2018 Distinguished Alumni

Illustrations by Lauren Crow

Each year, our Alumni Association honors Colorado State alumni and friends who have brought honor to the University by excelling in their professions and giving back to their industries, communities, and the institution. The Distinguished Alumni Awards celebration was Oct. 11, 2018, during Homecoming and Family Weekend. We are pleased to congratulate the most recent honorees and to share excerpts of their acceptance remarks.

Kim Jordan

Kim Jordan

Attended in the ’80s, majoring in social work

William E. Morgan Alumni Achievement Award, the Alumni Association’s highest honor, for alumni who have excelled at the national and international levels

She started as a social worker.

But in 1991, Kim Jordan took a risk on a business idea and co-founded New Belgium Brewing Co. At the time, microbreweries were a little-known sector of the U.S. beer industry. The enterprise that began in her Fort Collins basement has since grown into the nation’s fourth-largest craft brewer and 11th-largest U.S. brewer overall. Arising from a hobby – and inspired by a bicycling tour of Belgium – the company independently operates breweries in Fort Collins and Asheville, N.C., selling beer in all 50 states and six foreign countries.

Jordan’s company, with its flagship Fat Tire Amber Ale, is remarkable for more than its products: New Belgium is 100-percent employee owned and is a leader in environmental sustainability and corporate social responsibility. Here, clean energy isn’t just a business practice; it’s a lifestyle and a community ideal – as exuberantly displayed during New Belgium Tour de Fat bike parades.

Jordan, known as the most successful woman in American craft brewing, has built her business based on personal convictions.

“One of the amazing and happy surprises of being an entrepreneur and a business founder is that you get to choose your path. You get to decide what matters to you,” Jordan said at the Distinguished Alumni Awards ceremony. “That’s been an unbelievable gift for me.”

Jordan, who serves as chair of the New Belgium board of directors and oversees the company’s long-term strategy, is also a dedicated philanthropist. She started the New Belgium Family Foundation with her sons and has significantly contributed to CSU Athletics and the CSU Fermentation Science and Technology program. The New Belgium Porch at Canvas Stadium is an enormously popular gathering spot for Rams fans.

Jordan also contributes as secretary of the Board of Governors of the Colorado State University System.

“It’s been a rich, wonderful, surprise of a life and there’s so much more to come.” – Kim Jordan

Norm and Ann Jorgenson

Dr. Norm and Ann Jorgensen

Norm earned a B.S. in Veterinary Science, ’77, and a D.V.M., ’80

Jim and Nadine Henry Award, for extraordinary service to Colorado State University and its academic, athletics, and alumni programs

Their relationship got off to a shaky start when Norm and Ann Jorgensen started dating in the 1980s, while living near Denver. He was a young veterinarian. She was a flight attendant. And he made the error of inviting her on two separate occasions to football games at his alma mater.

“She didn’t know what CSU was, and she didn’t really like football,” Norm laughingly recalled at the Distinguished Alumni Awards ceremony. “So I got turned down on both those first dates. But I switched gears and asked her out on a bike ride, and lo and behold things developed into what we have.”

Three decades later, the Jorgensens were among the first major donors to Canvas Stadium, committing $2 million to the football complex and cementing their status as stalwart supporters of CSU Athletics. Yes, Ann came around to CSU football – and to volleyball, basketball, and golf, among other University programs the couple has backed.

Their interest in CSU ties to Norm’s father, Dr. Irvin Jorgensen, a Dane who graduated in 1943 from veterinary school in Copenhagen, Denmark, and sought opportunities in America after World War II and Nazi occupation of his home country. He eventually landed in Loveland, Colo., and established Jorgensen Laboratories to import specialty veterinary instruments for sale in the United States.

While attending high school in Loveland, Norm conceived his life plan: “We still had our business in our garage, and I had this goal to go to CSU vet school, practice for a while, and come back to my small family business.”

That’s exactly what he did. “The success that we’ve had has allowed us to give back to CSU,” Norm explained.

Jorgensen Laboratories, now a third-generation family business in Loveland, outgrew the garage years ago. With Norm in the role of vice president for marketing, the company has become a leading global supplier of medical instruments and equipment for the veterinary industry. Jorgensen Laboratories works with every major veterinary distributor in the United States and Canada; it has more than 40 international distributors and about 100 employees.

Through that success, the Jorgensens have supported the future of animal medicine with a gift to endow the Jorgensen Laboratories, Inc. Chair in Clinical Sciences. The donation supports a faculty position in emergency and critical care at the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

“I owe my whole business career to the education I got at CSU, so I’m very, very thankful.– Norm Jorgensen

Dennis Graham

The Hon. Dennis Graham

Earned a B.A. in Philosophy, ’68

Charles A. Lory Public Service Award, for exceptional leadership and significant contributions to the University

For 16 years, Dennis Graham worked as a judge in the Colorado Court of Appeals in Denver, providing clear, impartial, and timely resolutions to some of the state’s most complex legal cases.

When he retired last year, after a 42-year career in law, Graham had received the Denver Business Journal 2017 Judicial Excellence Award and the Denver Bar Association 2014 Judicial Excellence Award – signs this former philosophy major had become one of Colorado’s most respected jurists.

“Dennis cares deeply about the rule of law and the importance of lawyers in the community,” said Jannine Mohr, senior associate legal counsel for CSU and a former clerk for Graham. “He always comports himself with dignity and grace that have a way of elevating the profession.”

After earning his bachelor’s degree, Graham entered law school at the University of Nebraska. His studies were interrupted by three years in the Army, including a tour in Vietnam. After finishing law school in 1975, Graham returned to Colorado and clerked in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.

He then spent 26 years as a civil litigation attorney in Denver, focused on securities law and commercial transactions. In 2002, Graham was appointed to the Colorado Court of Appeals and served on the Colorado Judicial Ethics Advisory Board and the Judicial Personnel Board.

As he rose to the top of his field, Graham gave back to Colorado State as a founding member of Rams Juris Doctor, a group of alumni attorneys and judges who, among other activities, raise scholarship funds for students who plan to pursue legal careers. He has been a frequent guest speaker in classes and for the CSU Pre-Law Club. Graham also has served on the Liberal Arts Development Council, supporting the College of Liberal Art

“Dennis is committed to the next generation. He is generous with his time. He is a wonderful role model, and you can just see students thinking, ‘I want to be him someday.'” – Ann Gill, former dean, College of Liberal Arts

Zubaida Bai

Zubaida Bai

Earned an M.B.A. in Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise, ’10

Graduate of the Last Decade Award

Trained as a mechanical engineer, Bai and her husband, Habib Anwar, founded a company called ayzh. It produces inexpensive kits containing materials that improve the safety and sanitation of childbirth in Bai’s native India and nearly 20 other developing countries. The business, begun in 2012, has sold some 400,000 kits and is expanding to meet other needs in women’s reproductive health. In 2016, the United Nations named Bai a Sustainable Development Goals Pioneer.

“I found that people were using rusted tools and broken glass pieces to conduct procedures in childbirth, and that’s something that hit me really hard. I decided to join hands with my husband, and we created this $3 product based on the World Health Organization’s recommendations that today has impacted lives for over a million mothers and babies. We’re really proud and humbled to be doing that.”

Terry Nugent

Terry Nugent

Earned a B.S. in Physical Education, ’85

Distinguished Athletics Award

Nugent was a quarterback great at CSU from 1980 to 1984. After graduation, he played for two seasons in the National Football League, then entered the field of finance. He works as managing director for wealth management with the Nugent Group, an affiliate of UBS Financial Services in Denver; Barron’s has named him in its nationwide lists of top financial advisers. Nugent has avidly supported the Rams through gifts, volunteerism, and advocacy. Among other contributions, he established the Terry Nugent Football Scholarship for student-athletes.

“I love giving back to the University. I’m telling you, we’ve got it going on. It’s not measured by the wins and losses; it’s what we’re doing to encourage students and to make this the type of institution it can be. It’s about us, as a collective, representing this University in everything we do.”

Leann Saunders

Leann Saunders

Earned a B.S. in Agricultural Business, ’92, and an M.AGR. in Beef Industry Leadership, ’94

Honor Alumna, College of Agricultural Sciences

Saunders has become a woman to watch in food and agriculture especially in tracing meat through the supply chain to consumers, an essential aspect of global food safety. She is co-founder and chief operating officer of Where Food Comes From, a company based in Castle Rock, Colo., that provides third-party source verification services in North America. She has held international industry leadership roles and serves on the dean’s advisory council for the CSU College of Agricultural Sciences.

“I want to say thanks to my granddad, who, as a cattle rancher, woke up every single morning and said, ‘You know, if you just look outside your front door, there are things to be done.’ If we all live our lives with that simple phrase, there are always things to be done – and things we can personally do to make an impact.”

Arthur Valdez

Arthur Valdez

Earned a B.S. in Business Administration, ’92

Honor Alumnus, College of Business

A first-generation student from southern Colorado, Valdez is executive vice president and chief supply chain and logistics officer at Target Corp., headquartered in Minneapolis. He earlier gained leadership experience in end-to-end processes as vice president of operations for Amazon. Valdez has undertaken an overhaul of Target’s inventory management systems, aiming to get products into consumer hands with improved speed and efficiency. He is closely connected to CSU as a regular speaker for the College of Business supply chain management program and a member of the college Global Leadership Council. A passionate supporter of first-generation students, he established the Valdez First Generation Scholarship in 2014 and has since increased his financial support for students.

“It’s pretty emotional and pretty important to me that I came on this campus initially, and I wasn’t sure where my place was. But as I got into the community, I started to work on campus, and I got to meet others. I got to meet professors, the people who guided me and mentored me through the process. I really became a part of the community. … I know I fit in now, and I’m very appreciative to be in this room because, once again, I am a Ram.”

Danette Reagan

Danette Reagan

Earned a B.S. in Nutrition and Food Science, ’87

Honor Alumna, College of Health and Human Sciences

Reagan grew up north of Fort Collins as “a farm girl from the ground up.” Her father was one of the largest commercial hog producers in the region, while his daughter became one of the state’s most prominent dietitians. Reagan worked for 30 years as a registered clinical dietitian at Exempla St. Joseph Hospital in Denver. She is a dedicated donor and advocate for CSU, one of two well-known alumnae who lend their names to the University’s Kendall Reagan Nutrition Center. The center provides experiential learning for students in food science and human nutrition, is a nexus for health-related research, and offers classes and services for community residents.

“Each of us has our first family, the family we were born into. But the other family, which is just as important, is our chosen family. The wonderful people I’ve met over the years at CSU, including great friends I’m sharing this evening with tonight, are part of my chosen family. I’m truly grateful for that.”

David Freed

David Freed

Earned a B.A. in Technical Journalism, ’76

Honor Alumnus, College of Liberal Arts

A member of the CSU Media Hall of Fame, Freed is a former investigative reporter for the Los Angeles Times. He was a finalist for the 1991 Pulitzer Prize in Public Service for a series examining the impact of a high crime rate on the Los Angeles criminal justice system. Freed shared the 1993 Pulitzer Prize in Spot News Reporting for coverage of the Rodney King riots. He also reported on Operation Desert Storm, with combat-zone assignments in Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. Freed has penned six mystery-thriller novels, long-form stories for national magazines, and a number of Hollywood screenplays. He teaches each fall in the Department of Journalism and Media Communication.

“What I learned on this campus is that journalists and journalism serve a vital purpose: to maintain the vitality of our democracy and this Republic. I am very proud and very honored to help prepare the next generation of journalists to go out into the world in defense of the public’s right to know.”

Brent and Marianne Keeler

Dr. Brent and Marianne Keeler

Brent earned a B.S. in Physical Science, ’71; Marianne earned a B.S. in Biological Science, ’73

Honor Alumni, College of Natural Sciences

Through their work in medicine – and in parenting two science-minded daughters – the Keelers have become advocates for women in the sciences. Brent Keeler has practiced for many years as an obstetrician-gynecologist in the Denver area. He has served as chief of staff at The Medical Center of Aurora and president of the Colorado Medical Society. Marianne has experience on the business side, having worked in the office of the Aurora Women’s Clinic. The couple are longtime supporters of the College of Natural Sciences and its Women in Natural Sciences program, which provides networking, mentoring, and educational opportunities.

“If a society takes women and puts a lid on them, then half the talent is going away. Our daughter looked at me one day when I said that, and she said, ‘You know what, Dad? It’s more than half.’” – Brent Keeler

“This great experiment with land-grant universities was designed to give education to the common people. I’m not going to say ‘the common man,’ although I know that’s how Abraham Lincoln described it. But Lincoln’s concept for higher education is why we give, and it’s why we are Rams.” – Marianne Keeler

Bill Lance

Dr. Bill Lance

Earned an M.S. in Fisheries and Wildlife Biology, ’71, and a PH.D. in the Pathology of Wildlife Disease, ’81

Honor Alumnus, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

Lance is a veterinarian who specializes in the diseases and medical treatment of wild animals, and he puts that knowledge to use through his unique company: Wildlife Pharmaceuticals Inc. of Windsor, Colo. The company was the first to develop specialized pharmaceuticals for nondomestic species. Its products are used internationally to study and care for captive and free-ranging wild animals, such as those at zoos, research institutions, and state and national parks. Before starting his business, Lance served as a veterinary medical officer in the U.S. Air Force. For more than a decade, he was an adjunct faculty member in CSU’s Department of Clinical Sciences, teaching veterinary students about drug use in wildlife.

“Over my career in wildlife medicine, I’ve been able to handle most of the large, four-footed critters God has made. I really admire our peers in human medicine, but I feel really sorry for them. They get to work with only one species. We get all the others.”

Chris Christopher

Chris Christopher

Earned a B.S. in Electrical Engineering, ’68, and an M.S. in Electrical Engineering,  ’74

Honor Alumnus, Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering

Born and raised in Greece, Christopher immigrated to the United States on a student visa and studied electrical engineering at Colorado State University. After completing his education, Christopher joined the booming U.S. computer industry at Hewlett-Packard Co. He held a number of positions at HP over 40 years, helping boost the company to its status as an international information-technology colossus. He retired in 2008 as senior vice president and general manager of the HP desktop personal computers organization. Christopher, who lives in Lone Tree, Colo., has contributed as a donor, speaker, and adviser to the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering. He remains active in the industry as a member of the board of directors for Innosphere, Colorado’s leading technology incubator, among several other leadership roles. Chris Christopher’s full alumni profile

“Looking back at 1961, when I graduated from a rural high school with no English language proficiency, if somebody had told me I would be standing here this evening, I certainly would have dismissed them or thought they were smoking something from Colorado. My parents were in honeybees and general farming and believed that education was the ticket to a better life. So in pursuit of education, I ended up at Colorado State. This great institution granted me an academic scholarship that was instrumental for me in realizing my dream of graduating in electrical engineering. Upon graduation, this great and generous country allowed me to stay. Otherwise, I would have gone back to serve in the Greek army and prayed for a job a few years down the road.”

James Hubbard

James Hubbard

Earned a B.S. in Forest Management, ’69

Honor Alumnus, Warner College of Natural Resources

Hubbard recently became one of the nation’s top forest managers: In September 2018, he was sworn in as undersecretary for natural resources and environment in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In his role, Hubbard supervises the U.S. Forest Service a job that centers him not in the trees, but in the critical realm of federal policy. Before work at the national level, Hubbard was with the Colorado Forest Service, serving for 20 years as state forester at a time when wildfire became a dominant concern. The Jim Hubbard Fire Management Building, on CSU’s Foothills Campus, is named in his honor.

“I’m well-prepared because of what I got at Colorado State – what I learned, and how to continue to learn and apply it. Thank you for sending me out in the world so well-grounded.”

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