Pay it Forward!

Congratulations, DU graduates! We are so proud of all you’ve accomplished during your time on and off campus over the last few years—welcome to the exclusive club that is being a DU alum.  

We at the University are immensely grateful to Pat Hamill for his generous gift, given to all undergraduate students who attended the commencement ceremony on June 10. The gift ties in strongly to DU’s sense of purpose—a private institution dedicated to the public good. It’s a lovely demonstration of the concept Dr. Hamill strongly supports: Putting good into the world, even a little at a time, can make a tremendous impact. 

Whether you use this gift to springboard your own journey or to pay it forward to another person or a cause, we would love to know the difference that it will make.  

We’d love to hear how you are using Dr. Hamill’s generous gift—let us know using the form below and we may share your story on DU’s platforms. You’ll also have to opportunity to write a short message of thanks to Dr. Hamill.  

However you decide to use the gift, we want to hear about it! 

  • Dr. Hamill's Commencement Speech

    Good morning, graduates and parents and family and friends of the University of Denver!   

    At one time, long ago in a galaxy far, far away, away, I too was a graduate, and I am so very aware that I am standing between you and your diploma.   

    This will arguably be one of the last talks that you will have to listen to before you set off into the world, so I want to make sure we keep things interesting for you today!  

    Or at least brief.   

    I love sports…  And I love football.   

    I don’t love long speeches or giving them for that matter.    

    I do love the University of Denver and so many of the students and faculty that I have had the privilege of getting to know over the years….   

    Back to football…  

    That is how I would like to frame your commencement address today.   

    By thinking about my life in quarters…  

    My first quarter.   

    My dad was a little guy with grit.   

    He had an 8th grade education, but his experiences made him a PhD in life.   

    He was my first ski coach.   

    He was my mentor.   

    He was, and still is, a role model in my life… 

    And he was a serial entrepreneur.   

    I mean this guy made everything… from picnic tables to luxury vacation homes…   

    And he did whatever it took to provide for his family.  

    He taught me a lot.   

    He would be very proud to be here today! 

    Graduates; think about a Mentor in your life…   

    Parents, teachers, coaches, friends. 

    Think about what they did for you to support you to accomplish what you have achieved so far…  

    My dad also raised a little guy with grit!   

    I followed my dad’s lead. I opened my first business while a Freshman in High School with my grandmother Jesse and my girlfriend.  It was an antique business on one of my dad’s vacant car lots….   

    While I enjoyed it and still love talking about it, it was not my greatest, nor most lucrative accomplishment. 

    But it taught me much. 

    As a youngster I was a competitive skier.   

    Shout out to all of you on the D.U. ski team! 

    I recall organizing my class schedule to maximize my time on the slopes.   

    I graduated in 1981 with a degree in Real Estate and Construction Management…  I minored in Computer science. 

    After graduation I went to work for a local company and helped them install their first back-office computer systems.  That led me to starting a consulting company in 1983 called Pat Hamill & Associates where we helped companies install software systems all across America.   

    I hired one of my friends and students from D.U.  As well as one of our professors! 

    In my first quarter I learned how important a coach is to the team.   

    My undergraduate work at D.U. thought me (3) lessons: 

    1. Learning and growth is a life-long journey, 

    2. Relationships, past, present, and future will make all the difference in your life journey, 

    3. Having the right compass in terms of values and mission and character are critical to your success. 

    I will reflect on a few of these points…. 

    As a Consultant and Coach, I learned so much from the companies I worked with. 

    And ultimately, I wanted to be in the game.   

    Through a relationship with a client in 1991 I formed a company called Oakwood Homes. 

    “Relationships Really Matter” 

    You could say that I was building homes and communities before any of you were born.   

    I’m a community developer, and I love what I do.   

    The secret to happiness is quite simple.  Find out what you really love… and do it! 

    We have Master Planned Communities throughout Colorado, Utah, and Arizona. 

    In 1996 I was in Dallas, and we won an auction that added over 600 acres of land to our Green Valley Ranch Community out by Denver International Airport.   

    This was a big play.   

    That night I went home, poured a nice glass of wine…  I turned on the television and watched a show called 20-20…  They were doing a segment on the five worsts schools in America…   

    And guess what… 

    One of these schools was a middle school called Martin Luther King, located in Green Valley Ranch. 

    It was bad. 

    Fires in the hallways, terrible attendance, low teacher morale, terrible outcomes… 

    Talk about a major penalty. 

    You CANNOT have a world class community with one of the worst schools in America. 

    It just won’t work… 

    We set out to make change happen when you have the right team.  You all know this from your own experiences at DU.   

    Your team makes a difference... 

    Through a relationship, I reached out to a man named “Marshall Kaplan”, happened to be the Dean of Public Policy at CU Denver  

    We created a foundation which today is called “BuildStrong Foundation”.   

    We started to change the game.   

    We redesigned the school, we listened to students, teachers, and parents…  We developed new opportunities for these folks and ultimately opened pathways into the work force.   

    Today, our Foundation has created many new schools. 

    There is a Homebuilding Academy and an Early Childhood School that has changed the culture, values and mission, not only in Green Valley Ranch, but across the communities where we build…   

    It has become a passion of mine today. 

    It ties so well into what we learn at D.U.  A great private university, dedicated to the Public Good… 

    Oakwood is a great company that is also dedicated to the Public Good...   

    At some point, as you grow in your careers, it is going to be inspirational to see how each of you move from “Success to Significance” 

    Okay, in my second quarter… 

    Things got interesting… 

    In February of 2017, an individual reached out to me who was part of Berkshire Hathaway Companies…  The quarterback of that team is a guy named Warren Buffet.   

    I decided to take the call…   

    They liked what we had built, and they wanted my company…  We had a winning team and they wanted us to keep doing what we were doing.   

    So, in my second quarter of my life I sold my company! 

    An unexpected play…  But a good one! 

    I was no longer the head coach. 

    And what I have learned over time is that if you want to get better at your game, always play the game with the best talent and always learn from the best…   

    And that is what we did.  That is what we continue to do!  

    We kept winning and we proved that this team and organization will continue on for many future generations.   

    But with any good game, things don’t always go the way you plan…  

    In November of this past year, I was involved in a horrible car accident…  

    My car slid off the side of a mountain road and rolled multiple times.  I was rescued and airlifted to Swedish Medical.  I was resuscitated multiple times and I almost didn’t make it to my half time… 

    There were many people who gave back that night and, in the days, to follow to make sure that I could be here today.   

    Just remember a few rules of the game that I think are important to success: 

    • Don’t look back, 

    • Always live in the present, 

    • No guarantees for the future. 

    Thank you, Robin, for keeping me in the present! 

    So here we are at my Half Time…  

    Don’t worry grads, I WILL NOT take this speech into overtime… 

    Like you I am thinking about what I want to do in my next quarter…    

    One of my joys is to share the Joy of giving…   

    I have a dear friend and philanthropist, Carrie Morgridge, a longtime trustee here who is very involved with D.U.    

    She wrote a book that reminds us that every gift matters, no matter the size…   

    She teaches us that you do not have to be rich to be a philanthropist...   

    III. Third Quarter 

    So, my first play of my third quarter…  

    I am going to move the ball down the field a couple of yards for you!  

    I want to share the joy of giving with each of you today.   

    By the way, you should know that one of my goals is to bounce my last check…   

    I just want to make sure I get the timing “right”.   

    I will do this first by ending this commencement address… so you can get your diploma…   

    But before that… I have a personal request that each of you think about how you can give back to someone who may not be having their best quarter…  

    I started this play with numerous people including one of my dear friends Don. 

    He is a colleague at work.  And I sent him a check and asked him to do the same as I’m asking you...   

    He doubled it and he shared it with his grandchildren to do the same…   

    His grandson gave his gift to a family he unexpectedly encountered in a Walmart parking lot in Tyler, Texas.  This family was stranded and living in their car and trying to make their way home across the state.    

    So, in the final play of this commencement address, it seems that there is an unexpected call in your favor.   

    There is something I need each of you to do.  Any good team knows that to get better at what you do… you need to practice. 

    Today I want you to practice giving back.   

    There is something here for each of you today that you will receive in addition to your diploma.  As you cross the stage, after you shake the Chancellor’s hand, you will receive an envelope.  That envelope will include a letter from me about the joy of giving along with $500.   

    Keep it if you really need it.   

    Give it to someone who really needs it if you don’t.   

    Or combine it with your friends and do something together.   

    That’s all.   

    Keep it real and do something that matters for someone who needs it.   

    Wrapping up with a few lessons from the locker room!   

    • The team you play on is so important. 

    • How you play the game really counts. It’s about your values and character you have. 

    • The people who helped you play the game make a difference!  

    • Every gift matters, and some of your greatest joys in life will be seeing joy in other people.   

    • And finally, be nice and don’t be a dick! 

    As you receive your diploma today and your first quarter is well underway, keep giving back as it will make you better at your game,  

    …it will make you feel better as a person, 

    … and it will make our world just a little better.    

    Can you imagine 10 thousand people doing the same thing five years from now? 

    Let’s get started!  

    Thank you for letting me spend some time with each of you today as you begin an extraordinary journey into the end zone and beyond.   


cta pattern

Learn More About Dr. Hamill

Learn More

Thank Yous and Stories

Messages of Thanks

  • Thank you so much for your generous gift Pat, I am a giver at heart and it feels that so little do the givers get to receive in return and you did just that! I aspire to be able to give like you one day but until then I'll continue sharing what I can!
    • Tiffani
  • Thank you so much Pat for this generous gift! While I do not have specific details on how I will share or use this gift yet, I am thinking about the most powerful way to do so whether that's to save it for a rainy day or pass it forward. Your generosity was extremely encouraging and amazing. Your story about your car crash was a great reminder of how fleeting life can be. Thank you!
    • Maddie
  • Thank you so much. This has really reduced my stress regarding what I was going to do to make my payments. I thought your speech was pretty inspiring as well.
    • William
  • Mr. Hamill, What a beautiful family tradition of giving and for you to continue to practice it with your family and others. In your case the giving to the DU graduates was a beautiful gesture. You are making a difference in someone’s life without knowing it. You made a difference to me and I am very grateful for it. May God bless you for your gesture and wish that I get the chance to pass this forward. Thank You and continue making this tradition going.
    • Sandra
  • Thank you Pat so much for your generous gift! It felt great to be able to give back to DU’s Catholic Student Fellowship organization as they have given so much to me during my time here as a student and have helped me grow. I look forward to hopefully being able to continue to give more financially in the future. Once again, thank you so much.
    • Sofia
  • Thank you so very much for the words of wisdom and encouragement and of course for your generous gift.
    • Ian
  • I’m so incredibly grateful for this money. Thank you so much. It feels good to have extra money to give to a charity. I hope to continue this throughout my life.
    • Natalie
  • Thank you, Pat, for sharing the gift of sharing. It was a wonderful feeling to give back and do something that matters to someone. I hope the blessing that was extended to me extends to you and that you are able to keep giving back in the impactful ways that you have.
    • Victoria
  • Pat, Thank you so much for your inspirational gift. I thought for a few weeks as to what I would do to pay your gift forward, and it hit me dead in the face one night when I was closing out the restaurant I work for with another co-worker. She was telling me how stressed she had been from moving across the country, being robbed (on Mother's Day of all days), saving up money, and taking care of a dying loved one. When she said, "If I had not been robbed, I would probably have $500 saved up," I knew God was calling me to pay your gift forward to her. I originally was trying to think up all these cool ways I could pay your gift forward but often enough, it is as simple as giving where we see its needed most. You made our graduation very special, and I will not forget this experience. I have been very blessed and I look forward to continue paying it forward.
    • Chris
  • Thank you, Pat. It's inspiring to see someone in your position talk the talk and walk the walk. We appreciate you!
    • Brandon
  • Pat, thank you so much for this kind gift. I was having a hard time allowing myself to feel prideful after earning my degree. After hearing your speech, you made me feel pride and reminded me why I was doing this in the first place. You showed everyone kind-heartedness and we really need more of that in the world. There are so many out there who struggle and I appreciate you for now only sharing your wealth of knowledge but your monetary wealth as well. I will always strive to pay it forward in your name!!!
    • Monique
  • Dear Mr. Hamill, My name is Nicole, and I am from Houston, Texas. I graduated from the University of Denver this June and am one of the students who received your five-hundred-dollar gift. I wanted to take the time to sit down and write you this letter to firstly thank you, ad-nauseam, for your generosity, but also to share with you what I have done with this gift. I believe that your actions have profoundly impacted me and so many of my peers, and I am both inspired and honored to do the same. In order to follow your advice and pay it forward, I have decided to donate your gift to my former high school— Middlebridge School. Middlebridge is a special education school that is run by a group of individuals who have all made significant impacts on my life, as well as many others. The school is located right across from the water on a historic property called Hazard Castle, on 333 Ocean Rd. in Narragansett, Rhode Island. In 2008, John Kaufman took a risk and left the school where he had been working, alongside a handful of other staff, in order to found a new school that he believed would better support students. By doing so, John and the staff of Middlebridge School unknowingly changed the trajectory of the academic career of my then seven-year-old self. For most of my life, I was a terrible student. I have ADHD, and crippling anxiety, which made it difficult to perform well academically. This was also difficult because I had two older siblings who were both incredibly smart and very well-loved by all of their teachers, who were then disappointed by the third Gsell child— who couldn’t so much as turn in her homework. I was blessed to have been born to two parents who went to great lengths to love and support me. Still, despite those efforts, I was incapable of succeeding, and at too young an age, I often felt that I had failed them. Part of their efforts included supporting me as I transferred from one school to the next, roughly every two years, from sixth grade up until my junior year of high school. When I was in eighth grade, I begged my parents to allow me to attend a boarding school. I did so partially in an effort to escape the anxieties that came from the schools I had attended in Houston, but like any little sister, I did so also in an effort to be like my big brother, who I admired very much— and still do. I had just barely turned thirteen when my mom moved me into my first dorm room. Unfortunately, my success at this school was the same as that of my previous schools. I began isolating failing classes, isolating myself socially, and my mental health took a turn for the worst. Going back to my freshman year of high school, I recognized that I once again had failed everyone around me. When I went home for winter break my freshman year when I was fourteen, I was unaware that that would be the last time I stepped foot on that campus. In February of 2016, my parents made the difficult decision to send me to a wilderness therapy program as my mental health had become enough of a concern that they were unable to help me themselves. Ten weeks later, in April of that year, my father came to the Utah wilderness to pick me up and take me to a residential treatment program in Salt Lake City. Though there were academic expectations at the Salt Lake City program, the primary focus was bettering my mental health and providing me with a set of skills that would allow me to succeed once I left. I graduated from that program thirteen months later, in May of 2017. Unfortunately, I had nowhere to go from there. All of the schools that I had applied to were concerned about my academic abilities, given the struggles I’d had prior to my treatment experience. However, at the time, my sister had just graduated from Middlebridge School and was about to complete a postgraduate year with them. With permission from my sister, the school accepted me. I flew to Rhode Island for my junior year of high school, and the rest is history. Middlebridge was the first place I ever felt smart. At Middlebridge, I rediscovered my love of reading and singing and was encouraged by my teachers to explore both areas. That encouragement then determined my area of study in college— English. Middlebridge is a tiny school with a nearly 6:1 class size ratio. However, in areas that are difficult for students, they make any and all efforts to individualize learning. For example, I struggled deeply in math and ended up in classes with only two other students so that the teacher could better support us. I could list off the names of staff that helped me build my confidence, but I think this letter might be getting long enough. I hope that throughout my life, I have the ability to give back to Middlebridge, though no amount I give them will ever be able to repay what they did for me. Even throughout my four years at DU, I received infinite support from them— like my incredible English teacher Sara Callahan, who so kindly edited many college papers— including my final thesis. So, thank you endlessly for giving me the ability to start giving back to them. I hope to continue to take your advice in the future and pay it forward to Middlebridge, and I hope that they are able to help many more kids like me. Kids who are entirely capable but just haven’t had a chance to prove it. Thank you again. With sincere gratitude and profound admiration,
    • Nicole

Stories of Impact

  • I am using it to help fund my volunteer trip to Uganda where I will be working in a hospital!

  • Donating half to the Denver Animal Shelter and dividing the other half to give to servers! 

  • We bought some food with it and handed it out to those in need around Denver. 

  • My dad is using the money to help a single mother he knows, and I hope to pay it forward too 

  • I will be donating it to the animal shelter where I got my cat! 

  • I donated the money I received to DU’s Catholic Student Fellowship. This student organization has given me a great community in my time here and has provided a lot of fantastic opportunities for students. I hope they can continue to do the amazing things they have done around campus and provide those same opportunities for future generations of students.

  • My sister has been extremely down on her luck financially for a while and my husband and I have been doing our best to help her on our limited income. This money will partially be put to celebrating at dinner tonight but it will also be sent to my sister who needs many parts of her car repaired.

  • I plan to keep the gift, not because I am being selfish but more because I need it. Here is the reason why: I am the youngest of six and I am the only one that has actually finished a degree. I am an expert migrant and proud of where I come from. My parents did the best they could to provide us the basics needs to grow up. We all made it to high school but due to lack of money and the need to help in the house, university was not a choice.  My father passed away but my mother is still alive. I came to Colorado seeking a job opportunity and I found a job at DU. One of the benefits is free tuition to employees and taking one class per semester made me reach my goal of graduating today. On Monday June 5th my mother was admitted to the hospital and she couldn’t attend my graduation. One of my sisters left my nephew to care and keep an eye on my mother while My brothers and sisters travel from my home town El Paso, Tx to come to my graduation. They all left back on Sunday. My mother is moving to a physical therapy facilities to help her walk again and get her muscles moving. I plan to visit her in mid July. I am helping my department finish year end and hire a new executive director of budget. I want to give back to DU and my department (job), for helping me reach my degree and what best way than to help them with the tasks and help with deadlines and complete the year end. I will use the money to buy my airline ticket to go visit my mother.

  • I decided to donate a part of the money to the Memorial Fund of Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo. I did it in memory of my best friend Blake who passed away my senior year. The money will be used for scholarships.

  • My mom died of appendix cancer 9 years ago. I plan on using the money to give to a charity that supports cancer patients and their families. 

  • I gave my gift to 15-year-old Jude from Mile High Academy, who was raising money for his college fund by going door to door selling books with Youth Rush. When I gave him the money, he jumped up and down and hugged me over and over, saying he would finish college and never forget me. 

  • I'm dealing with high-value (relative to me) atm fraud right now and plan to use this money to pay bills while that is being sorted out.

  • I will be donating 20% to my church St. Raymond’s. The rest will be to buy my daughter's new clothes and shoes.

  • I have donated the money I received to a non-profit hockey organization in Minnesota that I grew up playing for. The money will go toward sponsoring youth participation fees and equipment.

  • I gave my gift to a co-worker at the restaurant where I am a server. One of my co-workers just moved across the country and has been living paycheck to paycheck out of here car for the past few months. In addition to supporting herself and her son, she has had to deal with a recent robbery, where she lost a lot of personal and valuable materials that she has had to replace. The gift will help her continue to recover from the robbery and allow her to better take care of a dying loved one.