Published: Sept. 5, 2018 By

Legacy endowments for both music and international-affairs students reflect Courtney Rowe’s values and her work

After spending considerable effort trying to stay in Boulder for the long term, Courtney Rowe has also found a way to leave a little bit of herself behind when she’s gone—long gone.

“Well, hopefully I’m not going anywhere soon,” said Rowe, 36, who was recently promoted to assistant dean for the University of Colorado Boulder’s College of Music advancement team. “I spent my entire life being here, seeking a way to get here or trying to get back here.”

But when she’s no longer here—literally, figuratively and existentially—there will still be some of Rowe left behind, as she has set up legacy endowments benefitting both the College of Music and the International Affairs Program Global Grants program. Rowe studied and graduated with a degree in international affairs, and her family already has an endowment at the College of Music. She said the reason she pursued a legacy endowment was simple.

“Being in my line of work, in advancement, I know the importance of sharing your gift expectations,” said Rowe, who used her university life-insurance policy to set up the two $25,000, grants.


Courtney Rowe and her mother, Peg Rowe.

“It’s super easy if you are an employee here, which is awesome. You can do it yourself or with an advancement professional,” she said. “I can tell potential donors, ‘See, if I can do it, you can do it. It’s easy.’”

Rowe, who originally hailed from the Chicago suburb of Lake Forest, Illinois, first came to CU Boulder at the age of 15, visiting a friend who lived in Sewall Hall. Returning home and meeting with her mother at the airport, Rowe proclaimed that Boulder was the one and only place for her university studies. Her mother, Peg Rowe, who completed some of her graduate studies at Colorado State University, was sympathetic.

Courtney Rowe, however, did defer her enrollment here to study at Richmond, the American International University in London. Perceiving that she would probably be more focused on her course work in Boulder, she returned to her original plan to study international affairs at CU Boulder, where she attended from 2002 to 2006.

She took advantage of the global affairs program to work in Ghana, where she developed a profound respect for what a “boots-on-the-ground” experience can mean for students of international affairs. Her legacy gift will enable such experiences for students who come after her.

“It was eye-opening in a brutally real way for me—I was going to make a huge impact as young idealist going there,” she said. “But there is so much that is so much bigger than you are.  You see the colossal scale of some of these crises and how big the solutions have to be, and what isn’t working.”

“It’s a real-world experience you really need to see. You see how to be part of the solution.”

After her international experience, Rowe returned to the Chicago area, where she held similar fundraising posts, but her eye was still on Boulder. In 2014, she was part of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago’s (MCA) development team that raised support for “David Bowie Is,” the international exhibition celebrating five decades of music, art, and fashion from the pop icon’s personal archives.

Her rise in the Office of Advancement has been a bit meteoric, working the Music+campaign, the $50 million fundraising effort for the College of Music’s 100th annual celebration in 2020. She was originally hired as an assistant director of development in 2015, promoted to director, and then served as the interim assistant dean before taking the office officially in June of this year.

“This is my dream job,” said Rowe, “I have no intention of going anywhere (literally or figuratively) soon.”

Taking control of a $50 million fundraising effort is a fairly tall order, but Rowe already has a great deal of experience working with donors for the College of Music and Colorado Shakespeare Festival. Her mother, Peg, also set up a legacy gift for her own mother, Margaret Steed, a gifted and avid violinist who was never offered the opportunity to further her music education.

“My grandmother was the musician in the family, but she wasn’t able to pursue it as a career while raising a family,” said Rowe, noting her own legacy gift will also honor her grandmother.  “She played in a string quartet until she was too sick to continue. The quartet played at her funeral with an empty chair and her violin sitting on it.”