Daniels Fund and DU have close ties
August 12, 2011
By: Leslie Lyon 

It’s great to have a friend you can count on in good times and in bad. For the past 10 years, the University of Denver has had such a friend in the Daniels Fund, formed after the death of Denver businessman and philanthropist Bill Daniels in March 2000.

Since then, the foundation has given $5,123,164 to the University, not including scholarships that have gone to 274 DU students.

Daniels pioneered cable television, founded the United States Football League, and donated his $7 million mansion, Cableland, to the city of Denver as a site for charitable events. He founded the Young Americans Bank and in 1987 established the Daniels Charitable Fund, which became the Daniels Fund when his estate transferred to it after his death.

“The Daniels Fund is a great partner to the University,” says Leigh Elliott, DU’s director of development for foundation relations. “They like to really support the people and programs of the University. And I think part of that was because Bill Daniels was very involved, obviously, with the University prior to his death, so they’re continuing his legacy and continuing to make impacts in the areas that he designated with the foundation.”

Daniels’ giving to DU indeed began before the foundation was established.

He donated more than $20 million to support a graduate business school with the requirement that it emphasize values-based leadership and ethical decision making. The Daniels College of Business consistently ranks among the top business schools in the country and is noted for producing graduates with high ethical standards.

The largest single gift from the foundation, Elliott says, was $3 million for the Bill Daniels Chair of Endowed Ethics at the business school. The fund also has contributed $885,500 to DU’s Bridge Project, which provides educational opportunities for children living in Denver’s public housing neighborhoods. And the fund continues to give to the project every year, Elliott says.

Other key donations:

• Daniels Scholarships are given to high school students to attend any two- or four-year accredited institution in the country. Eighteen new scholars will attend DU this fall, giving the school 124 Daniels Scholars enrolled for the 2011–12 school year, Elliott says.

• Daniels Opportunity Scholarships are grants given to two- and four-year colleges and universities in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico to recruit and support nontraditional students such as adults returning to college, students from alternative schools, juvenile justice facilities and youth offender programs, GED recipients, former foster care youth, returning military and others.

• Two donations totaling more than $50,000 supported the Night Owls program at the Fisher Early Learning Center. One night per month the program provides respite care for children ages 2–12 with any disability, along with their siblings. Elliott says that program means a lot to her, because “we hear these stories from the parents about how they haven’t been able to go out to dinner by themselves in seven years because they can’t find anyone competent or [whom] they can afford to care for their child.”

The funding for disability programs came in part, Elliott says, because Daniels “had a sister with a developmental disability, so he saw how that impacted her life. And then, he also, as he grew older started to have hearing problems. I think … that’s where his interest in disability programming came from.”

As Linda Childears, president and CEO of the Daniels Fund, points out, “Every one of the funding areas that Bill Daniels established for the fund had a personal meaning to Bill. It was all very personal.”

The Fund’s close relationship with DU also came from Daniels’ personal ties to the school, Childears says.

“We know of the personal relationship and personal interest that Bill had in the University, and that stems back to [DU Chancellor Emeritus and benefactor] Dan Ritchie and how close the two men were and the values they shared. He had enormous pride that Dan had a first-class university there.”

Ritchie now chairs the fund’s investment committee.

Despite the challenging economy of the last few years, the fund has maintained its value — it began in 2000 with just more than $1 billion and now is valued at about $1.2 billion, according to Childears.

And it still is a major donor to DU, Elliott says.

“The big difference that we’ve noticed is that they’re not as likely to do multi-year grants for us, but I don’t think the actual giving level has decreased. On a year-to-year basis, they’ve continued to be very generous with us.”

Childears says that is likely to continue.

“We’re very proud of our relationship with the University,” Childears says. “Not just the Daniels College of Business, but with [Chancellor Coombe] and everyone. They’re a first-class organization, and Bill Daniels liked associating with first-class organizations.”

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