A $2 million gift honors a father and future veterans

Gretchen Stockwell
Gretchen Stockwell

The future academic success of military veterans and non-traditional students attending Colorado State University recently received a significant boost from Gretchen Stockwell (B.S., ’76), who is giving a $2 million planned gift to Adult Learner and Veteran Services.

The funds will support a range of programs that fortify the success of veterans and adult learners while in school and after graduation.

Stockwell’s donation was inspired by a presentation about CSU given by Kristi Bohlender (B.S., ’93; M.B.A., ’95), executive director of the CSU Alumni Association, at an alumni event held in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in early 2022. According to Stockwell, “I knew I wanted to make a gift, but I saw all that CSU was doing for veterans, and I said, ‘Wow!’”

Initially, Stockwell was planning to establish a scholarship for veterans, but after speaking with Ben Schrader (B.A., ’09; M.A., ’11), director of Adult Learner and Veteran Services, it became clear that the G.I. Bill pays for tuition and fee-related expenses. The area needing more resources is programming, which provides essential support and services to veterans and adult learners.

The importance of ALVS’s programs became evident to Stockwell last November when she was invited by Schrader and Brittany Habben (B.S., ’10), associate director of development for Enrollment, Academic and Student Affairs, to return to campus for Veterans Week. Stockwell participated in a Military Appreciation Day tailgate at the football game against the University of Wyoming and received a tour of the new space in the Lory Student Center where ALVS is scheduled to move in May.

“During Gretchen’s visit, she got to see the value of how many veterans our programs actually touch,” said Schrader. “Programming impacts a larger group of veterans across campus and her gift will make an amazing impact on future generations of our veterans.”

It took some time for Stockwell, working with Schrader and Habben, to change her focus but making a meaningful difference was the goal. “We worked together for months to get my brain around a different way of thinking how this money would be used,” Stockwell said. “I’m helping in a way I didn’t originally intend to but getting the same net result.”

“Gretchen is the kind of donor every institution of higher education is proud to have,” said Derek Dictson, vice president of University Advancement. “She is an accomplished alumna motivated to make a positive impact and was open to learning about our greatest needs and trusting those most involved to shape her gift to best serve students. Her legacy gift will improve the lives of our ALVS community members for years to come.”

Honoring a legacy

A December 1945 photo of extended family who fought in World War II. Stockwell’s father is seated in front on the right.

Deep admiration for military service is often born out of families whose members have served. That’s true for Stockwell. Her father fought in World War II and was awarded a Bronze Star for his efforts in the Battle of the Bulge.

After returning from Europe in late 1945, he attended a dinner for the family’s military men at The Pepper Pod restaurant in Hudson, Colorado, hosted by an uncle on his wife’s side of the family named Carl Midcap. A photo titled “Midcap Pride” was taken at that gathering; Stockwell’s father is seated in front on the right.

As part of the post-war occupation of Germany, the family was stationed near Frankfurt, where Stockwell was born. After returning to the United States, the family settled in Colorado Springs near Fort Carson, and when the children turned 16 years old, they were required to get part-time jobs and save a portion of their earnings for college.

Stockwell chose to attend CSU in 1972 and the experience changed her life. She lived in Parmelee Hall the first year, joined the Tri Delta Sorority, and began studying business administration. She remains close with several of her sorority sisters and has attended numerous class reunions since graduation.

A letter from Texas

Touring the new ALVS office space in the LSC in November 2022. From left to right: Gretchen Stockwell; Tracey Able, CSU supervisor with Capital Construction; Ben Schrader, director of ALVS; and Matt Sterling (B.S., ’17), project engineer with Haselden Construction.

In 1976, a job with the retail department store chain, Sears, Roebuck, and Company, took Stockwell to Lubbock, Texas, but a year later, she accepted a position with Texas Instruments, where she worked in various capacities for the next 40 years. At the time, TI also employed many veterans, in part because of the company’s defense division.

Although Stockwell retired in 2017, she remembers how difficult it was navigating a big corporation. She participated in a peer mentoring program at TI, but it was later in her career and didn’t have the same effect it could have had when she was younger. That’s one reason why ALVS’s peer advising resonates with her. The program helps ensure incoming veterans have the resources they need to succeed when they arrive at CSU and to successfully transition after graduation.

“When I started my career, I just kept slogging along until I made a name for myself,” she said. “Peer mentoring is so important because you’ve got somebody on your side; they care and they’re going to be there for you. Young people need that.”

While working on her gift, Stockwell recalls Schrader saying that future vets won’t believe a person none of them ever met could be so generous. That compelled her to write a letter sharing the role her father and his military career played in her life and why she made the gift. Near the end of the three-page letter, she states the following:

“The years in Fort Collins were some of the best in my life, so it was an easy decision to donate to CSU, especially knowing how much they care about veterans. I’ve channeled my Dad’s dream that his children get a college education, which he was never able to achieve, into wanting to help young veterans in their quest for a better life.”

Learn more

For more information on Stockwell’s gift, and to learn more about giving to CSU, visit giving.colostate.edu.