Scholarship in honor of late Gabriel Richard alum shows Catholic Foundation's impact

In May, Gabriel Richard High School graduate Frank Klamerus was the winner of the first scholarship awarded by the John Duncan Cameron Scholarship Fund. The fund was created by Cameron's family with help from the Catholic Foundation of Michigan. (Courtesy of the Catholic Foundation of Michigan)

In its third year, lay-led philanthropic organization has facilitated more than $2 million in giving to local Catholic causes

RIVERVIEW — John Cameron was filled with an entrepreneurial spirit. His self-motivation and work ethic were admirable, and he was known for saying that if he ever came into money, he would establish a scholarship to help students like him.

When Cameron, 53, died in November 2018, his family wanted to honor his life and create a legacy for him by helping Gabriel Richard Catholic High School students who demonstrate the same characteristics for which Cameron was known.

After consulting the school’s director of advancement, Adrian Kowal, Cameron’s family established a scholarship in John’s name with the help of the Catholic Foundation of Michigan, a nonprofit philanthropic community foundation that helps parishes, schools and Catholic organizations build “forever funds” for various needs.

Since its inception in 2017, the lay-led team at the foundation has helped create more than 75 charitable funds, including endowment funds, donor-advised funds, designated funds, family foundations and scholarship funds.

“The foundation serves the needs of the donor and the recipients,” Kowal said. “It helps donors achieve their goals, and recipients receive a generous gift. The foundation really did all the work for us to establish the scholarship, and it was nice and easy.”

John Cameron and his mother, Geraldine, are pictured in this undated photo. John Cameron, who died in November 2018, was an “entrepreneurial spirit,” his family said. “John had a profound effect on many people. Starting the endowed scholarship has given our family an opportunity to honor him and fulfill his wish to help students like himself,” said his sister, Dr. Mary Cameron-Crone.

In May 2019, the John Duncan Cameron Scholarship Fund made its first award, to Frank Klamerus, who’s now in the Fire Fighter Academy at Schoolcraft College in Livonia. Each year, the fund will provide financial assistance for a graduating Gabriel Richard senior who exhibits financial need and plans to attend a university, junior college or trade school. 

Angela Moloney, president and CEO of the Catholic Foundation of Michigan, said a fund like Cameron’s has a ripple effect that inspires other philanthropically minded Catholics in the area.

“It’s beautiful because individuals will say, for example, ‘I saw that story about John Cameron’s life and was inspired to make something happen in a similar way. I want to think about how I want to be remembered when I pass.’ It’s impactful to see what can come of this,” Moloney said. 

With the help of the foundation, more than $2 million has been given back to the Catholic community in southeast Michigan so far through faith-filled charitable giving.

The key to helping build these forever funds, Moloney said, is taking the work off the organization’s plate. That’s why the foundation is dedicated to offering benefits such as charitable tools, tax advantages and expert assistance and advice tailored to donor-specific needs and interests. 

And the team understands the values of Catholic donors, she added. It offers peace of mind that all gifts and funds are stewarded in accordance with Gospel values and the socially responsible investment guidelines set forth by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The foundation has the endorsement of Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron and has its own independent governing board of trustees, separate from the Archdiocese of Detroit.

“Our job is to ensure that parishes, schools and ministries have the necessary resources to help their critical work endure forever,” Moloney said. 

Over the past two years, the foundation has grown its staff and increased the services it offers in order to meet the needs of Catholic donors. 

“When we really harness the energy of faithful individuals in the area, we can only imagine how much more we can do,” Moloney said. “Unleashing the Gospel has been our philosophy, and it is beautifully partnered with the good efforts happening in Detroit right now. The Holy Spirit is alive here. It’s alive and moving.”

For more information about the Catholic Foundation of Michigan, visit: