Published: Sept. 23, 2021

Family, friends and community members from the University of Colorado Boulder and beyond will pay tribute to former Vice Chancellor for Strategic Relations Frances Draper in a memorial service at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 9. 

The service will be held at CU Boulder’s Glenn Miller Ballroom, which is located in the University Memorial Center. Light refreshments will be served at a reception to follow from 11 a.m. to noon on the South Terrace of the UMC. The service will be streamed live for those who cannot attend.  

Frances Draper

Frances Draper

Draper, a longtime Boulder resident who served both the university and the Boulder community in a variety of leadership capacities, died Sept. 1 after a long battle with cancer. She was laid to rest in her family plot in Boston last weekend. 

That Draper simply left her mark on the community would be a massive understatement, say CU colleagues.

“Frances always looked for ways that were a win-win situation for everybody at the table,” said CU Boulder Chancellor Philip DiStefano. “She understood the purpose of bringing people with diverse backgrounds together. Without Frances and her leadership, we would not be where we are today.”

Jon Leslie, senior associate vice chancellor and chief communications officer, served under Draper for her entire tenure at CU Boulder.

“I cannot express the depth of Frances’ positive influence on me as a leader, mentor and friend,” said Leslie. “I will always admire her strength, candor, humor and ability to find mutual benefit and a path toward mutual goals. I loved working for her and learning from her, and I miss her very much. She leaves an indelible legacy at CU and in Boulder, and we are all better for her many contributions to improving our campus and our community.” 

Draper not only had a talent for mentorship and management, she was the proverbial “straight shooter” who told it like it was, often via colorful and memorable expressions. 

Getting organized was “getting our poop in a group.” Being transparent meant being “open kimono.” A win-win situation—Draper’s objective in nearly all the projects she managed—was expressed as “there’s a pony in here for everyone.” 

Draper helmed CU’s Office of Strategic Relations and Communications (SRC) from 2011 to 2019, where she led a team that transformed CU Boulder’s brand to make the campus a top destination for Colorado, U.S. and global undergraduates. 

She also led efforts to improve the university’s crisis and issues management, instill a metrics-driven culture, strengthen SRC’s partnerships with CU Boulder’s colleges and schools, and perhaps above all, make the campus a more trusted working partner with the city of Boulder and its community partners. 

“She made CU Boulder’s team a leading higher education communications organization, and did more to cement the town-gown relationship than any CU leader ever has, in my opinion,” said Leslie. 

At the Sept. 14 City Council meeting to take the next steps in approving the CU Boulder South project, which Draper shepherded on behalf of CU Boulder for several years, DiStefano honored Draper for her singular role in helping the council and CU come together on a shared future for the land parcel. 

John Tayer, president and CEO of the Boulder Chamber of Commerce and a partner with Draper in community economic work, said she had “a unique way of cutting to the chase in every discussion—breaking impasses by helping everyone recognize that though they come to the table with differences, there are core goals we’re all trying to achieve.”

“Frances recognized that we all need to work together from a community, university, and business community perspective to address the greatest challenges we face,” he said. 

At the Boulder Economic Council (2006–11), Draper established the organization’s annual Boulder Economic Forecast event and the Boulder Economic Summit. She was a key figure in establishing CO-Labs, a consortium of Colorado-based research laboratories.

Besides her roles at CU Boulder and at the Boulder Economic Council, Draper worked as a legislative assistant for United States Sen. Harrison “Jack” Schmitt (R-New Mexico), as well as in banking, risk management and managing the Sun Microsystems business and finance line at General Electric. 

She was recognized many times over the years for her leadership, including the Boulder Chamber of Commerce’s Women Who Light The Community Award (2019) and its Businessperson of the Year (2013).

A native of Bridgeport, Connecticut, who was raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Draper earned a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University in 1978 and a master’s degree from the University of California at Berkeley in 1982. She is survived by her husband, Michael Minard, of Boulder; son Karl Kumli, his wife Justine Fallon and their daughter Breck Fallon; her daughter Anneka Kumli-Dole and her husband Thomas Dole; her stepson Antone Minard and his husband Mathew Parry; her brother John Draper and his wife Lucy Draper; her brother Charles Draper and extended family members.

In lieu of sending flowers, Draper’s family asks that friends and mourners consider donating in her name to local charities that include the Boulder Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Non-violence; Boulder Women’s Health and the Emergency Family Assistance Association

With previous reporting from Deborah Mendez Wilson.