Alumnus Pledges $1.5 Million to Support Distinctive Faculty Position

July 28, 2014

Steve Hillard ('76) knew he wasn't done giving back to the University of Colorado Law School. He had donated generously to the capital campaign for the Wolf Law Building, but he had bigger plans.

"I had a still-unfulfilled obligation to Colorado Law," said Hillard. "I am humbled by the fact that I have had some success in my career, and I definitely believe in giving back."

Hillard’s career path since law school has taken a number of different twists and turns, moving from a Colorado Supreme Court clerkship into private practice in Alaska and then into business ventures nationwide. In 1998, he founded Council Tree Investors, a private equity investment firm focusing primarily in telecommunications. In February, when Hillard was in Boulder for a Colorado Law telecommunications conference, he met with Dean Phil Weiser to discuss his interest in giving back.

"Diversity is important to me and always had been," said Hillard. "Empowerment, enablement, entrepreneurship—those are my buzzwords. I just wasn’t sure how that translated into a meaningful gift."

Over the following months, Hillard and Weiser discussed a new type of professorship—one focused on the professor's proactive relationship with students, rather than the subject matter taught. That was the birth of the Council Tree Professorship, which will be awarded to a law faculty member who contributes to the success of students through active mentorship, hands-on engagement, and a commitment to supporting diversity. Hillard has pledged $1.5 million to endow this new professorship at Colorado Law.

In 2013, the law school launched the Campaign for Colorado Law’s Future. It is an ambitious, ongoing effort to raise $40 million for scholarships, professorships, loan repayment assistance, and programs.

Professorships are particularly important because they help the law school recruit and retain top faculty. "The Council Tree Professorship is a wonderful gift to Colorado Law," said Weiser. "It will be awarded to faculty members who truly engage with students and help launch them into successful careers. These are the professors we need to attract and keep."

Hillard had this message for current and future Colorado Law students: "This is your chance to really learn some of these basics, these skills, these perspectives. Don't squander or shortchange it. Your law degree will be a wonderful ticket to do just about anything. I hope the Council Tree Professorship adds a little something to your path."

Hillard currently lives in San Antonio, Texas, with his wife, Sharmaine. He grew up in Grand Junction and visits Colorado frequently.