Helping veterans find a community on campus
After serving in the Navy during the 1970s, the GI Bill helped Mike Oldham go from the Navy to being a first-generation college graduate. Now he and his family are paying it forward, making sure military service members and veterans at CU are supported in their academic pursuits.
Mike made a planned gift to make beneficiary designations in his IRA to support the Office of Veterans and Military Affairs at CU Boulder. He remembers the challenges facing service members when they transition from military to university life.
“I grew up in Missouri, and, frankly, my family didn’t have the resources to pay for an advanced education. I had two younger siblings and two older siblings,” says Mike, the CEO and managing partner of a Denver-area management consulting firm. “Funding for college wasn’t even something that could be discussed. We were focused on day-to-day necessities.”
That said, his father, uncles and coaches served in the military, and Mike greatly respected them and their service. After high school, he joined the Navy where he served his active duty aboard the USS Okinawa LPH 3 and then in the reserves during college.
Military service provided Mike with a pathway to earn a college degree. The GI Bill, which provides educational assistance to service members, veterans and their dependents, helped Mike attend college in his hometown, but it was collegiate athletics that gave him a community.
“I came back to campus, and over the last three years I had grown up a lot and had traveled to a number of countries. I was more serious and mature with different life experiences than the typical college student,” he says. “It’s just harder to blend right into the fabric of campus life.”
When he joined the college wrestling team, which had several veteran members, Mike felt like he belonged. Military veterans continue to face the challenge of finding connection when they come to college, and Mike wants to help others find their community on campus.
After earning his MBA at the Leeds School of Business at CU Boulder, Mike went on to lead a 30-year career in a number of software, broadcast media and internet-focused technology companies, real estate development and entrepreneurial endeavors. As he reflected on which experiences made the biggest impact on his life, Mike says it was his military service and attending college, and it was there he wanted to make a difference.
The “a-ha!” moment came when Mike became involved with the Office of Veterans and Military Affairs; last year the office moved into the new Center for Academic Success and Engagement Building at CU Boulder. Mike and his wife, Kathy Standage, whose own father was a career Air Force officer, were impressed with the staff and the mission, and they knew a planned gift could allow CU to help even more veterans.
“Planning a significant investment in CU was a great experience for me…As I looked around campus, there were lots of places to invest in. But it had to be something I could have an impact on and have a personal connection to,” Mike says. “The development team gave me the time and information I needed to sort out what would be meaningful for me and my family.”
Mike encourages CU alumni to reflect on their time at CU and give back to something meaningful.
“To me, this is making an investment, it’s not a gift. It’s an investment that will pay off in the long term,” Mike says. “I have absolutely no regrets about my decision. I hope this is just the start. If I’m around in 20 or 30 years, I hope I can do more. I feel great about what I’ve done so far, but I feel like there’s still a lot more impact that our family can have.”