One unique way to reach $1 billion

Woody Woodard

CSU coach Woody Woodard talks to some of his swimmers during a recent practice at Moby Pool. A historic gift from a former student-athlete
will endow the head coaching position and provide several need-based scholarships for CSU students.
John Eisele, CSU Photography

Two weeks ago, on an otherwise unremarkable Tuesday, history was made at CSU.

That day, two remarkable gifts together helped push the State Your Purpose Campaign for Colorado State University past its $1 billion goal an incredible 651 days early. CSU President Tony Frank officially announced the milestone during the annual Fall Address and University Picnic on the Oval Oct. 3.

One, an anonymous $8 million planned gift, was not the largest given to CSU since the launch of the State Your Purpose campaign in 2012, but its significance cannot be overstated. It comes from a former Rams student-athlete, and it provides millions for need-based scholarships and endows the head coaching position in the women’s swimming program – a first for the CSU Department of Athletics.

That same day, another planned gift – this one for $10 million to the College of Agricultural Sciences – helped push the total past $1 billion.

“What makes this gift so powerful in my mind is the fact that it comes from someone who experienced intercollegiate athletics at the student level, reached a point in her life to reflect on the meaning of that experience with her coaches, her teammates and other students, and recognized the transformational experience it was in her life,” said Joe Parker, CSU’s director of athletics. “To make such a generous statement by providing a gift of this magnitude is really special.”

It starts with one

While the financial impact of the gifts won’t be felt until the donors’ wills are executed, Parker is hoping that the gift to swimming inspires other former athletes to give back to the school that provided them the opportunity to shine athletically and academically. The $6 million scholarship component alone will provide much-needed and wide-reaching support and access for CSU’s outstanding students. In the 2017-18 school year, some 78 percent of incoming students received financial aid.

“This is one of the largest gifts in the history of our department, and the fact that it comes from a former student-athlete makes it all the more important,” Parker said. “I don’t know that I’ve been associated with any program in my career where a female student-athlete has made such a powerful statement. This gift will help our women’s swimming program find and retain great talent for many years to come.

“This coaching endowment is a first for our department. Other universities have been doing this for a while, but it’s highly unique for someone to do this for a women’s program. We’re absolutely thrilled,” he added.

Honoring legendary coach

Parker said the gift honors the legacy of legendary Rams coach John Mattos, who led the CSU program for 31 years while winning six conference titles. Mattos retired in 2011 and was replaced by his assistant Chris “Woody” Woodard, who is still coaching the Rams.

“I preach to my swimmers all the time about leaving a legacy here at CSU,” said Woodard, who was mentored by Mattos. “I always take them around to learn a little about our history and the people who built the program. We want to honor the past but we also talk about how we can influence the future. This gift is a great example of one of our former swimmers positively influencing future generations of Rams. I’m incredibly grateful to this donor, and I know everyone in our program is just as grateful.”

The State Your Purpose campaign will continue through the university’s 150th anniversary in 2020. To learn more about opportunities to support  any area of CSU with your gift, of any size, go to