Robby and Barbara Robb
Alumnus Demonstrates Passion for STEM Education Through Scholarship Gift
The University of Denver's intensified focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education makes perfect sense to Robby Robb, a DU alumnus and former engineer who is also the founding chairman of the board of the Denver School of Science and Technology (DSST). This network of charter schools within the Denver Public Schools system focuses on STEM education and aims to prepare kids for college.
Robby (BS '60, MBA '61) knew all about the importance of those fields long before STEM became a buzzword in the world of education.
"If I look at where the United States is, one of the things we are able to do is to create and develop technology and innovation," Robby says. "Engineering, science, medical—all of these areas require the basis you will have with a STEM education."
This year, Robby and his wife, Barbara, did their part to help University of Denver students achieve success in the sciences: They donated appreciated real estate valued at almost $2 million to support scholarships for STEM students at DU.
The gift, which gives special consideration to graduates of DSST, was made in the form of a charitable remainder unitrust that provides the Robbs with valuable tax benefits and an income stream for life.
The Robbs' gift was partially matched by the University, which enabled their endowed scholarship to be awarded to students in the fall of 2015.
Laying the Foundation
The Robbs' gift perfectly complements the University's focus on STEM, illustrated most dramatically by a new 110,000-square-foot, $60 million building that will house the Daniel Felix Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science and the Knoebel Center for the Study of Aging. The expansion also means the University will be able to grow its engineering and computer science student and faculty capacity by 30 percent.
Robby says his own passion for STEM was nurtured at the University of Denver.
"My education from DU was the foundation that allowed me to have a very successful career in a number of areas," Robby explains. "When I go into something new and different, I find that I draw from the basic education from DU."
That education also came in handy when Robby was helping create DSST.
"With DSST, I had the opportunity to make a difference in how we are educating these kids. I think a lot of the problems we have out there are [due to the fact that] a number of the schools just don't have the discipline or the environment that prepares [kids] for college," Robby says.
"One of the messages that DSST has is these kids are going to be college-ready. That was one of the goals in organizing this, and it's been very successful in terms of accomplishing that."
Focusing on the Future
Thanks to his own STEM education, Robby worked for 20 years at Martin Marietta and Boeing in the firms' engineering, production control and computer operations divisions. He then spent two decades working on private ventures before turning his focus to education—and the endeavor that would eventually become DSST.
Today, the DSST network serves close to 3,000 students on six campuses. More than 70 percent are students of color, and more than 65 percent are from low-income families. And every graduate has been admitted to a four-year college or university.
"That's what I want," Robby says when talking about the college admission rate. "I want these kids to be successful and actually graduate and have the ability to realize their dreams."
"I've always had this personal mantra that I wanted to make a difference that is a difference," Robby says. "I see this as a way to help others get the education to make a difference. This helps everyone."
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