CHARLESTON — When her husband of 35 years passed away in January, Karen DeMarco found a way to keep his fighting spirit alive. She created an endowed scholarship for Catholic students at his alma mater, The Citadel.
“He wanted to be sure I did something for the Medical University and The Citadel,” she said. “He wanted to give back to these two institutions.”
Frank DeMarco fought a long battle with cancer, but never let the merciless illness run his life. He was teaching a class a month before he died. Frank worked with the master’s in health administration program at the Medical University of South Carolina’s College of Health Professionals.
He earned his master’s from MUSC, worked for Trident Health System for 14 years, and was president of the Hospital Corporation of America’s Southeast Division for five years.
Fourteen years ago Frank overcame renal cell carcinoma. Nine years later cancer appeared in his lungs and then his brain. Eight months before he died he had surgery to remove the brain tumor. It extended his life so that he was able to meet his youngest grandchild and spend more time with his wife and two sons and their families.
After graduating from The Citadel in 1968, Frank joined the Air Force, where he met Karen while in basic training. The couple, who were married Nov. 30, 1968, made Charleston their home.
A week before he died, Frank sat at The Citadel beach house on Isle of Palms with Karen, discussing the possibilities of honoring the institutions that he loved. They didn’t discuss an endowment specifically.
After Frank’s death, when donations of $11,000 were received in lieu of flowers, Karen thought of a scholarship. She added $14,000 of her own to create an endowed scholarship. She will present the $25,000 for the endowment to the Citadel on Dec. 20, Frank’s birthday. In an endowed scholarship, a portion of the funds is reinvested annually to ensure the perpetuity of the scholarship’s life. Individuals and corporations may also add to the endowment, which is specifically for a Catholic student.
“To the best of my knowledge it is the first Catholic endowed scholarship for a Catholic in the state,” said Father Jeffrey Kendall, campus minister at The Citadel. As chaplain, Father Kendall will make a recommendation from the list of applicants to the school’s scholarship committee.
Karen’s hope is that the scholarship will grow in years to come, and perhaps be awarded to more than one student a year.
“Frank was always positive and upbeat,” said Karen. “He was always looking ahead.”