Distinctive: Emeritus trustees serve as ambassadors to OCBF


At last year’s Signature Event, a number of emeritus trustees were pictured with then members of the OCBF Board. Among the emeritus trustees pictured were Michael Schloff, Patrick McCauley, Gerald Fisher, Thomas Tallerico, Mark Stern, and Joseph Papelian. This year’s Signature Event will take place on Thursday, April 26 at Oakland Hills Country Club.

Photo by John Meiu

By Tom Kirvan
Legal News

Their number now stands at 14, a figure that doesn’t begin to tell the story of how they have helped an organization grow and expand its influence far beyond the original scope of its mission.

They, as a group, are known as “Emeritus Trustees,” in this case of the Oakland County Bar Foundation, a nonprofit organization that has evolved from humble beginnings in 1976 to become a generous force for funding worthy legal aid causes “as well as robust legal education and programming” in the community, according to Patrick McCarthy, president of the OCBF.

“As a reminder of our history, the Foundation celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2016,” McCarthy wrote in that year’s Annual Report. “But after four decades of serving the community, we still have room to grow. We have our sights set on doubling the more than $2 million in funded grants awarded to date.”

The OCBF’s emeritus group is particularly active, according to Eric Pelton, a Foundation trustee and a past president of the organization.

“They continue to help with fund-raising activities, opening doors to potential contributors, while also attending Foundation events and serving on committees,” said Pelton, a partner with Kienbaum Opperwall Hardy & Pelton in Birmingham. “They are real ambassadors for the Foundation.”

The emeritus trustees, listed in alphabetical order, include Cynthia Brazzil, Thomas Cranmer, Diana Dietle, Sue Ellen Eisenberg, Gerald Fisher, Mari Anne Guidobono, David Haron, Patrick McCauley, Brenda Orlando, Joseph Papelian, Michael Schloff, Mark Stern, Michael Sullivan, and Thomas Tallerico.

Cynthia Brazzil, who served on the Foundation board from 1995 to 2012, joined the OCBF at the urging of her good friend, Mari Anne Guidobono.

“I really knew no one else on the board and found the group to be welcoming and congenial, and a lot of fun to get to know,” said Brazzil, a partner with Kemp Klein in Troy. “I was president in 2000-01 and very much enjoyed working with my executive committee consisting of such good people as Patrick McCauley, Mark Stern, and Tom Cranmer. The Foundation really grew during the course of my involvement and became proactive in funding projects within the mission statement. I think it was Joe Papelian who suggested we seek out ideas from the law schools to find interesting projects to fund. The committees became more and more developed, and I really liked the way the organization grew,” she added, noting that those who have joined the board over the past decade have been “solid, hard working additions . . . which may explain its continued success.”

The primary fund-raising tool for the OCBF each year is its spring Signature Event, which in 2017 generated approximately $226,000 in revenue for the Foundation, according to its annual report. Among those that help supply financial support for the gala are the emeritus trustees, who several years ago bonded together to become a sponsor of the Signature Event that is scheduled for the evening of Thursday, April 26 at Oakland Hills Country Club.

Mike Sullivan, a past president of the OCBF who served on its board for a decade before becoming an emeritus trustee in 2013, helped spearhead the sponsorship effort.

“It’s now an annual tradition, and all the emeritus trustees said ‘yes’ within about two minutes of the e-mail request being sent out,” said Sullivan, a partner with the Collins Einhorn firm. “It was apparently an easy ‘yes’ from a committed group. And many of the emeritus trustees also contribute separately on behalf of their firms who are also sponsors of the Signature Event.”

Sullivan, a past president of the Oakland County Bar Association, said that the “emeritus trustees are a dedicated group with a long history of service” to the Foundation Board.

“The emeritus board was created a few years back in order to allow long serving board members to continue their service to the OCBF after the end of their terms as a regular board member,” he explained. “It has worked out well, as emeritus board members continue to work on special projects, like the Legacy Program headed by two-time OCBF Board President Patrick McCauley.”

McCauley, a partner in the Farmington Hills firm of Gasiorek Morgan Greco McCauley & Kotzian, has twice served as president of the OCBF, most recently in 2011-12 when he oversaw significant growth in the organization’s fund-raising efforts.

“I have continued my involvement with the Bar Foundation as an emeritus to participate in exploring creative new ways to continue to build our Legacy Endowment Program,” said McCauley, a University of Michigan Law School graduate who specializes in governmental law. “The need for legal aid services continues to grow and it is our goal to better support it financially.”

Gerald Fisher, another emeritus trustee who is a past president of the OCBF, remains active with the Foundation in addition to his responsibilities as a professor at the Auburn Hills Campus of Cooley Law School.

“The OCBF Board is one of the most service oriented groups I have had the pleasure of serving,” said Fisher, an alumnus of Michigan State University who holds law degrees from the former Detroit College of Law and Wayne State University. “The tone was undoubtedly set many years ago by Fran Anderson, an extremely dynamic woman who measured success based on service. It was such a pleasure participating on this board that I stayed around for about 20 years . . . whether they needed me or not!”


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