Campus & Community

Founders Gala caps two-day celebration with presentation of awards

A two-day celebration of the University of Denver’s founding in 1864 came to a close Thursday night with the Founders Formal — a student dance on campus — and the Founders Gala, a festive event at the Sheraton Denver Downtown that honored longtime DU supporters Robert and Judi Newman, Donald (LLB ’58) and Susan Sturm, and Andrew Taylor (BSBA ’70), executive chairman of Enterprise Rent-A-Car.

“When the University was founded in 1864, the city of Denver was just six years old,” Armin Afsahi, vice chancellor for advancement, said in his opening remarks at the gala. “But our founders saw the future of this area as a crossroads: a hub of railways and commerce and the gateway to the Rockies and the wild lands beyond. They wanted to infuse this young city with the higher purpose of education, and they believed in its power to develop strong character.

“More than 150 years later,” Afsahi said, “we look back to our founding and see that even in our infancy, the University of Denver was an intellectual center of an entrepreneurial city on the rise. And here we find ourselves again in a rapidly evolving nexus of activity and accomplishment.”

The Newmans and Sturms were presented with the inaugural Founders Medal, an honor conceived by Chancellor Rebecca Chopp. The medal is now the University’s highest nonacademic honor, awarded to individuals and families whose leadership and philanthropy represent the pinnacle of DU’s mission and values.

“Bob and Judi Newman’s commitment to the arts and education have left an indelible mark throughout Colorado, and especially on the University of Denver,” Chopp said in her speech presenting the awards. “The Newman Center for the Performing Arts fulfills the vision of Judi and Bob of providing students in our Lamont School of Music one of the best venues of any university in the country, while also allowing us to serve the Denver community in profound ways. Their significant contribution to the new Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science provides space and inspiration for our computer science department.”

Chopp similarly praised the Sturms, calling them visionary leaders.

“One can’t miss their presence on the north end of campus, with both Sturm Hall and the Sturm College of Law,” Chopp said. “Their support has ensured that the law school has continued to emphasize quality, even as law schools across the country have lowered their standards. Don and Sue, along with their children, Emily and Stephen, are helping DU expand our services to U.S. veterans through the Sturm Family Concentration in Military Psychology.”

Keeping with Founders Day tradition, Taylor was presented with 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. (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.)

“Andy Taylor and his wife, Barbara, have been steadfast supporters of the University,” Chopp said. “The Andrew C. and Barbara B. Taylor Endowed Scholarship Fund at the Daniels College of Business supports underrepresented students, opening doors for Taylor Scholars and enriching the entire University community. With Andy’s leadership as CEO, Enterprise Holdings has been a major influence in the Colorado Multicultural Career and Internship Program — which is very fitting, since Enterprise is the largest employer in the country of recent college graduates.

“As we honor these individuals and the tremendous impact they have had on DU,” Chopp concluded, “we also join with them to create the future together.”

The two-day Founders Celebration also included the Founders Fest, a lunchtime event that brought students, faculty and staff together to celebrate the DU community, and the Founders Forum, which showcased five DU faculty members and their research in a “brief-and-brilliant” format.


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