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Honoring Our Founders

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Greg Glasgow

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2019 Founders Honorees (L-R: John Sie, Anna Sie and John Madden) ​  ​
2019 Founders Honorees (L-R: John Sie, Anna Sie and John Madden) ​ ​

Marking DU’s 155th anniversary and celebrating the impact of philanthropy on the University’s growth, the March 1 Founders Gala will honor three individuals who have left a lasting legacy at the University of Denver.

John and Anna Sie have transformed DU’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies, funding a new building for the school and establishing the Sié Chéou-Kang Center for International Security and Diplomacy. And local real estate developer John Madden Jr. has given the School of Art and Art History $10 million through artworks from his personal collection.

Madden started putting up office buildings in the south Denver suburb of Greenwood Village in the 1970s, around the same time he and his late wife started traveling to Europe to collect art.

Get the longtime Denver real estate developer talking, and it’s clear which pursuit brings him more joy. His eyes light up as he tells stories of finding art treasures in the back alleys of Florence, getting to know British sculptor Henry Moore, and hanging out with his friend, artist “Bob” Rauschenberg, on Florida’s Captiva Island.

Madden eventually built Greenwood Plaza into one of the country’s premiere office park communities. His aesthetic sense prevented the area from becoming just another maze of glass and steel: Large sculptures from his collection dot the complex; materials such as Italian travertine marble can be found in many of his buildings; and his onsite Madden Museum of Art features works by the likes of Thomas Hart Benton, Thomas Moran and Jackson Pollack, along with pieces by 19th-century Italian painters.

In 2016, in the hopes that the fruits of his collecting could be of benefit to art students, Madden donated 120 pieces to DU. Valued at $10 million, the Madden Collection at the University of Denver includes work by pioneering Western painters, American masters, contemporary artists and European legends.

The sizable addition to DU’s existing art collections “totally changes things,” says Nicole Parks, DU’s program director at the Madden Museum. It creates new possibilities for exhibitions, curatorial training, publications, research and cross-disciplinary collaborations—all involving students from the art school and across campus. Beginning in spring quarter 2019, graduate students (including two “Madden Fellows” on a scholarship funded by the developer) will become regulars at the Madden Museum as they learn how to curate exhibits and care for artwork. Undergraduate art students, meanwhile, will work as museum attendants, welcoming visitors and answering questions about the collection.

“It’s a really great hands-on opportunity for students,” Parks says of the Madden Collection. “Typically, when you go into art history, you don’t get this kind of experience. You might learn theory, you’ll have an internship, and that’s it. This is actually an ongoing resource. There’s so much we can do with it, and we’re lucky to have it.”

For Madden’s part, the DU gift offers a way to further his mission of sharing his collection with as many art lovers as possible.

“I really think that access to the arts is crucial for young people,” he says. “I’ve tried to include fine art in my commercial real estate projects, and our Fiddler’s Green campus was the original home of the Museum of Outdoor Arts. I always look to how these projects can benefit young people and students, and I’m convinced that the University of Denver can carry these interests forward on multiple fronts.”

Also looking to DU to help fulfill their vision are Anna and John Sie, who have donated more than $23 million to the University over the last 15 years. Their gifts helped to create the Sié Cheou-Kang Center for International Security and Diplomacy, named in honor of John’s father, and the five-story Anna and John J. Sie International Relations Complex, a state-of-the-art building that houses the Josef Korbel School for International Studies.

“The building has been such a tremendous asset for us,” says Pardis Mahdavi, acting dean of the Korbel School. “It has allowed Korbel to develop its distinctiveness both in terms of the physicality, but also the different programs that we have. The building lends itself to different groupings of individuals and a lot of interdisciplinary collaboration, which is great. It has really helped to elevate Korbel’s name and reputation across the world, and I think it speaks highly of the faith that the Sies have in us.”

The Sies’ philosophy was to invest in the University’s bricks and mortar, while also investing in DU’s programs through endowment. In addition to the Sie Center and Sie Complex, the Sies have endowed two chairs at DU: the Anna Maglione-Sie Chair in Italian Language and Literature at the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, and The Ron Rizzuto Chair for Excellence in International Executive Education at the Daniels College of Business.

John is a 10-year veteran board of trustees member of DU and lifetime emeritus board member. He spent the early part of his career working for the defense department and helped develop microwave technology. In 1984, John and his family moved to Colorado, where John would help build the cable TV giant, Tele-Communications, Inc., and became known as the “father of digital television.” He went on to become the founder and Chairman of the Starz Entertainment Group, LLC, a successful premium movie channel group including the Encore and Starz brands. John has received every major award in the cable TV industry, and in January of 2019, he was inducted into the Colorado Business Hall of Fame.

Anna, a native of Italy, immigrated to the United States at the age of 11 and grew up in New Jersey taking care of her father and two older brothers. Her mother and two younger brothers came to America three years later. Her passion for the welfare of children was forged through her own childhood experiences and she has received numerous awards for her community leadership including an Honorary Doctorate in Higher Education by the University of Denver.

In addition to their support for DU, the Sies — through the Anna and John J. Sie Foundation — also are longtime supporters of local civic, social and educational institutions including the Denver Art Museum, Denver Film Society, Children’s Hospital Colorado, University of Colorado, BioFrontiers Institute and Denver School of Science and Technology. In 2009, the Sies became the founding donors of the Global Down Syndrome Foundation, the Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome on the Anschutz Medical Campus, and the Anna and John J. Sie center for Down Syndrome at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

The Founders Day celebration begins on the University of Denver campus this Friday morning as we celebrate 155 years. Students, faculty and staff are all welcome to attend Founders Fest at 11:30 a.m. on the Mary Reed Building's front patio. Refreshments will be served. Please let us know if you will be able to attend by clicking here to RSVP.