Our History: Philanthropy is a key part of CMC culture | PostIndependent.com

Our History: Philanthropy is a key part of CMC culture

The Quigley and Nieslanik families of Spring Valley were among those who donated the original 588 acres of land for one of Colorado Mountain College’s first two campuses. This generosity started a longstanding culture of philanthropic support for the college. Members of those two families helped the college celebrate its 50th anniversary this year by branding this piece of wood.
Charles Engelbert / Provided |


The Post Independent this year is celebrating local institutions’ anniversaries — including our own — with a special feature many Sundays through the year. The PI traces its roots back 127 years, but our volume number is 125, while the White River National Forest looks back on 125 years and Colorado Mountain College marks 50 years. Today we offer the 11th installment of CMC history.

From the beginning, Colorado Mountain College has benefitted from community members giving for the betterment of the college and its students.

For the Colorado Mountain College Foundation, which develops and manages CMC’s donor support, giving comes in many forms. Established in 1985, the foundation has raised nearly $40 million for buildings, academic programs and student scholarships. Gifts come from individuals, businesses and foundations.

“The foundation considers all of our donors as philanthropists, big or small,” said Kristin Heath Colon, CMC Foundation CEO. “All gifts are meaningful, especially the collective impact of donations.”

From land to scholarships

Throughout CMC’s 50-year history, some remarkable gifts of land have provided donors a way to support the college and its students. One of the very first donations in the mid-’60s was 588 acres from a group of Spring Valley ranchers and landowners, led by the Quigley and Nieslanik families. This land became one of the college’s first two campuses, now known as CMC Spring Valley.

Other land donations for CMC campuses have followed. In Garfield County, college buildings in Rifle and Carbondale sit on land that was gifted to the college. Entire buildings have been donated too, such as the Michelle Balcomb Building at Ninth and Grand Avenue in Glenwood Springs, donated in 1994 by the Delaney and Balcomb families and used for decades by the college’s central administrative staff.

Creating a scholarship that gives a student the ability to attend college also provides a tangible way to give back. The Colorado Mountain College Foundation has a robust scholarship-giving program.

According to Colon, the foundation was able to grant more than $1.2 million in scholarships for the 2017-18 school year, thanks to the support of donors with one-time gifts, multi-year gifts and endowing scholarships. Among the dozens of donors who underwrite collegewide scholarships are Marian and Maria Oleksy of Glenwood Springs, as well as Richard and Shirley Hunt of Carbondale. Currently 165 donors have a named scholarship at CMC, benefitting nearly 50 students.

Philanthropists all

Certainly, there are legacy donors, too. Bob Young, Alpine Bank founder and chairman, is a longtime supporter of the college. His J. Robert Young and Alpine Bank Latino/Hispanic Scholarships have sent more than 200 students to CMC since 1996.

Longtime Roaring Fork Valley resident George Stranahan donated to the college a valuable collection of the work of more than 60 of the finest 20th century photographers, photos that are now on permanent display at the Spring Valley campus. And in 2014, John and Jessica Fullerton of Aspen donated $1 million to the college’s Isaacson School for New Media.

For decades, Jim and Connie Calaway of Carbondale have supported buildings, programs and scholarships at CMC. More than 100 students have attended the college as Calaway Scholars. The Calaways are also passionate promoters of CMC, asking others to join them in their support.

The late Genevieve Clough and the Clough Family Foundation have established a scholarship for graduates of Coal Ridge, Grand Valley and Rifle high schools, which since 2008 has enabled CMC and the Western Colorado Community Foundation to provide over $3.1 million in scholarship support to more than 405 students.

Giving from within

Kendra Rhodes, CMC Foundation director of development, said that the college’s employees have always had a spirit of giving and supporting students. In the past few years, the foundation has organized a structured employee-giving campaign called the Team Fund. Employees are asked to contribute – and they answer the call. Even the smallest of donations add up. Last year, in honor of the college’s 50th anniversary, 65 percent of employees gave to the CMC Foundation more than $50,000, which was matched by Alpine Bank.

“When two out of every three employees also chooses to give back to the college philanthropically, you know that CMC is a special place,” said Colon. “There is a strong belief in the value of a dollar gifted. Whether from employees or community members, every gift is special, always an honor and impactful.”

“We may think that all contributions must be sizeable and significant,” wrote Linda Crockett, college vice president and Aspen and Carbondale campus dean, in a letter to staff about the upcoming Team Fund campaign. “However the benefits of giving are multiple. They are additive, creating a ripple effect. Any donation makes the difference for a student.”

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User