Pictured Above: John D. Voelker fly fishing at his beloved Frenchman’s Pond. Photo: Sunday Magazine of the Detroit News (June 18, 1967)
The Community Foundation of Marquette County (CFMC) is very pleased to announce the John D. Voelker Foundation Native American Law School Scholarship Endowment Fund. Earlier this year, Rich Vander Veen and Fred Baker, officers of the John D. Voelker Foundation, approached the Community Foundation about becoming the new home for the scholarship fund, which was established more than 30 years ago to honor a great and gifted man.
Born in Ishpeming in 1903, John D. Voelker was many things: a lawyer, Michigan Supreme Court Justice, renowned novelist and outdoor writer, along with being a skilled and passionate fly fisherman. John loved the U.P. and lived here all but a few years of his life.
He wrote 12 books, including Trout Magic and Anatomy of a Murder, which became a famous film and made him, as he described it, “a promising young author at the age of 52.”
Vander Veen and Baker, two Michigan attorneys who knew Voelker through their work, had been visiting John in the U.P. for some years when it occurred to them “that we should do something to honor him and preserve the legacy of his love for the U.P. and his humanity,” Baker said. “We agreed with the late Voelker Board member and journalist Charles Kuralt’s assessment of John: He was the ‘nearest thing to a great man’ either of us had known.”
The John D. Voelker Foundation was established in to do “a few good things in his name.” One of those good things was assisting Native American scholars to achieve the dream of a legal education. The fund was created from contributions from members of the Foundation, who subscribed to limited editions of Laughing Whitefish, Trout Madness, and Traver on Fishing signed by Voelker when the Foundation was established.
Justice Voelker hoped and believed that providing such assistance would help Native American people to overcome past injustices by empowering “warrior lawyers” to assist, defend and represent their communities in the legal profession. To date, Foundation members’ contributions have helped 34 Native American scholars from Michigan and Wisconsin tribes achieve the dream of a legal education.
To raise funds to establish the John D. Voelker Foundation, its founding members first republished Laughing Whitefish as a limited edition of 300, with each signed by Voelker. To date, Foundation members’ contributions have helped 34 Native American scholars from Michigan and Wisconsin tribes achieve the dream of a legal education. Now endowed, the fund will grow in perpetuity to help others become “warrior lawyers.”
With donations from several generous donors, the Voelker Foundation partnered with the Community Foundation to create a permanent endowment for the scholarship fund, which will provide fund administration services and annually disburse the proceeds available for distribution to scholars, based on the recommendation of the Voelker Scholarship Committee.
Of its new partnership with the Community Foundation, Baker said, “The John D. Voelker Foundation is beyond pleased to announce that, after 31 years of giving away our scholarship funds as fast as we raised them since the first grant in 1991, we were at last able to establish a permanent endowment this year to ensure perpetual existence for the John D. Voelker Foundation’s Native American Law School Scholarship.”
“It is our hope and expectation that this permanent endowment fund will grow over the years to enable us to assist students who are enrolled members of a federally recognized Michigan or Wisconsin tribe to pursue the dream of a legal education, which was the first objective John chose for the Foundation,” added Baker.
CEO Zosia Eppensteiner said, “We are honored that the John D. Voelker Foundation has chosen Community Foundation of Marquette County as the new home for the Native American Law School Endowment Fund and to be a part of continuing John D. Voelker’s amazing legacy and commitment to supporting Native American scholars in the future.”