By Published: July 18, 2022

Former arts and sciences dean endows new scholarship to help students in financial need

Like many American kids, Peter Spear started his cycling “career” by pedaling around his own neighborhood with friends. Decades later, he’s fused his love of cycling with his desire to help students, and the result is a new scholarship tied to the college’s annual cycling event, which supports high-achieving students in financial need.

As an adult, he mostly engaged in “casual road cycling” until 1996, when he left his job as professor and associate dean at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to become dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder.

“I really got into mountain biking when I moved to Boulder,” Spear says.

Peter Spear and his bike

At the top of the page: The Elevations Credit Union Buffalo Bicycle Classic is an annual event that supports scholarships in the College of Arts and Sciences at CU Boulder. Above: Peter Spear, the former dean of the college, has endowed a new BBC scholarship.

He served as dean until 2001, when he returned to serve as provost at UW-Madison. But after he retired in 2010, he headed back to Boulder where, he says, “I got more seriously into road biking.”

A dozen years later, Spear rides 3,000 to 4,000 miles a year, typically racking up 75 to 100 miles on three weekly rides—two with a group, one solo. Sometimes he rides the flats, but often he’s tackling the kind of climbing you won’t find in Wisconsin (where the average elevation is just over 1,000 feet, with a high point of 1,900 feet, compared to 6,800 and 14,400-plus, respectively, in Colorado).

Sometimes the ride is chill enough, such as “fruit loops,” about a 40-mile route with its midpoint on Apple Valley Road in Lyons, north of Boulder. Other times it’s a crank up to Jamestown, Raymond or even Ward, at over 9,000 feet.

“It’s how I keep in shape,” Spear says. “I’m an old guy, 78!”

And every year since returning to Boulder, he’s ridden the Elevations Credit Union Buffalo Bicycle Classic (BBC), which supports scholarships for Colorado students with high academic merit who demonstrate strong financial need.

The BBC has raised more than $4 million to support scholarships since its founding in 2003 supporting more than 425 students.

“I really like the BBC because it supports high-need, high-merit students in the college where I served as dean,” says Spear, who has contributed not just through his annual registration fees, but also his annual donations. 

In 2021, he decided to make a lasting difference through the creation of an endowed BBC scholarship to distribute support for a student annually in perpetuity.

“Last year my wife said, ‘You know, you make a donation every year significantly larger than the entrance fee. Why don’t you donate $25,000 to create an endowment and forever spin off $1,000 a year for a scholarship,” Spear says. “I thought, ‘Wow, that’s a terrific idea.’ Fortunately, we are in a position to do that.”

Seleny Banuelos of Denver received the first scholarship from the endowment in 2022.

The scholarship combines Spear’s passion for cycling and his philanthropic goal of helping students in financial need—and he’d like to see other dedicated BBC riders follow his example.

“I think a lot of people who ride every year make a contribution beyond the entrance fee, and if they are able, this is just a wonderful way to continue supporting students even after you are gone,” he says.

This year’s Buffalo Bicycle Classic, scheduled for Sept. 11, offers nine courses, ranging from the 14-mile Little Buff to the 100-mile, 4,000-foot Century and 59-mile Dirty Epic mountain-bike course. Learn more or sign up here.