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Founders Gala

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Rebecca Chopp

Speech  •

Thank you, Mayor, for all you do for our city, and for your very kind remarks.

Tonight we celebrate the University of Denver’s founders—all our founders—who over the course of 152 years:

  • have invested in the future time and time and time again;
  • have embraced the education of leaders for Colorado and the world;
  • have insisted on excellence, quality and ethics;
  • have innovated to turn new ideas into possibilities; and
  • have loved the University and believed that it can, must and does make a difference.

We honor our founders, past and present:

  • Supporters at all levels who fund financial aid that allows us to attract the brightest students and provide them transformative opportunities.
  • Philanthropists whose investments ensure there are programs and faculty to educate the next generation of lawyers and artists, business leaders and engineers, educators and scientists, who will lead their professions and their communities.
  • Faculty who pursue their passion for teaching and research in computer science, psychology, social work and the liberal arts.
  • Researchers and scholars who explore the skies above and the sediment beneath us, who are poet laureates, award-winning novelists, and soul-nurturing thespians; who save lives by developing innovative treatments for mental illness, trauma and injuries, and whose basic research today will pay untold dividends tomorrow.
  • Students who found clubs, traditions and new programs; who ask new questions, step forward in new ways, and who constantly lift their sights and their ambitions for accomplishing the good, the true and the beautiful.
  • And alumni and friends whose achievements and global impact serve as the greatest validation of DU’s ideals, promise and purpose.

Alfred North Whitehead once said it quite simply: “The task of the university is the creation of the future…” Time and time again, our DU founders—pioneers for advancing the frontiers of human understanding—have propelled this university to create the future in order to address the pressing needs of the day, to transform the lives of hundreds of thousands of students, and to serve the public good.

Tonight we have the pleasure of honoring Bob and Judi Newman, Don and Sue Sturm, and Andy Taylor in this long line of founders, pioneers, and DU creators of the future.

Bob and Judi Newman’s commitment to the arts and education have left an indelible mark throughout Colorado and especially on the University of Denver. Bob’s service on the Board of Trustees was critical to the University’s ASCEND campaign. The Newman Center for the Performing Arts fulfills their vision of providing students in our Lamont School of Music one of the best venues of any university in the country while also allowing us to serve the Denver community. Their significant contribution to the new Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science provides space and inspiration for our computer science department. Bob and Judi’s leadership is visionary and transformative.

Don and Sue Sturm are also visionary leaders—and long-time supporters of the University of Denver. One can’t miss their presence on the north end of campus, with both Sturm Hall and the Sturm College of Law. Their support has ensured that the law school has continued to emphasize quality, even as law schools across the country have lowered their standards. The law school is deeply intertwined with the city of Denver; providing services through a variety of clinics, including the Veterans Advocacy Project, and Sturm law students are required to perform uncompensated law-related public service. Don and Sue along with their children Emily and Stephen, are helping DU expand our services to US Veterans through the Sturm Family Concentration in Military Psychology. Don served over two decades on the Board of Trustees and remains an invaluable counselor.

Andy Taylor and his wife Barbara have been steadfast supporters of the University. The Andrew C. and Barbara B. Taylor Endowed Scholarship Fund at the Daniels College of Business supports underrepresented students, opening doors for Taylor Scholars and enriching the entire university community. With Andy’s leadership as CEO, Enterprise Holdings has been a major influence in the Colorado Multicultural Career and Internship Program—which is very fitting, since Enterprise is the largest employer in the country of recent college graduates.

As we honor these individuals and the tremendous impact they have had on DU, we also join with them to create the future together.

Our Time is Now as we Make Our Future Together

In January our Board of Trustees adopted DU IMPACT 2025, a strategic plan that ensures we will continue to transform the lives of students, serve and build our local Denver and Rocky Mountain West Community and, through the scholarship of our faculty and students, change the world for human and global flourishing.

DU IMPACT 2025 will change the lives of countless students. We will provide more opportunities for bright, hard-working, ethical, world makers. We will use new and traditional modes of learning to ensure students know how to collaborate, problem solve and innovate in diverse and inclusive environments. We will teach our students to be 21st-century pioneers—making sure they have emotional intelligence, conflict-management skills, imagination and know-how to navigate complex organizations, while having a mindfulness that anchors the self and restores the soul.

DU IMPACT 2025 will serve and build Denver and the Rocky Mountain West. We will partner with agencies across the state to address needs in areas such as cyber security, transportation, mental health, water and education. Our Rocky Mountain Global Challenges program will devote a critical mass of courses throughout the University to a specific problem that challenges not only our Beloved Rocky Mountains but is also experienced around the world. Our campus will be a Union Station—a hub of connections, collaborations and celebrations. As one of the largest private employers in Denver, with an annual economic impact of nearly $1 billion, we will be a benchmark employer, helping our employees thrive, contributing economic empowerment to this city and demonstrating that institutions can do well while doing good. And we will convene our neighbors and friends and city partners to develop a DU District, which among other things, will allow more faculty, graduate students, staff and friends to make DU their go-to place for arts, athletics and engagement, even in the evenings and on weekends.

Our name is the University of Denver, but our impact spans the globe. With the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, DU already has one of the top schools in the world for the study of international relations. We are a global benchmark university thanks, in part, to our study abroad program that educates our students to be world citizens and leaders. Make no mistake: DU will change the world, as we pioneer approaches that will advance human understanding and creative expression. DU’s knowledge bridges, centers and institutes will bring disciplines together to address today’s and tomorrow’s problems. Project X-ITE will allow faculty and students to translate ideas into new products and practices. The Knoebel Institute for Healthy Aging will help baby boomers and future generations thrive mentally, physically, legally and economically. True to our DNA: DU is foremost a center for knowledge—and as I like saying, the genius is in the doing.

Our task is to create the future together. Friends, when I came to DU a little over 18 months ago, I came to fulfill my life-long aspiration to be a part of an institution that dreams big while its feet are on the ground, that is bold enough to try new ways of educating students and, at the same time, serves the public good and that is guided daily by ethics, integrity, compassion and respect—and finds its north star by making the world a better place. Daily, these hopes and dreams are fulfilled. The Newmans, the Sturms and the Taylors model for me our willingness to work together to continue building a DU that truly serves and changes the world and ensures that future generations will have access to DU.

Thank you for your generosity, confidence and, most importantly, belief in our values and ideals.