Sitting on a Navy ship, Richard "Dick" Engebretson held a sealed envelope in his hands from the University of Colorado Boulder.
Three years earlier, in 1967, he was a struggling student at the University of Minnesota with a penchant for beer and a 2.06 GPA. After graduation, with a good chance of being drafted into the Vietnam War, Dick joined the Navy and eventually became an officer in charge of 70 men on a repair ship—all at 25 years old. But as his three-year commitment neared an end, he told the captain that he'd be leaving the Navy to pursue a career in the business world.
And now he was shaking, envelope in hand, as he held what could be an acceptance to the MBA program at CU Boulder and would surely change his life one way or the other. Only his poor performance as an undergrad stood in his way. But Engebretson was undeterred, writing the CU admissions staff multiple letters while aboard his ship: "Give me a chance! I'm a changed man!"
CU Boulder gave him a chance.
"I was admitted on probation, but I was in," Dick said.
Not only was Engebretson in, but he also thrived while at CU. He earned his MBA in 1972 and graduated near the top of his class. He went on to have a successful 35-year business career in real estate, then trade shows and media. He also met and married his wife, Jean, who earned her master's degree in 1976 from the School of Education at CU Boulder.
"So what do you do when something as fortuitous as this happens? You give back," said Dick, still grateful today for all that CU has given him.
The couple are longtime supporters of CU, especially the business school (now named the Leeds School of Business). The quadrangle west of the Koelbel Building, which houses the school, was named in honor of the Engebretsons who made a gift to the 2007 expansion of the original building. A classroom inside the building bears Jean's name and a plaque about their commitment to education, and Dick named a conference room after one of his MBA professors, the late P. John Lymberopoulos.
Before they expanded their support across the business school, the couple made a planned gift to CU. Through their will, they established a bequest to increase their support for both their endowed graduate fellowship and the Dean's Fund at the Leeds School of Business. The Dean's Fund allows the school's leaders, now and in the future, access to flexible funding to create and support the best learning environment. Endowed graduate fellowships allow CU to be more competitive to attract and retain top students.
The Engebretsons are proof that CU donors can choose how to give back to their alma mater in the ways that work for their timeline and their lifestyle.
"A little help can make a big difference," Dick said. "Being a donor, and especially a legacy donor, just feels so good. It makes us feel that our lives have a purpose. And why not enjoy that feeling when you're here and healthy, knowing that when you're gone your money is going to do some good?"
Dick said that his philanthropic support of CU has only deepened his love for the university. He encouraged others to stay in touch with the university and consider how they can support CU in a way that aligns with their values and interests.