Humanitarian, lifelong student of people, politics memorialized in scholarship
It’s no surprise that Tracey Kreps enjoyed a successful career in the financial sector. As a boy, he was so good at Monopoly that he played proxy to his parents and other siblings, advising them on how to best invest their real-estate porfolios. To him, winning was less important than helping others succeed.
“From very early on, he had an aptitude for economics,” says Jennifer Brundage, Kreps’ wife. He also had a lifelong desire to help others and a passion for political science.
Political science is the degree that Kreps earned from the University of Colorado Boulder in 1993. And it’s for that interest which Kreps, who passed away last April at the age of 45, is memorialized in the newly renovated Ketchum Arts and Sciences Building.After his death, Kreps’ friends and family raised funds to name a Ketchum office in Kreps’ memory. The funds themselves established the Tracey Kreps Memorial Scholarship, which will support students who show wide-ranging intellectual curiosity and great academic promise.
The beneficiaries will be much like Tracey Kreps himself, Brundage notes, adding that establishing the scholarship is a fitting way to memorialize a man who went—or rode—the extra mile to help others, mentoring younger colleagues, volunteering at food banks, joining charity bike rides.
She graduated from CU Boulder with a degree in French in 1991, then lived abroad for a year. When she returned, she took a job in the scheduling office of the University Memorial Center.
There she met Kreps, then a member of student government, a choir singer and a leader of the debate club. As Kreps scheduled rooms for a debate series, he quizzed Brundage about topics its members should debate.
From the beginning, she found him to be “scary smart” and very generous. Soon, Brundage was on the “best first date I’ve ever had in my life.” During the evening, Kreps got his ear pierced, and the couple visited a grocery store’s produce aisle, where Kreps showed off his “party trick”: juggling, in this case green peppers.
After graduation, Kreps worked in the Washington, D.C., office of former U.S. Rep. David Skaggs, a Democrat from Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District, and later the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission.
The scholarships will go to those whose research and work in the program exhibit the drive, interest and curiosity Tracey Kreps embodied as a political science major at CU and as an alum."
Those were not lucrative jobs, and work in Washington, D.C., can be intermittent. Kreps and Brundage moved to New York, and he began working on Wall Street. In 2009, he earned an MBA from Georgetown University, and he worked his way into a role that suited his strengths: analyzing companies and markets from the “biggest-picture context way,” she observes.
He retained his deep interest in politics and was an omnivorous consumer of news—from The Wall Street Journal, the Economist, China Daily and Fox News—striving to understand issues from many perspectives. During long walks, he listened to podcasts from the Economist.
The knowledge he gained from this pastime, along with his abiding interest in people, helped him strike up conversations with strangers worldwide.
When the couple visited the Topkapi Palace Museum in Istanbul, Turkey, Kreps stayed outside while Brundage checked out the museum shop. When she emerged after a half-hour, Kreps was surrounded by women, many of them gesticulating enthusiastically.Kreps told Brundage, “You have to meet my new friends. They’re visiting from Iran.” The American and Iranians agreed they had more in common than they had in differences. He “friended” them on Facebook and invited them to visit when they came to Washington, D.C.
Similarly, when the couple attended company parties, Kreps gravitated toward the employees who worked the phones as opposed to the movers and shakers who might have been viewed as Kreps’ peers.
“That was a great lesson that he taught me,” Brundage says. “He was so democratic in the way he dealt with other people.”
He eagerly served as a mentor to younger professionals around the world, from China, Mali, England and beyond. “He thrived doing that and was great at it,” Brundage observes.
He and Brundage shared a love of the outdoors and of pushing themselves physically while outside. He was a cyclist and joined many fund-raising rides. Shortly after taking up running, he ran the Bolder Boulder 10K footrace, then a half-marathon.
They climbed Colorado fourteeners and sought out the toughest, scariest trails from Acadia National Park to Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia.After his death, friends and family chose to memorialize Kreps with a scholarship and a room named in his honor. Noting the difficulty in undertaking such a project in the wake of a spouse’s death, Brundage also acknowledges satisfaction:
“It’s the kind of thing he would have done. He was a very, very generous soul.”
David S. Brown, professor and chair of political science at CU Boulder, says the memorial scholarship “honors a man who had an insatiable intellectual curiosity and a generosity to help those around him develop their own thirst for knowledge.”
Each year, the scholarship will be given to one or two undergraduates in the department’s undergraduate-fellows program.
“The scholarships will go to those whose research and work in the program exhibit the drive, interest and curiosity Tracey Kreps embodied as a political science major at CU and as an alum,” Brown observes.
“This is a model of education we want to pursue as a department: engaging our students so that they can explore their interests and passions while developing important skills for a lifetime of inquiry and engagement,” Brown says, adding, “The scholarships are the kind of resources the department needs to provide our students with those skills.”