Magazine Feature / People

Denver philanthropist and Korbel Dinner founder lived a ‘selfless life’

Georgia Imhoff (BS pharmacy and nursing ’56) was simply selfless, family and friends say of the Denver philanthropist who founded DU’s Korbel Dinner.

Imhoff died Sept. 6. She was 76. Imhoff was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in May and suffered a massive heart attack in August.

The Korbel Dinner pays tribute to the humanitarian and scholarly ideals of DU’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies and to Josef Korbel, the Czech diplomat who founded the school in the 1960s. The dinner raises money for student scholarships and supports the school’s Center for Teaching International Relations (CTIR). The school celebrated its 12th dinner on August 20. Imhoff and her husband, Walt, received a humanitarian award presented at the first gala.

Jennifer Thompson, the Korbel School’s associate dean for external relations and development, says the school’s relationship with Imhoff was “very wonderful. I particularly enjoyed getting to know her and considered her a friend of mine. It’s a huge loss for the community of Denver, for her family and all of us that knew her.”

“Georgia always had a smile on her face and while incredibly busy, she always had time for you,” says Steve Werner, who worked with Imhoff on the CTIR board.
“She and her husband Walt were behind some of the most far-sighted and beneficial projects in Denver,”

Imhoff was born May 17, 1933, in Pocatello, Idaho, and grew up on a ranch in Arbon, Idaho, where she rode horses, milked cows and wrangled cattle. She moved to Denver to pursue a DU nursing degree. After graduating in 1955, she joined the Army Nurse Corps and became a first lieutenant.

After returning to Denver, Imhoff worked at Rose Medical Center as a surgical patient nurse and surgical education coordinator.

She married Walt Imhoff in 1973 after a short prior marriage that left her raising two children, Stacy and Randy Ohlesson, on her own. Walt Imhoff was also a single parent of Mike, Theresa and Robert Imhoff.

“They were a team that could make a difference,” says Imhoff’s daughter, Stacy Ohlesson. “They gained strength from each other. We will all find strength in their love.”

Georgia became very active in the community as Walt built an investment banking business.

“We thought that Mom would finally be able to kick back and relax, finally being a stay-at-home mom, but her drive and compassion led her to become involved in countless nonprofits,” Ohlesson says.

In 1984, the Imhoffs became involved with the Kempe Children’s Foundation, an agency that treats abused and neglected children.

The couple led two capital campaigns for the foundation that raised a total of $17 million. They led another campaign in 1994 for the foundation that raised $4.4 million for a new building on Marion Street in Denver. Ten years later, the Imhoffs helped raise more money to relocate the agency to the Anshutz Medical Campus in Aurora.

Georgia Imhoff also founded the Kempe Alliance, which supports the foundation by increasing awareness and advocacy, and served as its first president.

The Georgia and Walt Imhoff Pavilion for Children and Families was dedicated at its Marion Street location in 1997 as was Georgia’s Garden, an oasis and play area for Kempe’s young clients.

In 2001, Georgia founded Blacktie-Colorado — an online community spotlighting nonprofit organizations — with Kenton Kuhn. It has since expanded to eight other cities and states and is about to launch in three more. Kuhn had recently honored her as the namesake of a new award, the Georgia R. Imhoff Philanthropist and Volunteer Extraordinaire of the Year Award.

“Whenever she saw a need in the community, she didn’t wait for someone else to act,” Ohlesson says. “She got in there herself.”

Imhoff was a practicing Catholic but still had a “thirst for spiritual knowledge,” Ohlesson explains. She formed a spiritual group where friends would discuss atheism, numerology, astrology and religion. The group reached about 50 people and still plans to meet.

In addition to her husband and children, Imhoff is survived by eight grandchildren; a brother, Gene, and a sister, Shirley.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be sent to the Kempe Children’s Foundation and the Women’s Foundation.

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