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OU mourns longtime friend and donor Stephan Sharf

Wednesday, September 4, 2013
OU mourns longtime friend and donor Stephan Sharf




The Oakland University community is mourning the death of a highly honored and long treasured friend. Sadly, donor and former trustee Stephan Sharf passed away on Saturday, Aug, 31. He is survived by his beloved wife, Patti Finnegan.

Mr. Sharf came to the United States from Berlin in 1947. Once here, he began work on a plant floor in the growing post-war automotive industry. He started with the Ford Motor Company and later completed a 25-year career at Chrysler. There he worked his way through the ranks to become an executive vice president, eventually retiring in 1986.

In retirement, Mr Sharf began to give back to a society that enabled him to find great success in life – to his former employees, to his community, to students and to Oakland University.

He used what many in industry deemed visionary leadership skills and wisdom to guide Oakland University in many ways: as a Trustee from 1987 to 1994, board vice chair from 1992-94 and member of the OU Foundation from 1985 to 2006. Trained as an engineer, he also shared his industry insights as a member of the Advisory Board of the School of Engineering and Computer Science.

Meanwhile, he and his first wife, Rita, who passed away in 2001, established the Stephan and Rita Sharf Scholarship in the School of Business Administration, which has benefited countless SBA students throughout the years. He also established the Stephan Sharf Endowed Scholarship for Engineering Students. Other contributions have included:

  • The founding donation to build the R&S Sharf Golf Course, and provided funds to establish and support student scholarships.
  • An estate gift in support of the endowed deanship position for the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, as well as additional gifts to support the School of Medicine;
  • A gift that helped build and establish the Steve Sharf clubhouse, which serves both the R&S Sharf Golf Course and the Katke-Cousins Golf Course. Patti Finnegan’s Pub and Grille is also a feature of the clubhouse;
  • A significant gift to support the School of Engineering and Computer Science.

All told, Mr. Sharf has contributed more than $20 million and a legacy of remarkable leadership to Oakland University. His generosity significantly enhanced student life, educational quality, campus growth and the arts at OU, and the dedication he poured into the success of the university will benefit students, faculty, staff and all of the university community for generations.

Concerning Mr. Sharf’s tremendously benevolent relationship with the Oakland, Interim President Betty J. Youngblood said, “We are fortunate to call him a friend and mentor, and will forever be grateful for his tireless work and generous philanthropy.”

Oakland University is a vibrant academic community with nearly 20,000 students and more than 260 degree and certificate programs. To learn more about academics, achievements, and events at OU, visit the news site at oakland.edu/newsatou and follow the news team on Twitter at @OaklandU_News.