A Generous Spirit: Pam Fraker

Michigan State University Professor Emeritus Pam Fraker has two passions when it comes to philanthropy. One is helping promising college students who are in need. The other is the mission of the Leelanau Conservancy.

Pam Fraker and Teddy love to hike our natural areas. Among their favorites: Clay Cliffs and Kehl Lake Natural Areas.

Paying it Forward

First, the students. Pam has established a scholarship fund at MSU to help struggling students pursuing degrees in science. She holds the honor of being the first woman from MSU to be named to the National Academy of Sciences—one of the highest honors that a scientist or engineer can earn. In her pioneering work in biochemistry and molecular biology, Pam has focused her work in the field of how malnutrition affects the immune system. But she might never have achieved all this had it not been for a scholarship from Purdue. Thus her choice to “pay it forward.”

Additionally, Pam has been known to pull out her checkbook to help struggling graduate students. When one of her most promising researchers said she would need to abandon her lab job for the summer in order to take a more lucrative waitress job, Pam wrote a check to cover the student’s summer expenses.

Discovering Leelanau

Pam, who grew up in Indiana, discovered Leelanau about 15 years ago. Friends had invited her north one weekend. “I thought, gee, this is nice,” she says. Pam and her partner, Mary, began renting a house in Northport and eventually bought a home on Suttons Bay. Now retired, they split their time between Leelanau and Okemos, where she continues to mentor students and write grants for the university.

Pam, who loves nature and the outdoors, discovered our natural areas and made her first donation in 2006. She loves to hike with her dogs; among her favorite places are Houdek Dunes, Swanson Preserve and most recently, Clay Cliffs “because it’s so accessible.” “One day I walked into the office and people seemed nice. I kept giving a bit more each year. Gradually I realized you all were getting a lot done and it seemed like you had 50 people working there, but you didn’t. ‘Do these people ever sleep,’ I wondered.”

In 2014 Pam joined the Richard O. Ristine Heritage Society* with a planned gift. “I came to the conclusion that if I give these people money, stuff happens,” says Pam. Her estate will be divided between the Leelanau Conservancy and the MSU scholarship fund that bears her name.  She says that in addition to hiking our natural areas, her favorite thing to do in Leelanau is to drive the back roads. “My blood pressure is always normal in Leelanau,” she says. “To me, it’s just incredible up here—quiet and peaceful.”

About the Heritage Society

*The Heritage Society recognizes donors who have shared in the mission of the Leelanau Conservancy by making a gift through a will, bequest, trust, annuity, insurance or other planned or deferred gift. Over 100 individuals and couples have notified the Conservancy that they have made such a commitment. The Society is named after Richard O. (Dick) Ristine, who served as Chairman and then Honorary Chairman for many years. If you would like to learn more about planned giving opportunities, Leslee Spraggins would love to talk with you: [email protected] or call 231-256-9665.

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