Academics and Research / Current Issue / Magazine Feature

Gift establishes center for study of aging

DU's School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management has been named in honor of donor Fritz Knoebel. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

A $17.5 million gift, among the largest in the University’s history, will be used in part to establish a center at DU for the study of aging.

Betty Knoebel, widow of Denver food-service pioneer Ferdinand “Fritz” Knoebel, announced the gift in May. It includes the B Bar K Ranch—a 996-acre property in Morrison, Colo., valued in excess of $10 million—and a future cash commitment.

DU is using the funds to establish the Knoebel Center for the Study of Aging and to support the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management (HRTM) in the University’s Daniels College of Business.

The Knoebel Center for the Study of Aging will expand DU’s role in interdisciplinary research on aging and aging-related conditions. Faculty positions will be added in molecular life sciences and bioengineering. When the ranch is sold, DU will apply up to $10 million from the net proceeds to help fund construction of facilities to house the Knoebel Center and support its programs and research.

At HRTM, Knoebel’s gift will increase student scholarships, faculty support, industry partnerships and experiential learning programs with the overarching goal of achieving international distinction. The school has been named the Fritz Knoebel School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management.

“Betty Knoebel’s generosity to DU will benefit both our students and the broader public that we serve,” says Chancellor Robert Coombe. “The population of older Americans is growing rapidly. The work of the Knoebel Center will help to extend the lives of the aged and improve the quality of their lives and those of their family members. We are particularly excited that this gift will usher in an expansion of our partnership with Denver Health. And we are proud that our HRTM program will bear the name of such a prominent business leader.”

In 2007, DU and Denver Health agreed to partner on several health care-related research initiatives and programs.

“As the graying of America occurs, there is a tremendous need for understanding the processes of aging and the approaches to keep us healthy into old age,” says Denver Health CEO Patricia Gabow. “As an institution that cares for one-third of Denver’s population and as a partner with DU, we see this center for the study of aging as a unique resource for this region that will achieve important advances in this needed area.”

Denver native Fritz Knoebel founded Knoebel Mercantile Co., a bakery distributor, in 1929, and built it into the nation’s largest privately owned food-service distribution company. Known as Nobel Inc., it was acquired by Sysco Inc. as a subsidiary in 1982.

Fritz Knoebel was chairman of Nobel/Sysco Food Services Co. until his retirement in 1999 at age 90. He died in 2005. Betty Knoebel, now 78, and Fritz Knoebel received honorary degrees from DU in 1992 in recognition of their role in the Denver business and philanthropic communities.

“I’m so pleased to be able to honor my husband’s legacy and recognize the nationally ranked programs of the Daniels College, particularly the longstanding reputation and industry partnerships of the HRTM school,” says Betty Knoebel. “Likewise, I want to support the University’s plans to further develop aging-related programs that will improve lives everywhere.”



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