Campus & Community

Founders Day expanded to two-day celebration of all things DU

It is a year of transformation at the University of Denver. Chancellor Rebecca Chopp’s new strategic plan, DU IMPACT 2025, lays out a bold vision for the future of the institution, and Founders Day, traditionally a one-night celebration honoring the University’s founding in 1864, has been transformed into a two-day Founders Celebration made up of four separate events that celebrate different aspects of the DU experience.

“This is an exciting time in our history to re-imagine our signature programs. With Founders Celebration, we wanted to create a wider breadth of programming and events that enables all of our community members to participate,” says Armin Afsahi, vice chancellor for advancement.

For more information and to register, visit the Founders Celebration site

To that end, the traditional Founders Day dinner is now the March 3 Founders Gala, a festive event at which a newly created Founders Medal will be presented to longtime DU supporters Robert and Judi Newman and Donald (LLB ’58) and Susan Sturm. Conceived by Chancellor Chopp, the medal is now the University’s highest nonacademic honor. It will be awarded to individuals and families whose leadership and philanthropy represent the pinnacle of DU’s mission and values.

“[The Newmans and the Sturms] mean a lot to this community,” Afsahi says. “Their philanthropy and service to this university have profoundly changed who we are and what we’ve become. Without the Sturms, we wouldn’t have the law school. Without the Newmans, our performing arts center wouldn’t be here. It’s not just celebrating donors; it’s about their transformative acts of philanthropy and civic engagement and what they do to create this incredible university.”

Keeping with tradition, the gala also is where Andrew Taylor (BSBA ’70), executive chairman of Enterprise Rent-A-Car, will receive the Evans Award, the University’s highest alumni honor, for outstanding achievement in his profession, humanitarian service in his community and demonstrated continuing interest in the University.

Three events will bring the Founders Celebration to campus: The March 3 Founders Fest will bring students, faculty and staff together over a lunchtime event to celebrate the DU community and its shared values and ideals. Founders Formal, March 3, is a student-sponsored formal dance for all DU students and young alumni to celebrate the University’s anniversary. The Founders Forum, March 2 at the Cable Center, will showcase DU faculty and their research in a “brief-and-brilliant” format.

Speakers scheduled to appear are:

  • Kim Bender, of the Graduate School of Social Work, talking about interventions for at-risk youth
  • Erica Chenoweth, of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, talking about nonviolent resistance
  • Phil Danielson, of the Department of Biological Sciences, talking about forensic science
  • Sam Kamin, of the Sturm College of Law, talking about marijuana law in Colorado and elsewhere
  • Lavita Nadkarni, of the Graduate School of Professional Psychology, talking about forensic psychology

“Our faculty are phenomenal, and we want to create as many opportunities as possible to showcase their research and teaching excellence,” Afsahi says. “The forum opens up a space for our community to engage with one another as well as our academic colleagues during a pre-event reception, the talks, and then a post-event reception.”

To provide access to alumni and friends around the world, the faculty presentations will be captured on video and subsequently available on DU’s YouTube channel.

The other alumni awards that historically have been presented at the Founders Day gala will now be given out at a separate event tied to Commencement ceremonies in June.

“We will create a new program to celebrate the achievements and distinction of our prominent alumni, as well as to create a moment at which we welcome the new Class of 2016,” Afsahi says. “We want to signal to our new graduates that they will be joining a supportive, accomplished and inspiring network.”

The alumni celebration and the expanded Founders Day are all part of an effort, Afsahi says, to create signature DU events for each major academic quarter: Homecoming and Family Weekend in the fall; Founders Celebration in the winter; and Commencement in the spring.

“These are special times for DU,” Afsahi says, “and we hope our community will join us to celebrate our history and to ignite their imaginations on how DU will impact and transform our world.”





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