By Kathryn Mayer
For Clayton and Christine Powers, setting up a scholarship at the University of Denver was really about paying it forward.
"I got some support from the state of Michigan. Without that money I could not have attended private school," says Christine (Peacock) (MSW '72), who received her undergraduate degree at Hope College in Michigan. "I would have had to wait my turn (due to overcrowding) and get into the state school. And for me, the attention that you get in a private school was really, really important."
Clayton (BSBA '71, MBA '72), too, received scholarships his junior and senior years at the University of Denver, and he says without those gifts he might not have finished school.
So when it came time to consider how they wanted to give back, the couple decided to set up a scholarship at their alma mater in honor of the people who supported their education years ago. The scholarship, for marketing students in the Daniels College of Business, primarily serves middle-income students, the one class of students they say usually gets left out of the financial aid equation.
"When [DU] asked us to define what kinds of kids we wanted to get the scholarship, we said kids in our multicultural neighborhood," Clayton says. "They're being priced out of an education that they can really use. And that's a lot of our motivation."
"We really believe in the value of a private college education," Clayton adds. "We think it's a better education. And what concerns us is we think that it's less and less available to middle class kids."
A private school education, they say, allows students to attend smaller classes, have more exposure and meaningful contact with professors, and overall have more opportunities. These are all things the couple experienced while attending DU themselves.
Their DU roots run deep: Clayton is, by his count, the 17th person in his family to attend DU. His grandparents met at DU in a chemistry class. Clayton's parents also met at DU.
Following family tradition, the Powerses met on the Graduate Student Council in the early 1970s—Christine was secretary and Clayton was a member-at-large. Their first date was a DU hockey game.
"We still go to DU hockey games. He has a reputation for being very loud and really yells at the refs, and I can't say anything because he told me that on the first date," Christine laughs.
Though both successful in their ensuing careers—Clayton worked in IT for years, while Christine had a dynamic career that included creating volunteer structures for nonprofits—they say their real passion has been volunteer and charitable work.
Christine says that growing up, she saw her mother, a single parent, work full-time as well as volunteer during the polio epidemics.
"I just thought everyone volunteered," she says. "I didn't know any different."
The couple has made a mark in the Denver community: They are active in their church and in a number of organizations, including Arapahoe House, a Colorado drug and alcohol treatment program.
But promoting education has a special place in their hearts.
"From the very beginning of our marriage, we had made certain goals that we set up and this was part of it-to be able to help other students get through school," Christine says. Another goal the couple had came to fruition when they adopted two teenagers, now both adults.
Before setting up the scholarship at DU—something "they always wanted to do"—the couple set up scholarships at Washington State University, Christine's parent's alma mater, for local students pursuing the physical therapy program, and at Hope College for students who have lost a parent. In both cases, one of their favorite experiences was meeting the students they helped.
"One of the nice things about meeting the students is you get to experience their enthusiasm for their education and what they're doing," Christine says. "And that's just an amazing experience."
One student told them he felt like he could do anything because there were people who were supportive of his education. Another said she'd like to set up a scholarship when she was older.
The couple looks forward to similar experiences at DU, where they can see firsthand the results of their generosity.
"This is our way of impacting one individual at a time," Christine says. "We do a lot of volunteer work, but usually we impact a large group on those projects. Here we're trying to help one person get through and have that quality education that we think is so important."