$4.75 Million in Gifts Make Late Boulderite Largest-Ever Individual Donor to CU Buffs

Published: June 26, 2009

Louise Bennett Reed, who passed away at age 103 last June, gave gifts totaling more than $4.75 million for University of Colorado at Boulder athletic scholarships, making her the largest individual donor to the CU-Boulder Athletics department.

The gifts will benefit the Louise Bennett Reed Scholarship Fund for football and men's and women's basketball, funding as many as 10 full scholarships each year in those sports in perpetuity.

"We are honored and touched by the historic generosity of Louise Bennett Reed, whose lifetime dedication to mentoring young people will live on to benefit the core mission of scholarships for CU male and female student-athletes for generations to come," said CU-Boulder director of athletics Mike Bohn.

The gifts are all the more remarkable because Reed -- who took CU-Boulder summer courses in 1929 but earned bachelor's and master's degrees elsewhere -- did not primarily develop her interest in CU-Boulder Athletics until her retirement.

But she made up for lost time quickly, volunteering as an academic adviser and career counselor for Buffs football players, and as an ardent supporter of CU-Boulder football and basketball teams since the early 1970s. She was a particular fan of the tenure of former head football coach Bill McCartney in the 1980s and early 1990s.

For a time, she had a designated parking space at the stadium, and a Buffs basketball player would escort her to her box seat. A news article commemorating her 100th birthday noted that the wall of her room at Boulder's Frasier Meadows retirement home, where she lived her final years, featured a large picture of the CU mascot Ralphie and another photo signed by various CU Buffs.

Born in a mining camp outside Redstone, Colo., in 1905, Reed's family home was in Boulder's Chautauqua area, where several neighbors were prominent CU-Boulder administrators and faculty. Her father and brother-in-law operated the Black Diamond Mine, a productive Lafayette coal mine. Reed had a successful teaching career, most significantly at California State University, Long Beach, where she counseled students and taught commercial science and business courses.

But Reed had always loved athletics. A passion for skiing inspired her to teach for a period in Telluride, where she was paid in gold nuggets. And she coached women's high school basketball in Erie in the 1930s, leading her team to the state championships.

She also was known for her love of bridge and travel, and for a conservative, even frugal, approach to finances. A family friend recalled that when she held a garage sale after selling her Chautauqua home, one of the sale items was a half box of toothpicks, listed for a nickel. She was an attentive investor of the funds that comprised the proceeds from the mine, handwriting stock portfolio instructions well into her 90s.

CU-Boulder Athletics was the sole beneficiary of Reed's estate; she had no surviving immediate family members. The bequest and two trusts, facilitated by the CU Foundation, come at a crucial time for CU-Boulder Athletics.

"In this turbulent economy, scholarships are a key university-wide priority, and planned gifts such as bequests are ever-important funding sources for CU programs," Bohn said. "It is powerful and inspiring when estate gifts from incredibly generous individuals leave a legacy that recognizes the importance of contributing to the development of enterprises that represent the pride of our outstanding institution."