A Special Ribbon Cutting Ceremony
Homecoming at Western Colorado University reached elevated proportions this year with the grand opening of the Paul M. Rady School of Computer Science and Engineering, and a visit from top state officials. During the special ribbon cutting ceremony, the man whose name is emblazoned across the facility shared the dream that has become a reality.
Other notable figures speaking at the event included Western’s Board of Trustees chair Pam Shaddock, Colorado Department of Higher Education Executive Director Angie Paccione. A contingent of representatives from CU, including CU President Todd Saliman, CU Boulder Chancellor Phillip DiStefano and College of Engineering and Applied Science Acting Dean Keith Molenaar also attended the ceremony on Friday, Oct. 8.
The Unique Partnership
Paccione read a proclamation from Gov. Jared Polis declaring the day Paul and Katy Rady Day in Colorado.
Rady, class of ’78, is the chairman and chief executive officer of Antero Resources, an oil and gas company. Through his gift of more than $90 million, the Rady School was built to house a unique partnership with the University of Colorado Boulder. The CU Partnership allows students to attend class at Western and obtain a computer science or mechanical engineering degree from CU, a top-20 public school in those fields.
While the building opened to students in spring of 2021, this event was the first time for community members to see the state-of-the-art building firsthand.
During the ribbon cutting ceremony, Rady shared about the germination of the idea that led to the creation of an innovative program and the construction of a state-of-the-art facility. He said that he had the desire to do something meaningful for his alma mater—the place where he went from cleaning motel rooms to becoming a teaching assistant, a job where he could use his brain rather than just his body.
The Moment That Changed Everything
A feasibility study, as well as discussions, began as to whether an engineering school could be launched at Western. There was one “Catch 22,” Rady said. The school must be accredited, which would take many steps. Yet, it was in a conversation with former CU President Bruce Benson, Rady recalled, that the solution appeared. Benson said, “Let us help you.”
“I’ll never forget those words from Bruce,” Rady said. “It was the moment that changed everything.”
A meeting with former CU College of Engineering and Applied Science Dean Bobbie Braun soon followed.
“In that conversation we both realized the way to do this is through partnership between CU and Western,” said Braun. “I remember leaving that meeting thinking, ‘Wow, this is going to happen.’”
Braun pointed to the growing demand for more engineers and computer scientists, and that filling that need is “good for the world.”
Thinking About the Future
“When I look at this place that you created, Paul, I think about the future,” Braun said. “And the future is being created every day in the classrooms and the laboratory of the Rady School and I for one can’t wait to live in the future that is created by the students that are in your program right now. I tell you—it’s going to be something.”
Following the ribbon cutting, members of both the Western and at-large community were invited to tour the building, while enjoying food and beverage, as well as the annual Homecoming tradition of the lighting of the “W.”
Alumna Connie Knight returned to Western to celebrate the Rady School opening and her more than 50 years as an alumna. Knight, class of ’70, graduated in Geology and went on to get her doctorate in petroleum geology from the Colorado School of Mines. She had a long and successful career in the oil and gas industry, and participates regularly on panels and in other activities at Mines.
A Fantastic Addition to Western
She called the Rady School a fantastic addition to Western.
“The Rady School will provide excellent foundations for many students who chose technical career paths,” Knight said. “The Rady School will greatly complement existing classes offered by Western’s excellent Geology staff. While attending homecoming events, I was privileged to visit with some of geology students. I was most impressed with the students’ understanding for the need to acquire academic diversity. The Rady School will provide much valuable diversity to an already sound academic program.”
A World-Class Building and Program
Additionally, community members celebrated the addition of the Rady School, with both the mayor of Gunnison and city manager in attendance.
“The city thanks the Rady family for the generous donation that created this world class building and engineering and computer science program in Gunnison on Western Colorado University’s campus,” said City Manager Russ Forrest. “The new Computer Science and Engineering Program provides a new jewel of academic excellence and innovation that will benefit Western and the Gunnison Valley for years to come.”
Author Credit: Chris Rourke
Photo Credit: Jeffrey Horvat