Fall 2017

Ralph and Trish Nagel helped Dreamer Edgar Barraza reach his dream

Lawyer and alumnus Edgar Barraza first came to DU on the Nagel Scholarship, an annual full-ride scholarship for three international students who otherwise would not be able to afford a DU education. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

Ralph and Trish Nagel have long been known for their philanthropy at DU and throughout Denver. In March, they were recognized for their many contributions to the University with the Founders Medal — the University’s highest honor.

No one knows the power of the couple’s generosity more than Denver lawyer Edgar Barraza.

Barraza and his family migrated to the U.S. from Mexico when he was very young. When Barraza graduated from Denver’s West High School in 2006, he was ranked sixth in a class of more than 250 students. Even so, he faced a new set of challenges when it came time to start looking at colleges. Having participated as a freshman in DU’s Volunteers in Partnership program for high school students, he set his sights on becoming a Pioneer.

“One of the ingredients to being able to formulate your dreams and being able to follow your dreams is seeing yourself where you want to be in the future,” Barraza says. “I think the VIP program really gave me that opportunity to see myself at DU.”

Realizing that dream was a challenge, however, because Barraza was undocumented. He didn’t qualify for federal or state financial aid. Fortunately, he did qualify for the Nagel Scholarship, an annual full-ride scholarship for three international students who otherwise would not be able to afford a DU education.

“Although I was a finalist, I did not ultimately receive that scholarship through the formal process,” Barraza says. “I went back to my high school counselor’s office, and one idea we came up with was contacting Mr. Nagel himself. Mr. Nagel very quickly responded back and said, ‘Yes, we can meet,’ and after that he weighed the options and ultimately, I think, made a fair determination in granting me that scholarship.”

It was the first — but not the last — time the Nagels helped Barraza realize his dreams.

As an international studies and political science major, Barraza took advantage of the course offerings and programs at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies. All along he knew he wanted to use this background to pursue a law degree from DU’s Sturm College of Law. But once again, finding financial support was a problem. A family member in Mexico helped him fund the first year of law school by arranging a loan through a Mexican bank. For his second year, a private law firm in Denver awarded him a scholarship. For his final year, Barraza approached the Nagels for help, and they agreed to finance the rest of his law education.

He became the first undocumented student to be admitted to law school in Colorado. What’s more, he was the first formerly undocumented student — also known as a “DREAMer” — to graduate from law school and gain admission to the Colorado Bar.

“We are tremendously proud of all that Edgar has accomplished,” Ralph Nagel says. “His tenacity, persistence and dedication have certainly paid off, and we feel honored that we had the opportunity to be a part of his success.”

The international scholarship is one of many lasting effects of the Nagels’ financial support for DU. Their gifts also have made possible the Nagel Residence Hall; the Nagel Art Studios in the School of Art and Art History; the Innovation Lab in the Daniel Felix Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science; John Moye Hall, home of DU’s Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System; the C-Cubed studios of the Emergent Digital Practices program at the Shwayder Art Building; and the archival library at Hampden Center.

“We enjoy giving chances to deserving young people and to seeing them grow through their experiences,” Trish Nagel says. “Hearing from our scholars about their many successes gives us great pride and reinforces for us the impact we seek to make in our community and our world.”


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