Carbondale philanthropist encourages others to give back
Special to the Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
CARBONDALE, Colorado – Some people are philanthropists – making monetary donations to organizations that serve the community. Some people are volunteers – giving of their time and energy to help causes that have meaning to them.
And some people do both.
Jim Calaway, who moved to Carbondale 13 years ago, is one of those people. And along with his extensive philanthropic gifts and volunteer time, it was announced on Monday that he had just made a large multi-year gift to Colorado Mountain College, to establish CMC’s first-ever Distinguished Chair in Executive Leadership, of which he was named at the first.
Originally from Houston, Texas, Calaway grew up in a middle-class family of modest means. He put himself through college and at the age of 22, eventually became extremely successful in the Texas oil and gas industry. He had money. He had a multi-million dollar home, fancy cars, clothes, boats and a private plane.
But at age 40, although extremely successful with more money than he knew what to do with, Calaway wasn’t satisfied.
Q: People say you live beneath your means. Why is that?
“I started from scratch, and 40 years ago I was living the high life. Then I realized that [material wealth] wasn’t as much fun as I thought it would be,” he admitted. “It’s all junk in the long run. You don’t see too many U-Hauls behind hearses. I started looking at things and found that the more I gave away, the happier I became. I live under my means so I can give back to the charities I’m interested in. I’ve made a lot of money, but I give it all away.”
Now at age 80, Calaway is both a philanthropist and a volunteer in places such as Colorado Mountain College where he has set up scholarships, the Aspen Institute, the Aspen Music Festival, the Thunder River Theatre Company, Valley View Hospital, the Roaring Fork Cultural Council, Colorado Animal Rescue (CARE) and Habit for Humanity, to name a few. He’s also received numerous honors, including an honorary degree from CMC in 2009.
Calaway’s latest gift to CMC is for the Distinguished Chair in Executive Leadership, which will honor an individual serving as chief executive officer of one of CMC’s campuses. The annual fund dispersal may be used by the honoree to strengthen personal leadership skills, support research in leadership, expand his or her community service experience or support other team members in any of these areas.
The gift will help to fund baccalaureate degree programs, if approved by the Higher Learning Commission and the Colorado Department of Higher Education.
Q: What made you decide to give $1 million towards this fund?
“I think it’s a heck of a good idea, and I think there’s a real purpose for this. I’m glad to do it.”
Q: What do you get in return from your charitable contributions? How does it make you feel?
“It makes me feel wonderful. People appreciate me, and I have a good time walking around town. I live in a nice but modest house, I buy my clothes at Wal-Mart, and my sons say that it looks like it, too. But every year or two I have to go to J.C. Penney’s to get me a sports coat.”
Q: What is your philosophy about giving?
“I live nicely, but I live modestly compared to my means. It’s become a way of life for me. And it’s not just a way of life for entrepreneurs. It can be a way of life for every single person. Don’t spend all your money – whether it’s a little or a lot – on yourself. Living a little bit under your means and giving your service to the common good makes for a better society.”
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