Dan Tyler was happy to help in 2012 when former CSU President Tony Frank asked if he could assist students closing in on graduation who were struggling financially.
The result was the Gateway to Graduation Scholarship, which has helped dozens of students in the College of Liberal Arts reach the finish line and earn degrees. Tyler, emeritus professor of history, provided the money to start the fund.
So, it was not a big surprise that, shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic took hold during the spring semester and students were struggling to make ends meet, Tyler (M.A., History ’67) once again stepped up when asked for help. He donated $25,000 to provide immediate assistance to students who had lost their job, fell behind on their rent or were simply struggling to pay bills.
“I’ve been fortunate in my life and, as a result, I have the assets to help,” said Tyler, who is retired and living in the Denver area. “I have a very soft spot for students who haven’t had the good fortune that I have. And I really admire the ones who continue toward graduation when things get tough – that takes guts, and I’m happy to provide a little assistance.”
Dozens of students have been helped
Soon after word of the new CLA emergency fund got out, dozens of students were applying for assistance. The gifts range from $100 to $500, are open to any current student in the college, and can be used to help provide a financial bridge during hardship. A committee within the college determines which students receive grants.
“This magnificently generous scholarship makes a difference where it is needed most: right here, right now,” said Ben Withers, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “Dan has allowed us, trusted us, to make snap decisions about need. He recognizes that many times it is the small, unexpected accidents of life that create the greatest challenge. We’ve all been there – times when we think we’ve got it covered and that flat tire, the accident, the unexpected bill throws off our plans. Dan recognized this. His empathy toward the needs of others – our common humanity – led him to create this scholarship.”
Making a difference
The grant program has made a big difference for many students. Of the 208 who applied for assistance, 73 were provided with funds to help meet basic needs like food, rent, gas and medical bills. Some funding has been held back to help students in the fall semester.
“At a time when I am personally experiencing great financial insecurity due to circumstances related to COVID-19, this emergency aid funding that has been donated to and dispersed through the College of Liberal Arts here at CSU has not only helped me keep the lights on in my apartment, but has provided me with just enough to make sure my cupboards are filled with food,” said Eddy Baisley, a senior political science major. “I cannot express enough gratitude to the College of Liberal Arts and the donor who made this possible. Because of them, I can now feel a sense of financial security that will enable me to get back on my feet while I work through the summer and gear up for my senior year of college in the fall.”
Cole Wise, scholarship and student program coordinator for the college, stressed that students who do not receive grants are still getting assistance, including one-on-one scholarship advising appointments, career counseling and other CLA and university resources.
Still impacting students’ lives
As for Tyler, a former Air Force pilot who grew up on a ranch near Carbondale, Colorado, he’s just happy to help students at the university he loves. He was named Distinguished Alumnus in the College of Liberal Arts in 2019 and continues to make an impact.
“I have a warm spot in my heart for the arts because it’s the people with the liberal arts background who come up with the creative ideas,” he said. “Science and math are really important but without the liberal arts human beings are less able to be effective.”
And despite the praise from Withers, he does not consider his donations heroic in any way.
“I really didn’t have to give Ben’s request much thought – it just seemed like the smart thing to do,” he said. “Those students are the heroes; they’re the ones with real courage. I’m just happy to help.”