Taking Home the Hermelin

Taking Home the Hermelin

By Danny McAlindon (AB ’16)

“David Hermelin was a charming, funny, high-energy human being, and those traits made him the quintessential fundraiser.” U-M Associate Vice President for Development Todd Baily has nothing but warm memories of the late David B. Hermelin (BBA ’58, HLLD ’00). According to Baily, Hermelin was a prolific fundraiser, an outstanding mentor, and a one-of-a-kind friend.

Since 2004, the University of Michigan has awarded the David B. Hermelin Award for Fundraising Volunteer Leadership in the late philanthropist’s memory. The award is the university’s highest honor for volunteers, recognizing those who exemplify Hermelin’s love for the university and his tireless pursuit to preserve it.

Hermelin was a dedicated alumnus, a Detroit-area entrepreneur, and a passionate philanthropist for causes both charitable and political. President Bill Clinton chose him as U.S. ambassador to Norway in 1997. At U-M, he served on numerous committees and fundraising campaigns throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

His life was cut painfully short in 2000, just two years after being diagnosed with an aggressive glioblastoma. He was 63 years old. But he left an indelible mark on everyone he met, and those who knew him best can still vividly recall his presence nearly two decades later.

A portrait of David Hermelin.

“He told the best jokes,” Baily recalls. “He used to say, ‘That guy has the deepest pockets of anybody I ever met—and the shortest arms.’ He was hysterical, and a performer. He was always comfortable on stage in front of an audience.”

“David always wrote songs for everybody and he did everything in costume; it was always costume,” Hermelin’s wife, Doreen, told The Jewish News. Alongside her husband, Doreen turned their Bingham Farms home into a fundraising focal point for innumerable platforms and charitable causes—from the Jewish community and U.S. politicians to the city of Detroit and, of course, David’s alma mater. “I used to tell him, ‘OK, I’ll do as many events as you want. You do the speaking and I’ll do the cooking,’” she recalled.

“I never kept a statistic, but I believe an event happened every single week of the year at the Hermelin house,” says Hermelin Award winner Joel Tauber (BBA ’56, MBA ’59, JD ’63). Tauber grew up alongside Hermelin in Detroit, where the two quickly became lifelong friends.

“I’ve been around the world, and around successful people and around leaders my entire life. And there is no one that compares to David Hermelin,” Tauber says. “He was unique because he had a love for people that I’ve never seen among anyone else in all my time.”

Friends recall that Hermelin never stopped moving, brokering deals, or connecting with the causes he cared about most. In an era when cellphones came in bags, he carried two. He would often use them at the same time. One in each hand. Sometimes while driving.

The headline of his obituary in The New York Times described him as a “Diplomat Who Artfully Used the Hot Dog,” referencing when he gathered President Clinton, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak of Israel, and former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat around a table to eat kosher hot dogs.

Hermelin never stopped connecting with others or championing the causes closest to his heart. His seemingly limitless energy sprung from the joy he took in just being alive. Clinton contributed these words to his memorial: “David loved life. And he made sure that everyone around him shared that love,” he wrote. “He left the world a better place than he found it. And no one could ask for a finer legacy.”

“The key to it all was not the awards that were won or the congratulations,” Tauber recalls of his late friend. “He made a difference. He changed lives. What a fantastic legacy. And that is consistent among all of the Hermelin recipients.”

The staff of Leaders & Best are proud to celebrate the life and legacy of David Hermelin in featuring this year’s recipients of the David B. Hermelin Award for Fundraising Volunteer Leadership. From all of us here at L&B, thank you for all you do—and congratulations on taking home the Hermelin.


 

Gopal Srinivasan
Alwarpet, India

A portrait of Gopal Srinivasan.

 

 

What’s your favorite Michigan memory?

The sheer quality of the academic faculty. Their interest in a student’s academic growth went beyond imparting knowledge. Their efforts to holistically understand a student’s capabilities and aspirations, and the encouragement to pursue bespoke projects provided a powerful learning experience.

Who inspired you to get involved at U-M?

My guru, Professor C.K. Prahalad, as a family friend and as a business guide. His inspiring mentorship and friendship resulted in a three-decade-long partnership in India and with Michigan.

What do you find most rewarding about being a donor and fundraising volunteer at U-M?

The opportunity to encourage and assist talented young men and women from India to access and benefit from the U-M experience, so they may help, in their own chosen manner, to make India and the world a better place. The gift of education—Vidyā Dhān—is the greatest gift of all.

Over a decade ago, Gopal Srinivasan (MBA ’83) made his first major gift in memory of the late Michigan Ross Professor C.K. Prahalad. Srinivasan made his gift in a time and place where the idea of philanthropy toward an institution of higher education was still a new phenomenon. Supported by a spirit of generosity and passion for the University of Michigan, he connected with other alumni in India and encouraged each to make gift commitments to U-M. His advocacy marked a cultural shift in the way in which donors in India allocated their philanthropic donations.

Srinivasan is a wonderful change agent, a hands-on volunteer, and a thoughtful advisor. He has helped build a strong philanthropic culture among the alumni community in India, and his leadership has culminated in more than $1 million in commitments for the C.K. Prahalad Initiative at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business. Over the last decade, Srinivasan has also hosted several U-M students in India and served as an invaluable mentor. His ongoing dedication to U-M is evident in his tireless efforts over the past year to establish a nonprofit trust in India that will help alumni and friends to more easily make philanthropic contributions to U-M.


 

Tammi Carr
Saline, Michigan

A portrait photo of Tammi and Jason Carr

 

 

What’s your favorite Michigan memory?

My favorite Michigan memory is hearing the announcement that the brain tumor center at Michigan had been approved by the Regents as the Chad Carr Pediatric Brain Tumor Center in honor of our sweet little boy.

Who inspired you to get involved at U-M?

My inspiration for getting involved at Michigan at the level I have over the past few years is our son Chad. His fight against brain cancer made me realize the need for a greater focus on pediatric brain tumor research. Pediatric brain tumors are the leading cause of cancer death in children, and who better to lead the fight against this cancer than the brilliant minds at Michigan?

What do you find most rewarding about being a donor and fundraising volunteer at U-M?

Being able to support the pediatric researchers at Michigan who focus on brain tumors through my personal volunteerism and through the ChadTough Foundation has been a huge blessing after losing my son Chad. Being able to work in partnership with researchers at Michigan has given me a purpose and has made me believe that our son’s life is making real impact.

As a lifetime Wolverine, U-M alumna Tammi Carr (AB ’97) has served as a devoted fundraiser, donor, and ambassador for her university. Carr once served as a major gift officer for C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital, creating signature events and building lasting relationships with Michigan Medicine donors. The connections she made there would prove valuable after the Carrs’ 4-year old son, Chad, was diagnosed with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) in 2014. Even in the face of terrible tragedy, Tammi and her family ignited an international movement to find a cure.

Carr founded the ChadTough Foundation in 2015 with her family and husband, Jason (AB ’95). Together, the family seeks to support and inspire the critical pediatric brain tumor research that can lead to better treatments and cures. Their efforts have significantly increased the amount of funds, projects, and resources dedicated to DIPG research at the university. Carr was also heavily involved in the $30 million campaign to establish the U-M Chad Carr Pediatric Brain Tumor Center in 2018, which has since dramatically expanded hope for children like Chad. Thousands of U-M donors came together to offer their generous support to the center in Chad’s memory.


 

Bruce & Jackie Cook
Owosso, Michigan

A portrait photo of Bruce & Jackie Cook

 

 

What’s your favorite Michigan memory?

The dedication of the Huetwell Visitors Center, a badly needed facility that we played a part in getting built. It was a beautiful Friday afternoon before a home football game and I [Bruce] was asked to speak. Looking out at the crowd, I was shocked to see head football coach Lloyd Carr seated in the front row.

Who inspired you to get involved at U-M?

There was no single person but a small group of alumni and Michigan personnel who set an example by their dedication and commitment to our great university.

What do you find most rewarding about being a donor and fundraising volunteer at U-M?

Two things. First, the opportunity to change the lives of the students that we recruit to Michigan. Second, the wonderful people that we have come to know along the way.

Bruce (BBA ’50, MBA ’51) and Jackie (BS ’52) Cook love getting people excited about the University of Michigan. The couple has supported U-M for nearly five decades, giving to more than 22 areas around campus. The Cooks’ highest priority: student support. The couple has established numerous scholarships, including the Michigan Alumni Scholarship, offering one-time scholarship offers to high school students from 23 outstate counties in central and northern Michigan. In each of the last five years, over 100 students have received some form of support from the Cook family.

From their many volunteer roles at U-M, the Cooks’ greatest impact may be the way they open the university’s doors for high schoolers throughout the state of Michigan. Knowing that visiting campus in person is a critical step, Bruce brings groups of ninth-graders from Shiawassee County to visit the Ann Arbor campus every spring. He also arranges trips for interested upperclassmen and scholarship nominees to see and experience Ann Arbor firsthand.

Beyond their generous gifts, the Cooks have served as exemplary ambassadors for their university. Together, they’ve made the distant dream of attending Michigan a concrete reality for thousands of students.


 

Carol Ann & Jim Fausone
Ann Arbor, Michigan

A portrait photo of Carol Ann & Jim Fausone

 

 

What’s your favorite Michigan memory?

Carol Ann: I will never forget when my mom and dad delivered the news I was going to the University of Michigan School of Nursing. And being selected as a resident advisor in Couzens Hall for my junior year really shaped my life. I learned leadership and I met my buddy, best friend Jim Fausone. We celebrated 40 years of marriage this year.

Jim: It is probably bombing my first chemistry test as an engineering freshman. I was ready to call it quits. My dad drove in at midday, midweek to talk to me. He told me he would drive me home right then if I wanted to quit, but that quitting now would change my life. Staying at U-M and graduating did change my life.

Who inspired you to get involved at U-M?

Carol Ann: My inspiration has been my dad. He played football at the University of Michigan, #39. He graduated in 1949.

Jim: Education has always been mission critical to the family. Mom and Dad were college graduates. My brothers and sister all have graduate degrees. … The inspiration to give back at U-M stems from that foundation.

What do you find most rewarding about being a donor and fundraising volunteer at U-M?

Carol Ann: Education changes the trajectory of a person and the entire family. To be able to help young men and women achieve their dreams is very rewarding.

Jim: I like to say the world needs more nurses and engineers. … We should all support, to the degree we can, those students and research endeavors. There really is a Michigan difference.

The Fausones epitomize the highest levels of multi-unit commitment by alumni. By supporting a quality learning environment and scholarships, Carol Ann (BSN ’75) and Jim (BSE, BS ’76) have advanced the interests, training, and skills of aspiring nursing professionals and engineers. For both the School of Nursing and the College of Engineering, the Fausones have served as committed, passionate volunteers for decades.

The couple demonstrate their engagement through philanthropy, volunteerism, and good counsel. Carol Ann, a retired brigadier general in the Air National Guard, served as chair of the School of Nursing’s highly successful Victors for Michigan Champions for All campaign committee. She volunteers for university veterans’ events, offering a valuable perspective on university-wide initiatives on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Jim helped drive giving to the Michigan Engineering Fund, actively recruited and solicited members of the board, and served as an alumni advisor for annual giving strategy. Both lend their voices at alumni events, as hosts and speakers, and on committees.

The Fausones have served the university with enthusiasm and grace, whether actively leading volunteer committees, recruiting or soliciting support, or offering sage advice. They are unwavering in their enthusiasm for U-M and models of service for the public good.


 

Regina & Ronald McNeil
North Barrington, Illinois

A portrait photo of Regina & Ronald McNeil

 

 

What’s your favorite Michigan memory?

All my [Regina] years at Michigan were memorable, and being in attendance with my siblings was very special.

Who inspired you to get involved at U-M?

Most inspiring is the university’s longstanding tradition and commitment to excellence and diversity.

What do you find most rewarding about being a donor and fundraising volunteer at U-M?

The most rewarding part of being a donor and fundraising volunteer at U-M is understanding and witnessing the impact it can have. The reward is also in working with faculty and staff whose passion and generosity of spirit is unmatched.

The McNeils are deeply committed to the myriad causes they support at the University of Michigan. Thanks to their strategic philanthropy, sage guidance, and ongoing advocacy, Regina (AB Ed ’73) and Ronald McNeil have become invaluable partners for Michigan.

In the School of Education, the McNeils endowed a scholarship to encourage students from urban areas to return to the inner cities and teach in the STEM fields. On the Dean’s Advisory Council, Regina has been a fierce advocate for the School of Education’s Detroit partnerships. To amplify this commitment, the Detroit natives offered a matching incentive to support future educators in the city. At the College of Engineering, Ronald and Regina actively mentor leadership students, hosting dinners and challenging young people to push outside their comfort zones. The couple recently offered their generous support to the Ford Robotics Building. They named the Walking Robotics lab, where important work in ground robotics and exoskeleton work will take place.

The McNeils have also served as staunch advocates for the university’s diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives across education, engineering, the Alumni Association, and other areas. The couple has offered abundant support for the Alumni Association’s LEAD Scholars program, where they have created three scholarships and serve on the LEAD Scholar Volunteer Council. Together, the McNeils have led by example at U-M and beyond. They have demonstrated a life of service, advocacy, and generosity that has helped create greater opportunities for all.

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