtime CEO of the Trefz Corp., a family property management business.
The businessman and philanthropist had been member of the Board of Trustees at the University of Bridgeport, where the Ernest C. Trefz School of Business is named for him, since 1980.
Trefz is remembered at the University of Bridgeport for his decades of "wise counsel and unwavering generosity that was instrumental in guiding UB from financial turbulence to become a robust center of academic excellence and entrepreneurship," according to a university press release.
He began serving on the board at a "challenging time" for UB.
"Within the decade, a series of regional recessions would batter cities, institutions, and various sectors throughout the Northeast," the press release said.
"The city of Bridgeport, which filed for bankruptcy in 1991, and the University were not immune from the financial turbulence of the time, but Mr. Trefz’s steadying presence on the Board of Trustees proved to be critically important as UB reversed course," said UB President Neil Salonen.
“While many industry leaders and others stepped away, Ernie never wavered with his commitment to the city and the institutions within the city."
“His intent was always for the good of the University and the city, and we have benefitted enormously because of it. UB, like so many others in the Bridgeport region, will miss his leadership and his ceaseless loyalty," Salonen said.
Today, the University’s enrollment tops 5,700 students, the highest level in 30 years, and more than $86.5 million in capital improvements have been made.
The Ernest C. Trefz School of Business opened with his support.
The son of German immigrants, Trefz grew up helping his father deliver meat and cold cuts to family-run stores in Bridgeport.
Though he could not afford to go to college, Trefz parlayed his work experience, customer-service savvy, and entrepreneurial drive to open the state’s first McDonalds restaurant.
“I’m honored and honestly humbled that the UB business school will carry my name,” Trefz told Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and other dignitaries at the business school’s official groundbreaking on Nov. 20, 2013.
Trefz supported many foundations and charities throughout his lifetime. He enjoyed hunting, fishing and traveling the world as well as spending time with his family.
In addition to his wife of 59 years, Joan, he is survived by his children, Linda Trefz, Chris Trefz (Trish), and Paul Trefz and fiancé Susana Silva; grandchildren, Theresa, Alex, Kevin, Christian Jr., Kendal, Josie, Gretchen and Wyatt; great-grandchildren, Cal, Leila and Scarlet; a brother, Christian J. Trefz (Eva); and a niece and nephew, Tara Locke and Jimmy Trefz.
Trefz was born in New Haven on Dec. 19, 1932, to Christian and Katherine Pfister Trefz.
Calling hours will be Tuesday from 4 to 8 p.m. at The Abriola Parkview Funeral Home, 419 White Plains Road, Trumbull.
Funeral services will be Wednesday, March 1 at 10 a.m. in Trumbull Congregational Church, 3115 Reservoir Ave., Trumbull.
Interment with military honors will follow in the Mountain Grove Cemetery, Bridgeport.
Memorial contributions may be made to The Ronald McDonald House of New Haven, 501 George St., New Haven, CT 06511, or The Ronald McDonald House of Greater Hudson Valley, 80 Woods Rd., Valhalla, NY 10595.
To leave an online condolence, visit www.abriola.com .