Donors thanked for their transformative contributions

Special honoree Donald Bennallack is welcomed to the stage by CU Foundation Chair Carl "Spike" Eklund.

Special honoree Donald Bennallack is welcomed to the stage by CU Foundation Chair Carl "Spike" Eklund.

Stories of life-changing university research, and the people who make it possible, were celebrated at the Sixth Annual Donor Recognition Dinner.

The event drew a full house to the Seawell Ballroom in the Denver Performing Arts Complex on Feb. 7. Leaders of the University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus and the University of Colorado Foundation honored the many contributors to the foundation's Creating Futures campaign.

University of Colorado President Bruce Benson and his wife, Marcy, chairs of Creating Futures, announced that the campaign, in its third year, has to date raised $1.3 billion and is closing in on its goal of $1.5 billion. "We probably should close this (campaign) out in a year or so," Benson said. "I want to thank everyone for supporting this."

The evening began with a set of music by Mix A Cappella, a CU Denver student singing group, and a chance for the more than 520 attendees to mingle and learn more about research being conducted at CU Denver and the Anschutz Medical Campus. Displays included a presentation showing how polymer technology is being used to treat aneurysms and other medical conditions and a student-designed car that runs on hydrogen fuel.

"For me, it really is an honor to be associated with the great work at both our Denver campus and our Anschutz campus that has inspired such loyal support from all of you in this room," said Don Elliman, chancellor. "Every year our work attracts new donors to new opportunities. Tonight's gathering really acknowledges support provided in the past, and while that's true, this dinner is really about the future. I can tell you in no uncertain terms that the University of Colorado Denver and the Anschutz Medical Campus is the future of Denver, Aurora and Colorado."

Elliman highlighted recent accomplishments on the Denver campus, including the academic building ground-breaking, new undergraduate programs (architecture and bioengineering) and graduate programs (construction engineering management and hospital management). He noted how the university's donors are "truly the engine that drives CU's success. Your generosity makes possibilities real, and all of CU is grateful."

Elliman introduced Lilly Marks, vice president for Health Affairs at the University of Colorado and executive vice chancellor of the Anschutz Medical Campus, praising her leadership of CU Anschutz, "truly a crown jewel .. built literally from the ground up through the contributions of many people in this room."

Marks thanked the audience, noting how "with your help, we have built a nationally recognized health care campus on a shuttered Army base."

The campus is now the primary source of training Colorado's professional health care workforce. "Many of you have enabled our students to pursue their professional education and dreams through your generous support of student scholarships," Marks said.

Six special honorees were acknowledged, with Marks and Elliman introducing the philanthropists making transformative contributions on the respective campuses.

Special honorees included:

  • Mary Rossick Kern and Jerry Kern: The list of Denver-area organizations benefitting from the Kerns' generosity is considerable. At CU, we highlight their commitment to the Mary Rossick Kern and Jerome Kern Endowed Chair in Thyroid Tumor Research, and their decade of giving to advance progress in studying the neurobiology of mental disorders in children.
  • Delta Dental of Colorado and the Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation: Delta Dental is proud to support the work that CU has done to help further its mission. Through the Frontier Center, the CU School of Dental Medicine is working to ensure that medical students now graduate with training in oral health. This creates collaborations between dentistry and medicine to enhance preventive care and improve oral health outcomes. Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation has supported Colorado with more than $12 million in grants and services.
  • CoBank: The largest financial institution headquartered in Colorado, CoBank provides loans, leases, export financing and other financial services to agribusinesses and rural power, water and communications providers in 50 states. Thanks to CoBank's generous support, the CU Denver Business School is able to provide relevant education and training for business leaders of tomorrow.
  • The Piton Foundation: The foundation's mission is to provide opportunities for children and their families to move from poverty and dependence to self-reliance. It has invested in numerous CU programs toward this end, beginning with a grant of $500,000 in 1981 to support the centers at the School of Public Affairs. Today, The Piton Foundation continues to work with the university to help a generation of children thrive and succeed.
  • Donald A. Bennallack, M.D.: A member of the CU School of Medicine class of 1950, Bennallack worked his way through school with many jobs. He thought himself fortunate compared to a classmate who had to drop out of school for lack of money. Now he is giving back through a bequest that will provide scholarships for CU's medical students.

Carl "Spike" Eklund, chair of the CU Foundation Board of Directors, introduced Bennallack, noting that in his 36 years of Ob/Gyn practice the doctor delivered thousands of Colorado babies, "including all three of ours! (he and his wife, Nan)." The audience gave Bennallack, 88, a standing ovation as he walked to the podium.

Bennallack said he's been a lucky man. "In practice I was lucky to have wonderful patients. Since I've been retired I've been lucky -- I have wonderful friends. Some are here this evening," he said. "I wish all of you some good luck, good health and happiness in your futures."

Other dignitaries included current regents Michael Carrigan (chair), Sue Sharkey (vice chair), Steve Bosley and Irene Griego, former CU President Judith Albino and current CU Foundation President Rick Lawrence.