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Louise Atkinson has made DU a priority

Louise Atkinson

"When I walked away with my degree, I felt indebted to DU immediately," says longtime volunteer Louise Atkinson. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

Louise Atkinson graduated from DU with her MBA in 1979 and has since achieved professional success in the telecommunications and technology industries, rising to her most recent role as senior vice president at First Data Corp.

Along the way, she’s also become a wife to Bill Atkinson and a loving mother to two daughters. And she’s done it all without ever leaving the University.

“When I walked away with my degree, I felt indebted to DU immediately,” Atkinson says. “Others may walk away thinking they’ll never see the University again, but there were people there who really cared about me! I had to give back.”

Atkinson is the recipient of the 2009 Randolph P. McDonough Award for Service to Alumni. Since graduating, Atkinson has dedicated herself to so many causes and programs at her alma mater that it’s impossible to name all of the lives she’s touched.

“I volunteer broadly and make sure I touch as many aspects of the University as possible,” Atkinson says.

Among her commitments, Atkinson has spoken at graduation ceremonies, sponsored receptions in her home, mentored hundreds of students and graduates one-on-one and assisted with a campaign to purchase pianos for the Lamont School of Music. She co-chaired Founders Day 2004 with her husband, sponsored golf tournaments and donated to many functions and schools, including the Women’s College and Daniels College of Business.

But perhaps her biggest impact results from the 10 years she spent on DU’s Alumni Association Board of Directors, including two years as its president. During her tenure, Atkinson suggested that the University create a robust Web site to reach out to its alumni.

“I felt we needed a global outreach program to stay in touch with our alumni,” says Atkinson. “But when I said ‘global,’ the group’s eyes got wide and they said, ‘Let’s start local.’”

Atkinson forged on. She, along with several other board members, posted their pictures on a rough Web site for alumni, as well as brief descriptions of their lives. Within days, Atkinson had heard from several alumni, including one living in Russia.

“I said, ‘There’s our global connection!’ It showed that this idea was good and that DU could maintain relationships through their Web site.”

The board threw their backing behind the project. Today, the Alumni Association boasts a busy site that includes special interest groups, class notes and a career center.

Atkinson says she’s been able to do so much for DU because she maintains a “laser focus” on her life’s priorities.

“It’s hard to do it all—executive, mom, wife, volunteer—but DU is a top priority in my life. And my husband has been a great support.”

“When she commits herself to something, whether it’s DU, family or work, she does so with an abundance of passion and dedication,” Bill says of his wife.

Atkinson says that she’s motivated by relationships and believes DU is rare in its ability to create lifelong friendships among students, faculty, staff and alumni.

“The people at DU genuinely care,” she says. “I want to help maintain those relationships. When people leave DU today, I want them to feel just like I do!”

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