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Trustee receives award for longtime service to DU

Joy Burns

Joy Burns has served as a trustee since 1981. Photo: Courtesy of Joy Burns

Joy Burns, long-time chair of the University of Denver Board of Trustees, will receive the Distinguished Service to the University Award at the 2008 Founders Day Gala on March 14.

In addition to her 27 years as a trustee, Burns has supported the University as a sports fan, arts patron and tireless campaigner on behalf of DU initiatives. “I suppose I initially got involved with DU because it’s an organization that is doing things not just for education but for the community,” she says.

Burns’ ties to the community date back to 1956, when she moved to Denver from Houston to work for an oil company. “I thought there was no place in the world like Denver,” she recalls.

Two years later she met her future husband—Franklin Burns—a DU alumnus and then one of Denver’s premier homebuilders. That same year, Burns recalls, “He invited me to go to a DU hockey game.” Thus began her romance with her husband’s alma mater.

Burns’ work with DU started in 1972, when she began volunteering with the Women’s Library Association. Soon after, she loaned her energies to the women’s sports program, an endeavor that complemented her own interests in athletic pursuits. “I used to be an avid tennis player,” she says, noting that she has had her share of trophies and defeats. “You learn so much about how far you can push yourself.”

In 1981, Burns joined the Board of Trustees and began to assess the many challenges associated with addressing precarious finances
and updating infrastructure. “Believe me, when I first said yes, I had no intention of getting so involved,” Burns says.

Nine years later, Burns took the helm of the board, becoming the first woman to hold that post.

Burns’ service to DU goes far beyond her tenure with the board. The Joy Burns Arena at the Ritchie Center and the Joy Burns Plaza
in the Newman Center for the Performing Arts were, in large part, made possible by her generosity. In addition, the Burns School of Real
Estate and Construction Management, named after her late husband, benefits from her support.

“I’m really convinced that this is a wonderful university, and it serves a tremendously good purpose in the community,” she says. “It’s
been extremely rewarding to be a part of it.”


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