In Honor of Gary DeCramer: The Work Continues

Gary DeCramer and Estelle Brouwer

The following letter was sent by Estelle Brouwer, wife of the late Gary DeCramer, to alumni and friends of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs:

Dear friend,

My heart is full. A few weeks ago, I had the honor of hosting a group of very special, kind and brilliant people at my home. Each of the people who joined me that evening is a current or past Humphrey School Master of Public Affairs (MPA) student, and each has received an award honoring the memory and legacy of Gary DeCramer, my husband. Those remarkable individuals are connected forever to Gary's legacy of service, compassion and leadership.

Breanna Wheeler and Laurie Harper, recipients of the DeCramer Fellowship in 2013 and 2015, attended the gathering at my home. Breanna is a 2015 graduate of the Humphrey School's MPA program. Laurie is about to start her second year.

Estelle Brouwer with DeCramer Fellows Laurie Harper and Breanna WheelerThe two of them are living, in real and tangible ways, the legacy of Gary's thoughtful brand of leadership; Breanna through her role as executive director of River Bend Nature Center in Faribault, Minnesota, and Laurie through her efforts to improve education in the Ojibwe community and perpetuate the language traditions of Native peoples throughout the Midwest. If Gary were still here, he'd be their biggest cheerleader.

In the days following Gary's death four years ago, Dean Eric Schwartz, then-Associate Dean Greg Lindsey and I had important conversations about ways to keep Gary's legacy alive, to transform the generosity of our friends and community into tangible support for creating a better world. The DeCramer Fellowship grew out of those conversations, and I am deeply grateful to Eric and Greg and the Humphrey School for making it happen.

Thanks to the generosity of the original donors, the Gary DeCramer Memorial Fund has generated enough revenue to provide meaningful support to four students to pursue their MPA dreams. Now it's time to step up our efforts. Dean Schwartz and I share the goal of growing the fund so that eventually, the interest it produces will fully support an MPA student every year. We hope you'll consider helping us reach this ambitious goal.

On September 13, Gary would have turned 72. Would you join me in making a donation to the DeCramer Memorial Fund in celebration of the birth, life, and legacy of this good man? You may want to think of it as your down payment in anticipation of the transformative work that future DeCramer Fellows will surely do in our community and our world.

If you knew Gary, you know that he was a passionate public servant and a fierce believer in the power of people to build, animate, and when necessary, fix the public institutions that keep our democracy running. He would be deeply saddened by the anger and vitriol that have dominated this presidential campaign. But he also would have seen the ugliness as a call to action—I feel sure of that.

This year of all years, Gary would want us to keep a laser focus on doing what we can to make the world a kinder, more peaceful, more just and better place. Giving to the DeCramer Memorial Fund is a concrete way to do that.

In closing, there are just a few other things I'm pretty sure Gary would want us all to do, this year and every year: Vote. Get out the vote. Run for office. Listen. Show affection. Plant a tree. Welcome a stranger. And always, always remember where you came from.

In gratitude and friendship, 

Estelle Brouwer


Humphrey School of Public Affairs
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Minneapolis, MN 55455