Gerry Cameron, a former U.S. Bancorp CEO and dedicated Duck, died of natural causes on June 7 in Portland. He had turned 82 just the day before.
Cameron, a member of the class of 1961, was passionate about helping University of Oregon and Portland State University students because a life-changing scholarship allowed him to go from working in mint fields on a farm in Washington to meeting the Queen of England through his position on the Federal Reserve Board.
“Gerry Cameron’s life story is one of perseverance and inspiration,” said Michael H. Schill, UO President and Professor of Law. “He loved seeing students reach their potential almost as much as he loved Marilyn. We will miss him terribly, but his spirit lives on in thousands of students whose futures will be brighter because of the investments that he and Marilyn made to strengthen the University of Oregon.”
As a youngster, “I no more thought of going to college than flying to the moon,” Cameron liked to say.
Born in Grandview, Washington, Cameron and his brother grew up being shuffled among the homes of various extended family members and boarding houses. Ultimately, he attended 14 different schools from the time he entered first grade until he graduated high school.
In high school a teacher encouraged him to apply to the U.S. Bank work-college scholarship program. He was among an elite class of only 25 other students who were accepted, and the opportunity led to his enrollment at the UO the following year. Gerry embraced collegiate life and was an active member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity while building on his business knowledge.
He met his future wife Marilyn while working at U.S. Bank’s Sandy Boulevard branch in Portland. They married in 1961. Since the UO’s married student housing had no vacancies at that time, he transferred to Portland State where he finished his bachelor’s degree in business.
The Camerons created many happy memories with their two children (and later, their grandchildren) in Central Oregon, where they loved camping, fly fishing the Metolius, and enjoying their home in Black Butte Ranch.
He served U.S. Bancorp in many roles over the course of 43 years, retiring as the bank’s chairman of the board and CEO in 1998 to travel the world with Marilyn and focus more of his time on philanthropic endeavors.
With Marilyn, he embarked on a tradition of support for scholarships, faculty, and educational programs at the University of Oregon. In 2015, they made an investment gift to the Lundquist College of Business to help ensure the college’s center for finance and securities analysis would serve students long into the future. In appreciation, the university named it the Marilyn C. and Gerry B. Cameron Center for Finance and Securities Analysis.
The Camerons also help hundreds of students across the state through their Presidential, Summit and Lundquist scholarships as well as gifts supporting faculty, including the Gerry and Marilyn Cameron Chair of Finance and the Cameron Award in the School of Accounting. In addition, Gerry served on the UO Foundation Board of Trustees and was a member of the UO Campaign Leadership Committee for the university’s Campaign Oregon. A summary of his extensive involvement in civic organizations across the Pacific Northwest accompanied the announcement of his selection for the UO Pioneer Award in 2017.
“I have been so blessed to know both Gerry and Marilyn during my time here at Oregon. It was always a highlight of my day when I had a chance to spend time with the Camerons,” said Sarah E. Nutter, Edward Maletis Dean and Professor of Accounting at the Lundquist College of Business. “Gerry’s love for the University of Oregon—and its well-being and the well-being of our students—was also extraordinary. He will be missed by all of the members of our community. His legacy is that of a true change maker, invested in making the world a better place for the generations yet to come.”
Surviving Gerry is his wife of nearly 59 years, Marilyn; daughter Sue McDonald (Dave); son Paul Cameron (Megan); grandsons Kellen, Ross, Colin and Luke; and his brother Neil.
The family hopes to safely gather together with friends and family later this summer to celebrate Gerry’s remarkable life. In honor of Gerry’s legacy as a champion of education, the family asks that in lieu of flowers memorial contributions be made to the school, college, or university of the giver’s choice.
—AnneMarie Knepper-Sjoblom ’05, Lundquist College Communications. Photo by AHM Brands.