FB Pixel Skip to Main Content

Western Foundation

History of Western’s Foundation

Western Foundation

The Western Colorado University Foundation was incorporated on Aug. 22, 1975 with the generous bequest of former Colorado Governor Dan Thornton and his wife, Jessie. The Thorntons’ gift created one of the finest undergraduate biology programs in the country.

The Founder of the Western Foundation was L. Richard “Dick” Bratton(’54), an attorney in Gunnison.

Dick and Donna Bratton

Foundation Board of Directors

To this day, the Foundation Board of Directors still conducts, manages and controls the business and affairs of the Western Foundation. The purpose of the Western Foundation is to promote and support Western Colorado University, including any activities which are directly or indirectly related thereto. The Western Foundation serves as the depository of funds raised by the Western Foundation and Western.

The Foundation’s home, the Aspinall-Wilson Center, was dedicated on Aug. 4, 1984. Named after Joan Adams-Wilson, whose family donated the land for the building, and Wayne Aspinall, a former member of the Colorado House of Representatives, the Colorado Senate and the United States Congress, the Aspinall-Wilson Center is still home to the Foundation. Both the Wilson and Aspinall families contributed in many ways to the Gunnison Country and especially Western.

Since the Thorntons’ generous gift, countless Western donors have transformed dreams into reality, clearly demonstrating the absolute power of private support. Some of the following accomplishments could not have come to fruition without the generosity of Western alumni and friends:

Ruland Property

Dick Bratton, Tom Havens and Dan Tredway led the effort to raze the Ruland Middle School building. Close to 300 Gunnison community members made contributions to purchase the property for Western. Elnora Smith and Don Eastman (’51) came forward with financing to secure the $600,000 Ruland Middle School site. The Western Foundation purchased the five acres of land from the City of Gunnison and deeded it to the University, creating a gateway to Western from Highway 50.

All Weather Track
Mountaineer Bowl All-Weather Track

All-Weather Track in Mountaineer Bowl

In 1980, a $117,000 grant from the Helen K. and Arthur E. Johnson Foundation was acquired by the Western Foundation for a new all-weather track. At that time, it was the largest grant ever given by the Johnson Foundation.

Tracy Borah Mountaineer Sports Hall of Fame Room

The Hall of Fame Room, completed in 1999 in the Paul Wright Gymnasium, established a permanent home for athletic memorabilia, including trophies, jerseys and letter jackets of Western’s most prestigious athletes. Louie Carleo (’74), a previous Western Board of Trustee and a former member of the Western Foundation Board of Directors, led the way with a generous gift, and others quickly followed to make the Hall of Fame Room one of the most interesting meeting rooms on campus.

Western’s Second Century Capital Campaign

Celebrating the 100th Aniversary of Western’s Charter
In the summer of 1999, Western began the silent phase of a five-year effort to raise $5 million in the first capital campaign in the University’s history – “an ambitious but do-able” project, according to the University’s consultants. Officials soon learned that their goals were too modest.

Foundation Board
Paul Rady, President Jay Helman and Pat Wiesner, a Former Chair of the Western Board of Trustees and a former member of the Western Foundation Board of Directors

At Western’s Centennial Homecoming Celebration in 2001, Paul Rady (’78), the Campaign National Chairman and then-President of the Western Foundation Board of Directors, announced that the original goal of $5 million had been reached and surpassed only halfway through the Campaign, and a new goal of $10 million had been set.

However, the $10 million goal was reached one year early, with a total of $10.3 million raised. Western donors celebrated the Centennial in most generous style, providing program and technology support and endowments in academic programs, athletics, the arts and scholarships.

John Brach and Ethel Rice
John Brach and Ethel Rice

Three $1 million gifts helped to reach the Campaign goal. Ethel Rice (’63), a retired Technical Services and Special Collections Librarian and a former member of the Western Foundation Board of Directors, designated an estate gift of $1 million, the University’s first, to establish an Endowed Chair in Art in 2000. This was the first seven-figure gift commitment to Western.

In 2001, Paul Rady, a former member of the Western Board of Trustees, made a cash gift of $1 million to establish an Endowed Chair in Petroleum Geology. It was the largest cash gift in the University’s history, and the first $1 million gift received by the Foundation. Paul’s gift enabled Western to create a new curriculum for Petroleum Geology and to hire energy industry leaders to teach courses.

John Brach (’71) gave Western’s third million-dollar gift. In 2001, John announced that he was making a gift through his estate for $1 million to purchase books and research materials related to the history of the American West for Western’s Savage Library.

Western’s Second Century Campaign exceeded everyone’s expectations. It was an amazing start for Western entering the new Millennium!

Studio Theater Lobby in Taylor Hall

Renovated in 2002, the Theater Lobby was the first building constructed entirely through private gifts, and the sole “bricks and mortar” project in Western’s Second Century Capital Campaign. More than a simple entryway, the lobby links three performing areas: the Taylor Auditorium, the Martin Hatcher Theater and the Studio Theater. A “Gateway to the Arts” at Western, the Lobby also serves as a theater museum, a community outreach center and reception venue.

All-Weather Track in Mountaineer Bowl

After using a track that was out-of-date, out of regulation and out of life, the Western Foundation, in cooperation with the Department of Athletics, raised the needed funds to install a new track in the Mountaineer Bowl in 2005. The majority of the funds of the $800,000 project came from private gifts.

The Borick Business Building

Tom Burggraf, VP of Institutional Advancement and Director of the Western Foundation, Steve Borick and President Jay Helman
Tom Burggraf, VP of Institutional Advancement and Director of the Western Foundation, Steve Borick and President Jay Helman

On Friday, September 16th, 2005 the Western Foundation hosted a banquet to celebrate the groundbreaking for the Borick Business Building. Western received the largest gift commitment in its history, a $3 million challenge from Steven Borick (’75) and Family, to build a new $6 million, 25,000 sq. ft. business building on Western’s campus. The Borick Family gave the first $1,000,000 in December, 2003 as a “seed gift” and contributed the remaining $2,000,000 after the challenge was met. Added amenities pushed the final budget to $7.1 million, which donors generously supplied.

The Borick Business Building was the first major academic building, at any public college or university in Colorado, built, furnished and equipped entirely through private investment. Borick received LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) Silver Certification, the first building at Western to achieve a LEED status.

The Dedication of the Borick Business Building was held during Homecoming on Friday, Sept. 14, 2007.

Energy Management

Western’s EM Program (previously called PLRM) is the first privately funded Energy Management degree program in the nation. A group of alumni, friends, companies and firms joined together to give over $3 million to endow this new academic program at Western. Classes in the new EM emphasis in Business Administration began in the 2008 spring semester.

Western’s EM Program is the only such program in the Rocky Mountains, and one of only six nationwide.

W.A. “Tex” Moncrief, Jr.

Tex Moncrief

Over the past several years, Texas oilman Tex Moncrief of Ft. Worth, Texas has invested more than $5.5 million to Western through the Western Foundation, making him one of the largest single benefactors in Western’s history.

Tex’s gifts have created:

  • the W.A. “Tex” Moncrief, Jr. Chair in Petroleum Geology;
  • the W.A. “Tex” Moncrief, Jr. Petroleum Geology Endowment for Excellence;
  • the W.A. “Tex” Moncrief, Jr. Chair in Energy Management;
  • and the W.A. “Tex” Moncrief, Jr. Chair in Anthropology.

Center for Environmental Studies

Western’s Environment and Sustainability (ENVS) Program, due to its interdisciplinary nature, never had a headquarters for instruction, lab work, advising, faculty offices and collaboration – until recently. A state-funded renovation of Kelley Hall was completed in 2007, and includes a new, privately-funded home for the ENVS Program. The new site houses a lecture hall, seminar room, lab and faculty offices.

Malte and Pam vonMatthiessen
Malte and Pam vonMatthiessen

Malte vonMatthiessen, a former member of the Western Foundation Board of Directors, and his wife, Dr. Pam vonMatthiessen, made a $300,000 lead gift commitment to the ENVS Program, toward the $850,000 Campaign to create the program’s headquarters in the renovated Kelley Hall.

To gain a LEED Gold Certification on the entire Kelley Hall project, the new facility incorporates recycled and eco-friendly materials, including a cork floor, denim insulation, carpet squares, solar panels, natural lighting, efficient T-12 lamps, smart wood and other sustainable building materials. The University celebrated the LEED Gold status during Homecoming, 2010.

University Center

The Western Foundation celebrated the opening of the new $28 million University Center February 2010.

University Center
University Center

The University Center is LEED Gold certified, with over 75,000 sq. ft. The Ballroom is the most elegant and functional meeting space in the lower Valley, suitable for everything from hosting dignitaries, formal lectures and elegant receptions to campus preview gatherings and the High School Prom. The well-appointed, smart meeting rooms host the city leaders, local and regional nonprofits, student government and more. And the University Center is the destination for students and local residents alike, as the home of Gunnison’s only movie theater, an amenity that the University and Community have been craving for years.

$1 Million Club
In addition to Steve Borick, Ethel Rice (who made a gift commitment of an additional $1 million in 2006), Paul Rady, John Brach and Tex Moncrief, there are a few other members in this prestigious giving club.

Bill (’54 and ’58) and Janet (’57 and ’63) Smith designated $1 million in their estate plans to Western to provide the Bill and Janet Smith Scholarship which will provide assistance to Western students with high academic achievement. Their estate give will also establish the Bill and Janet Smith Visiting History Professor Endowment.

Bill and Janet Smith
Bill and Janet Smith
Gerry Shear
Gerry Shear

Gerry Shear (’92), a member of the Western Foundation Board of Directors, is the youngest donor to have made a $1 million gift commitment. He did so through a gift provision through his estate plans. One half of his gift is unrestricted, and the other half is designated for the School of Business.

Largest land gift – 18 acres

In 2012, two graduates of Western gave back to the school they love by donating a significant tract of land adjacent to the University to the Western Foundation. The donation marks the largest land gift to the University in history. Steve Reynolds (’78) and Steve Trippe (’77) gifted the 18.71 acres valued at $775,000. Both Reynolds and Trippe have been on the Western Colorado University Foundation Board in addition to serving on the Energy Management Advisory Board, and playing a major role in past donations including the construction of the Borick Business Building.

The successes of Western Foundation are a reflection of our loyal Western alumni and friends. The Foundation’s past is a tribute to you! In every chapter of Western’s history, you have written passages of hope, triumph and promise. In recent years you have risen up to new and inspiring levels of support that have set Western above our peers with regard to private investment. With you, Western will continue to grow stronger, elevate its visibility, enhance its reputation and advance its mission beyond what seems possible.

The next Century holds unlimited potential and promise, and we look forward to taking this exciting journey with you!

The Mission of the Western Foundation is to provide financial leadership and support of the Western vision while offering an ever-improving and remarkable learning environment.

Take the Next Step

Apply to Western

Apply to Western

We understand that applying to a university can be daunting, which is why we make our admission process as simple and straightforward as possible. Learn more about applying to your program of choice at Western.

Visit Western

Visit Western

The best way to find out what makes Western such a special place is to experience it for yourself. Our student-led tours give you an insider’s perspective on everything from academics to student life.

Alumni Community

Alumni Community

We keep the Mountaineer spirit going strong within our alumni community. Whether getting together with friends at an annual event, making a donation or mentoring a student, graduates continue to play an important role in the Western community.