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COVID-19: News and Campus Updates

A Year of Generous Support

Steinway piano photo

January 11, 2022

Over the past year, University of Northern Colorado alumni and friends gave generously in many ways, supporting student success with scholarships, new and upgraded facilities, state-of-the-art musical instruments, and diversity, equity and inclusion training and support. Overall, UNC received more than $8.5 million in philanthropic support with 6,386 gifts for the 2021 calendar year. 

Here are some of the highlights and milestones for 2021: 

2021 marked 20 years for UNC’s Stryker Institute for Leadership Development. Established in 2001 with a $1.25 million gift from UNC alumna Ronda Stryker ’76, the Stryker Institute offers scholarships and leadership training as a participation-based scholarship program. It serves women from underrepresented groups and supports scholars in their identity and leadership development. Stryker has since contributed more than $11 million to the program with an additional $4 million pledged over the next several years.  To date, the program has transformed the lives of 524 Stryker scholars and rippled out to the countless lives they’ve touched with their work.  

The Reisher Scholar program also celebrated 20 years this year, helping more than 456 Reisher Scholars at UNC since 2001. The program provides students midway through college with the financial support to complete their undergraduate degree. Awards range from $4,000 to $11,000 per year. Each group of students admitted to the Reisher program joins a cohort of seven to 15 students from their graduating class. With two cohorts each year, the program contributes roughly $500,000 to UNC students annually.  

UNC was named an All-Steinway School  with the arrival of 96 new Steinway and Steinway-designed Boston pianos, almost entirely funded by gifts to the university. As a result, UNC is Colorado’s only publicly funded institution of higher education with the prestigious All-Steinway School designation, and one of fewer than 200 institutions worldwide to attain the designation.  

Bear athletes also benefited from scholarship support and two big facility upgrades — new turf, generously funded by a donor in partnership with Academy Sports Turf; and the Empower Center, UNC’s new sport performance center. 

“The new turf means a lot,” Head Football Coach Ed McCaffrey said. “We have a consistent playing surface that doesn’t need to be maintained a lot throughout the year. The grass field we had undulated in places and was uneven, and the new turf provides a safe and level playing field that will look great.” 

The new Empower Center (named by lead donors John ’84 and Angela ’89 Schmidt) is UNC’s first fully donor-funded campus building. Construction started in spring 2021, and the $4 million, 10,250 square-foot facility is expected to be ready this spring. It more than doubles the space used in the previous facility and features a spacious weight room, new equipment, enhanced nutrition station, and offices for the strength and conditioning staff. 

In April, walkers and sponsors raised more than $22,000 for UNC’s female student-athletes by participating in the 13th annual  Women’s Walk. Over the past 13 years, more than 4,000 participants have made a difference for female-student athletes by raising more than $460,000.  

In September, after a highly competitive grant process, UNC was selected as a recipient of an $850,000  Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative (COSI) Back to Work grant. The funding will provide new career paths for workers displaced by the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic while also addressing the need for teachers in Colorado’s classrooms. As the state-designated teacher preparation college for Colorado, UNC is uniquely positioned to focus on strengthening Colorado’s teaching workforce, a sector that was already experiencing shortages before the pandemic. The university will use the funding, which includes $600,000 in financial support for students, $225,000 for “wrap-around” student support services, and $25,000 for outreach and recruitment efforts, to expand their innovative Center for Urban Education (CUE) program. 

For fiscal year 2021, generous UNC donors gifted more than $925,000 in support of newly established scholarships that support diversity, equity and inclusion at UNC.   

Greeley-based brewery WeldWerks Brewing Co. launched a rotating series of philanthropic IPAs that will support local non-profit partners. The inaugural IPA — 10K IPA: Unite Edition — will support UNC’s Understanding and Navigating Inclusion Through Education (UNITE) program, which promotes diversity, equity and inclusion at UNC. WeldWerks also established the WeldWerks Diversity Scholarship Endowment containing special considerations for UNC students with diverse identities.

“There was great momentum last summer, but we didn't want these gestures to be performative. Now the important thing to do is keep the work going steadily, for the long haul,” said Jake Goodman, WeldWerks Chief Marketing Officer. “It's easy to get behind the push for something when it's the main topic of the moment, but the harder part is sustaining that effort, with authenticity and intentionality, and making these changes a more substantial part of our culture, both on the micro and macro levels. Our hope is that this endowment will be a small part of making Greeley and Weld County a more diverse and welcoming place for years to come.” 

Bears Pay it Forward 

Many generous alumni contributed to UNC in 2021, opening doors and making a college degree a reality for Bears from all walks of life.  

 Molly Burich, who graduated from UNC in 2005 with a degree in Political Science, leads the health policy team for Otsuka America Pharmaceuticals in New Jersey. She says her experience at UNC helped her follow a career path she loves.  

“My love of policy was sort of born and cultivated at UNC in the Political Science department,” she says. To help other UNC Political Science majors she established the Molly Burich Political Science Scholarship Endowment, to be awarded to junior or senior Political Science majors, with a preference for female students. 

I always knew that I wanted to be able to give back to UNC and started relatively early, as soon as I could. For me, it's a way to give back to a wonderful department that really shaped my life and my career trajectory.” 

For alumna Lori (Garcia) Sadler ’67 and her husband Woody Sadler, establishing a scholarship endowment for students enrolled in the Marine Corps Platoon Leaders Course (PLC) or a Marine Corps program at UNC, was an opportunity to continue a lifetime of service to others. 

The Sadlers both had long and distinguished military careers, and in 1989 Lori became the first Hispanic woman to be promoted to Colonel in the United States Marine Corps. Both retired from the USMC as Colonels and Lori was recognized with UNC’s Honored Alumni “Trail Blazer” award in 1999. She remembers some of the financial struggles students face.    

“I had two really good friends who were not from Greeley, attending UNC with me. I was living at home,” she says. “I can remember they came over for dinner and my parents fed us. They had been living on cans of corn for a few days. It was a struggle for a lot of kids. I would like to be able to help so that (students) don't have to subsist on corn for a week.”   

Retired educators and UNC alumni Robert ’62, ’81 and Sharon (Widdifield) Baldwin ’62, ’79, EdD ’84 found a way to continue to impact the lives of Colorado students beyond their years spent at the front of the classroom. They established the Robert C. and Sharon L. Baldwin Math and Science Scholarship for female students from rural Colorado majoring in math or science at UNC. It’s their hope that the scholarship will encourage future generations of young women to expand their educational possibilities and career paths. 

“I thought there may be another girl from a small town like Limon, Hugo or Eads on the eastern Colorado plains, who was thinking about majoring in math or science. Then our scholarship would be of some assistance,” said Sharon. 

“Maybe these kids will look back and do the same thing,” Rob says. “Maybe they’ll support a college or university somewhere and continue to help more students.  

Late alumna Janet “Chris” Lofgren ’58 gifted a portion of her estate to create a legacy in honor of her father, Richard Lofgren ’31, to support undergraduate Chemistry students at UNC.  

The Lofgren estate gift established the Lofgren Scholars for Undergraduate Chemistry Research at UNC, an endowment that will provide a sustainable source of funding for faculty-mentored chemistry student research projects.  

“To show the scholarship of what they have accomplished in the research lab to the community and fellow students is going to influence other students who are interested in STEM,” said Hua Zhao, Ph.D., Professor and Chair, UNC Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. “This research experience is going to have a huge impact on students and prepare them well in summer, so they can go on to an advanced degree.”