Boulder business owner Chuck Palmer (ElEngr’76, MS’88) has provided $4 million to help recruit and recognize outstanding faculty in the College of Engineering and Applied Science and the Department of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering (ECEE).

The gift from Palmer, who owns Boulder’s Avalon Ballroom, will establish the Palmer Endowed Chair in Engineering and the Palmer Endowed Chair in Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering. The first of these chairs has been awarded to Kurt Maute, professor of Aerospace Engineering Sciences, and the second is being used to help attract a new faculty member to ECEE.

“These chairs will help us recruit, retain and support outstanding faculty members who are among the best in the nation, and they in turn will bring new resources to support students and research,” said Robert H. Davis, dean and Tisone Endowed Chair of the College of Engineering and Applied Science. “We are extremely grateful to Chuck Palmer for his long-term support and vision to help our college excel.”

Palmer doesn’t intend for these gifts to be his last. He has established an investment fund with the CU Foundation that will continue to grow, and he hopes to continue supporting CU Boulder engineering students and faculty in the future. Palmer also provides a scholarship fund for engineering undergraduates named after longtime ECEE professor Ivar Pearson, whose classes he remembers fondly.

“He was a first-year electrical engineering professor and one of those people who was a joy to take classes from,” he said. “You learned, but you also didn’t fall asleep.”

While Palmer began his master’s studies at Arizona State University, it was the research being done by faculty that drew him back to CU Boulder.

“When I came here for grad school and talked to a few different professors about their projects, I decided I would rather be doing any of that than what I was doing,” he said. Working under advisor Jim Avery, Palmer designed a digital signal processing board that would help undergraduate students test algorithms on a personal computer. 

After completing his master’s degree, Palmer said he came close to moving to Boston, but decided he didn’t want to leave Boulder. In addition to enjoying the hiking and skiing opportunities in Colorado, he had also become involved in the local social dance community in Boulder, through which he met his wife, Halina.

Through his involvement in a long-range planning committee, he purchased the building that would become the Avalon Ballroom, where he currently puts his engineering skills to work. He did the CAD drawings and design for the ballroom, and continues to oversee contractors and volunteers on improvements to the space.

“We installed the floor and then started dancing,” Palmer said. “So the ballroom still needs a proper ceiling and walls.”