By Shannon Dale
“Nathaniel Easley’s perseverance, love of learning, and strength of character are what we hope to see in all students. As a first generation student, his grit and drive allowed him to meet every opportunity with high energy and commitment,” shares Rich Feller, professor emeritus, who nominated CSU alumnus Nathaniel Easley for the CHHS Outstanding Alumnus award. “He works with boundless energy to live a life of purpose. He dedicates his life to helping youth to access college and beyond.”
Easley (B.A. history ’88, M.S. student affairs in higher education ’92) received the 2016 College of Health and Human Sciences Outstanding Alumnus Award, which honors outstanding alumni from the college who, through their distinguished careers and/or service to the university, state, nation, or world, have brought honor to Colorado State University and to themselves. Easley was recognized at the 2016 Homecoming Breakfast.
Denver Scholarship Foundation Executive Director
Easley currently serves as the executive director of Denver Scholarship Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity whose mission is to inspire and empower Denver Public Schools’ students to achieve their postsecondary goals. Easley is using his life experiences to lead an organization that provides college and financial aid advice to Denver students and families and offers a renewable, need-based scholarship to support scholars throughout their college careers.
Easley shares, “It’s such an honor to receive this award from my alma mater. Each day Denver Scholarship is aiming to create systemic change to prepare Denver’s youth to succeed in today’s evolving workforce. Thanks to the rich education I received at CSU, I am able to work with my team and the community to implement retention strategies that help Denver’s students complete their postsecondary education. College access and college success have always been my passion and I am grateful I get the opportunity each day to help make a difference.”
“From day one of his CSU undergraduate experience he made connections and completed stretch assignments to increase his empathy for those who might think college was impossible,” says Feller.
After earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from CSU, Easley began his professional career in CSU’s Center for Educational Access and Outreach, rising to an assistant director position where he led the Upward Bound program.
Promoting access to higher education for all
“My time at CSU prepared me for a productive career in promoting educational equity,” shares Easley. “The master’s degree opened the door to my first management level position with the Colorado State University Upward Bound program and my Ph.D. in education.”
He has dedicated his life and career to helping provide access to higher education for all. Easley went on to earn his Ph.D. in education at American University, completing a dissertation on “Factors that Contribute to the Academic Success of Mexican Immigrants.”
Subsequently, Easley accepted a position at the Council for Opportunity in Education in Washington, D.C., eventually becoming vice president of the organization. He provided advocacy and professional development for professionals working in TRIO and educational opportunity programs across the nation.
Easley then returned to Colorado to work with the Denver Scholarship Foundation. He holds several leadership roles that continue to influence education in Denver and throughout Colorado including serving on Governor Hickenlooper’s Education Leadership Council, the Community College of Denver Advisory Council, and the Roots Elementary School Board.
“Dr. Easley’s path to becoming a national leader in higher education serves as a great model to all students,” says Feller. “His journey was met with challenges similar to other inner city students to whom he has dedicated his life. He relentlessly helps students believe in themselves and he feels most proud as students from Denver graduate from CSU.”
Through Easley’s many educational leadership positions, he was invited by NASA to participate in the National Career Development Forum at the July 2010 shuttle launch. While there, Easley led discussions related to preparing future STEM workers and the power of higher education connections for minority students.
“I am truly honored to receive the recognition. It means that I have honored my mentors in the SAHE program through my work,” shares Easley about the CHHS Outstanding Alumni Award. “That certainly warms my heart.”
Three CHHS alumni award recipients were recognized at the 2016 College of Health and Human Sciences Homecoming Breakfast. Ann Vail also received the Outstanding Alumni Award and Dawn Clifford received the Emerging Leader Award.