Magazine Feature / People

Fee makes ‘good works’ look easy

As associate director of DU’s Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning (CCESL), Glenn Fee is paid to care about social issues. He works with student social-action groups, coordinates the community work-study program and alternative breaks, which connect students with community organizations.

And when he goes home for the evening, the “social activist” cap isn’t tossed aside. Instead, he’s a board member for the Park People and Bluff Lake Nature Center and is active in local and national organizations devoted to protecting the environment.

“What else would I do?” Fee says. “Activism is a wonderful way to connect with people. If I didn’t [do it], I wouldn’t feel a sense of purpose.”

When he lived in northwest Denver’s old Elitch Gardens neighborhood, Fee joined neighbors in taking a stand to preserve the local flavor and fought against the ingress of a Wal-Mart.

Fee’s interest in activism started in Ohio where he says his parents brought him up with a belief in giving back. That lesson was reinforced at his service-focused Jesuit high school.

He moved to Denver in 1994 as a member of Americorps, where he got hooked on Colorado’s natural environment, he says.

In 1997, Fee traveled for five months in India and southern Asia. The contacts he made in that region of the world would bear fruit at DU in the form of Project Dharamsala, the international service-learning project Fee founded in 2002.

When he joined the University in 2000, Fee directed the Community Action Program, now CCESL. Through the center, Fee has brought DU students and faculty into contact with programs he believes help build a stronger community, including the Park People and Earth Force.

“Glenn and his group have been involved in doing outreach and promoting Denver Digs Trees in the University area and in low income neighborhoods,” says Patrick Hayes, a 2004 environmental policy and management graduate and executive director of the Park People.

Through Fee’s efforts, 130 trees have been planted in University neighborhoods and the Park People funded a project at Bluff Lake Nature Center.

“Glenn is consistent and tireless in pursuing what he sees as his priority—connecting with or nurturing people on a daily basis. He makes you feel like being a good person is not an altogether lofty notion,” Hayes says.

Those projects would be plenty for most, but Fee has one more “big one.” An avid music fan, Fee—who attends the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and has hit the road with the Grateful Dead—helped found Rock the Earth. The national environmental advocacy group has the voice of rock heavyweights Bonnie Raitt and Dave Matthews.

“What makes it unique is that musicians speak about the issues on stage,” Fee says.

Rock the Earth has actively worked on high profile national environmental issues. And, not surprisingly, Fee has arranged for DU students to intern and tour with the nonprofit.

“It gives me so much hope to be surrounded by conscious people trying to create a better society,” Fee says.

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