On July 28, 2014, a standing-room-only crowd gathered at Wayne State University’s Community Arts Auditorium to say a final farewell to David Campbell, who had led the McGregor Fund as president for nearly 20 years.
For the non-profit community of Southeast Michigan, Dave’s illness and untimely passing created widespread anguish and, for many, signaled the loss of a friend, a mentor, an advisor, and a champion. For the small, tightly knit staff of the McGregor Fund and our trustees, it was a heartbreaking blow.
Weathering a Difficult Transition
Since 1995, Dave had been the face and voice of the Fund. He guided us, encouraged us, and challenged us by his own example to be our best selves. Inevitably, the months during his illness and following his death marked a painful phase for the foundation. We mourned the loss of a beloved leader and colleague, and deeply missed his steadying presence, his insights, his humor, and his never-failing generosity of spirit.
But as Board Chairman James B. Nicholson noted in his eulogy: “David Campbell taught us well.” Thus guided by Dave’s example during those many difficult months, the staff—with reinforcement from our Board of Trustees—worked together to operate the Fund at the highest levels of excellence and integrity, and with our fullest dedication.
As the board launched a nationwide search for a new president, staff set to work to strengthen the Fund’s operations and digital infrastructure, and transition to web-based grant applications. We engaged actively with our non-profit, foundation and public sector colleagues, seeking out opportunities to help improve the quality of life for those among us who are least fortunate. And some opportunities found us, notably those connected with the City of Detroit’s emergence from bankruptcy and the reenergizing of its civic and community leadership. We made meaningful and even historic grants, some of which are highlighted throughout this report.
In May of 2015, with the executive search concluded, the board announced its decision, and I was offered the post of president. Feeling greatly honored, I accepted the position.
Now, with our grief gradually receding, we have come to understand Dave’s legacy in terms of the foundation’s working culture and reputation. He set a high standard for us to follow, influencing the way we conduct ourselves every day, in all our interactions. Thanks to his unique qualities and leadership style, the Fund is widely known and highly regarded as an honest broker—approachable, respectful, candid, and appreciative of the work underway in this community. We treasure these dual legacies of organizational culture and reputation, and will work hard to sustain them as we move forward.
Refocusing on Our Heritage
This is an eventful and tumultuous time for Detroit. Today, the city is a study in contrasts, a place of long struggles and deep poverty but also a place of energy and optimism, filled with socially minded people eager to live and invest here, and to give back. These dynamic conditions offer the McGregor Fund unbounded opportunities to convene, troubleshoot, incentivize, and contribute to positive change. We welcome the challenge.
Building on a proud and solid heritage dating back 90 years, we will continue to support our traditional areas of focus, including human services, health care, education, and arts and culture. But in this exciting and unprecedented post-bankruptcy era, as Detroit continues to recover and evolve, we will also target our grantmaking to leverage opportunities for Detroit’s people to participate in the city’s economic and psychological rejuvenation. We will make every effort to support Detroiters as they enact the change they want to see, paying special attention to the city’s many disconnected young adults, whose prospects remain unjustly and desperately bleak.
Although the financial markets have experienced considerable volatility, our endowment has continued to grow since our last report to the community. Thanks to the careful financial stewardship of the Fund’s Investment Committee, supported by our investment consultants, assets increased from $164 million to $175 million, after grant and administrative payments, during the fiscal year ended June 30, 2015. The portfolio continues to be positioned somewhat defensively, thereby assuring the Fund’s ability to provide grants now and for the long term.
In closing, we offer sincere thanks to our many partners: the nonprofits that carry out the brave, big-hearted work underway in this community; and our foundation colleagues and friends in the public sector, who inspire us with their own hard work and commitment to the public good.
Personally, I must express a debt of deep gratitude to our Board of Trustees, with special thanks to Chairman Jim Nicholson, who quietly stepped up in a time of crisis and provided unstinting counsel and support.
Likewise, I wish to thank the entire McGregor Fund staff. Led by Norah M. O’Brien, our tireless Vice President for Finance and Administration, they carried out their daily work, completed several special projects, and performed at the highest level while enduring the twin challenges of reduced staff capacity and grief that was at times almost unbearable. My heartfelt thanks to you all.
Kate Levin Markel