State Your Purpose: College of Liberal Arts champions

Colorado State University’s recently concluded State Your Purpose campaign was a historic success for the College of Liberal Arts. It received its largest-ever gift, $5 million from former Colorado State University System Chancellor Joe Blake. Also historic were campaign gifts from 940 current, retired/emeritus, and previous employees, which accounted for $16 million of the $40 million that CLA raised.

Just over 300 emeritus faculty and retirees contributed to CLA during the campaign. Philosophy Professor Emeritus Fred Johnson and his wife, Antonia, made gifts and a bequest valued at more than $4 million to support their existing strings scholarship for undergraduate violin, viola, and cello students as well as to create two new scholarships for graduate students in strings and music therapy. The couple believes “music is so life-affirming to people throughout the world.” They also found motivation for their generosity in the photos and thank-you letters from scholarship recipients conveyed by CLA staff.

Holmes Roston, philosophy professor emeritus and University Distinguished Professor, and his wife, Jane, contributed significant funds to the Holmes Rolston Endowed Chair in Environmental Ethics and made a bequest creating a fund for guest speakers. Rolston, known as the “father of environmental ethics,” describes his career as “opening up new possibility space” adding, “I aim my donations at that space.” He also is fond of saying, “Socrates claimed that country places with trees couldn’t teach him anything; I spent my career proving Socrates wrong!”

Retired Professor Sue Pendell made campaign contributions to the Frank B. Davis and Sue Davis Pendell Education Abroad Scholarship in Communication Studies. The fund honors her father, who taught speech as well as coached debate and freshman football at Colorado A&M in the 1930s and ’40s. It also celebrates her 35 years on the faculty. Her motivation was to give more students the “invaluable experience” of studying abroad.

History Professor Emeritus Dan Tyler was a generous campaign contributor to the Gateway to Graduation Scholarship, which he set up in 2012 to help financially struggling students remain in school and graduate. He also created the College of Liberal Arts Emergency Fund for students with needs due, currently, to COVID-19. His love for CSU and its students motivates his generosity and apparently that of others because 96 faculty and staff gave to the Gateway to Graduation Scholarship during the campaign.

Mako Beecken (M.A., ’91), instructor emeritus of Japanese, taught the first CSU Japanese class in 1988; she retired 30 years later. With husband, Tim, she established the T & M Beecken Alumni and Friends Scholarship for students pursuing a Japanese minor. She feels “very fortunate to have so many excellent students who said they were inspired by taking Japanese classes” and notes that many “have gone on to become important contributors in the world.”

More than 200 current faculty gave to CLA during the campaign. Economics Professor Stephan Weiler made a bequest valued at $700,000 to create the Kari and Stephen Weiler Young Scholars Doctoral Fellowship in Regional Economics. He notes “regional economics is a young and growing field, and I was the first in the department to pursue it.” Watching graduate students get bogged down financially during the dissertation process motivated his gift. He explains that his greatest joy as a professor is “one-on-one mentoring of Ph.D. students, watching them grow, both in research skills and personally.”

David Freed (B.A., ’76) has taught in CLA each spring semester since 2018. He began his career as a journalist, including 10 years at the Los Angeles Times, where he and a team received a Pulitzer. He later was an investigator for the LA bureau of CBS News, published a series of six novels, and sold a screenplay to 20th Century Fox. The substantial bequest he and his wife, Betsy, made will establish The Vital Press: The CSU National Beacon of Truth fund. It will be used to bring award-winning journalists to speak on campus. “As an undergraduate at CSU I learned how essential a free press was to democracy. This truth took on an even greater meaning during my career.”

Nearly 250 campaign gifts came from administrative professionals and classified staff. Jennifer Clary (B.A., ’91; CT, ’18; M.B.A., ’19) has worked in the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance since 2006. She now serves as director of communication. Her campaign gifts have gone to each area of the arts. Motivation for these gifts comes from “being immersed in the day-to-day operations of the school, getting to know the students, and seeing the impact donors have on the arts programs.” She received scholarships as a CSU student; now, she explains, “it is my turn.”

Not all faculty/staff gifts to CLA were from its own employees and retirees. Individuals from across campus gave generously to the college, leading Dean Ben Withers to express “deep gratitude for the amazing support faculty and staff have demonstrated for liberal arts programs and students during this campaign. We are deeply grateful.”