Meyer Saltzman’s childhood was anything but glamorous.
Just three days before he was born, his father died from tuberculosis. His mother, a Polish immigrant, never remarried and worked all sorts of jobs to support the family. By the time he was 12, Saltzman had his first job at a local grocery store, and he hasn’t stopped working since.
In many ways, he says, it was the typical story of families living in West Denver at that time. But for him, Saltzman (BS ’58) saw a solution in the University of Denver.
“My mother always said I was going to college, as that was the way to becoming successful, however you define success,” Saltzman says. “We obviously had no money, but education was primary in my house, and everything was dedicated to me getting a college education.”
With hard work from both himself and his mother—as well as some scholarship funds—Saltzman landed at DU. There, he attended the business school, and with guidance from “great professors who took a personal interest in the success of every student,” excelled in both grades and campus activities.
His experience and his modest roots didn’t just help him succeed professionally—he helped found the accounting firm Saltzman Hamma Nelson Massaro—but they encouraged him to help others with similar backgrounds and struggles.
Already known for his generosity to DU—he and his wife, Geri, have been involved with the Bridge Project since its founding—and other local organizations, including the Denver Zoo and National Jewish Health, Saltzman established scholarships supporting DU students coming from similar backgrounds.
His scholarship currently supports a student who immigrated to the U. S. as a young child and who wouldn’t be able to attend college without scholarship support. She is excelling in her studies and hopes to eventually become an immigration attorney because of her life journey.
“We wanted to help kids who came from underprivileged families, who were working to help support their families and were unable to maintain high grade averages,” he says. “In our view, grades were not the primary issue; it was the passion of the kids who wanted to get an education and help their families succeed.”
He notes that when one kid in the family attends college, siblings are more likely to follow.
Reducing the need gap through scholarships is a high priority because it opens the doors to a DU education for a broader student population, says Mike McCall, associate vice chancellor of University Advancement.
“The Saltzmans are making it possible for ambitious students from varied backgrounds to achieve their dream of a university education,” McCall says. “These students would not be attending DU without this kind of support.”
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