Boettcher finds a suc­ces­sor in scholar

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Aldo Svaldi

Katie Kramer, a Boettcher scholar, will suc­ceed Tim Schultz as the Boettcher fam­ily foun­da­tion’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor and pres­i­dent.

The Boettch­ers, like other ti­tanic Colorado busi­ness fam­i­lies, fun­neled their hard-won wealth into a fam­ily foun­da­tion.

Their foun­da­tion is best known for pro­vid­ing more than 2,400 promis­ing high school stu­dents full-ride schol­ar­ships to Colorado col­leges and univer­si­ties since 1952.

That in­vest­ment has now come full cir­cle. Katie Kramer, one of those Boettcher schol­ars, will suc­ceed Tim Schultz as the foun­da­tion’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor and pres­i­dent.

“He has taught me ev­ery­thing I know,” Kramer said of Schultz. “He has been a fan­tas­tic men­tor and a fab­u­lous friend.”

Kramer, 40, has spent the past 13 years as the foun­da­tion’s vice pres­i­dent and as­sis­tant ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor un­der Schultz. The six years be­fore that, she han­dled a va­ri­ety of other po­si­tions at the foun­da­tion, which she joined out of col­lege.

Schultz, 67, of­fi­cially re­tires on July 31, 2017, so the tran­si­tion could stretch out an­other 18 months.

“You can hang on to th­ese jobs a long time,” Schultz said. “But we had the per­fect per­son. It was her time.”

When­ever Kramer fully takes over the top spot, she will be only the fifth per­son to lead the foun­da­tion in its 78-year his­tory.

Foun­da­tion trustees thought long and hard about what they wanted in the next leader, in­clud­ing whether to seek out­side ap­pli­cants, vice chair­man Rus­sell Ge­orge said.

One con­cern with hir­ing an in­sider ver­sus an out­sider was ex­pe­ri­ence. Schultz has worked in both the pri­vate and pub­lic sec­tors, in­clud­ing head­ing theColorado Depart­ment of Lo­cal Affairs, be­fore spend­ing more than two decades lead­ing the foun­da­tion.

Kramer has served on other boards and is known in the larger com­mu­nity. Last sum­mer, she com­plet­ed­what she calls her “study abroad” pro­gram, serv­ing for a year as in­terim ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Den­ver MetroCham­ber Lead­er­ship Foun­da­tion.

“She ex­ceeded ev­ery ex­pec­ta­tion in that area,” said Kelly Brough, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Den­ver Metro Cham­ber of Com­merce. “She is re­ally, re­ally good at what she does.”

Kramer was tasked with help­ing the cham­ber foun­da­tion chart a new course and find a new di­rec­tor. The job was hers to claim, Brough said, but her de­vo­tion was first and fore­most to the Boettcher Foun­da­tion.

The Boettcher trustees re­al­ized Kramer had ev­ery­thing they­wanted in a leader, plus some­thing any out­sider would lack — a deep un­der­stand­ing of the fam­ily and what they were about.

“She has the in­tel­lect and drive and the value struc­ture that has been nur­tured in one of the neat­est places to work ever,” Ge­orge said. “She has got the goods.”

The Boettcher Foun­da­tion, with an en­dow­ment of $330 mil­lion, dis­trib­utes about $15 mil­lion a year, a num­ber that fluc­tu­ates de­pend­ing on in­vest­ment re­turns.

Al­though no longer the state’s largest foun­da­tion, it re­mains among the most re­spected, given its long his­tory and rep­u­ta­tion for help­ing get things done.

“The Boettcher Foun­da­tion is one of the lead­ing foun­da­tions in Colorado,” saidRenny Fa­gan, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Colorado Non­profit As­so­ci­a­tion.

When it came to busi­ness, the Boettch­ers were op­por­tunis­tic, try­ing to meet un­met needs and earn the best re­turn on the in­vest­ment made, an ap­proach that car­ried over into their phi­lan­thropy, Kramer said.

“This is not our money, this is the Boettcher’s money,” said Kramer, a stu­dent of the fam­ily’s writ­ings and his­tory.

Charles Boettcher em­i­grated to Colorado in 1869 fromKolleda, Ger­many, ini­tially work­ing at his older brother’s hard­ware store in Cheyenne.

He sold his own hard goods in Gree­ley, Fort Collins and Boul­der be­fore set­ting up shop in Leadville. He par­layed his min­ing boom prof­its to in­vest in Leadville’s first elec­tric com­pany and a bank, be­fore mov­ing to Den­ver to launch other busi­ness ven­tures.

Af­ter a visit to Ger­many, he packed a trunk with sugar beet seeds and re­turned to Colorado, found­ing the GreatWest­ern Sugar Co. in 1901 and giv­ing the state a whole new in­dus­try.

Dif­fi­cul­ties in procur­ing con­crete for sugar beet pro­cess­ing plants led Boettcher to found the Ideal Ce­ment Co. But con­struc­tion also re­quires cap­i­tal, not just ma­te­ri­als.

Charles’ son Claude found­edBoettcher, Porter& Co., the pre­cur­sor of Boettcher & Co., which played a big role in pub­lic fi­nance in the re­gion for decades.

In 1922, Charles and Claude bought the Brown Palace Ho­tel, where Charles spent his fi­nal years. De­spite his wealth, he granted him­self few in­dul­gences — an ex­cep­tion be­ing a nightly ice-cold Coca-Cola from a shop across the street, ac­cord­ing to foun­da­tion lore.

When an em­ployee asked why he didn’t or­der one from­room ser­vice at his ho­tel, the el­der Boettcher replied, “What, and pay the prices we ask here?”

Di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion helped the Boettcher hold­ings sur­vive nu­mer­ous boom and bust cy­cles. But over time, all the fam­ily busi­nesses were sold or dis­solved, in­clud­ing Boettcher & Co. in 1985.

The Boettcher fam­ily res­i­dence was do­nated to the state, and nowserves as the gov­er­nor’s man­sion. Many of the build­ings they helped fund re­main, in­clud­ing Boettcher Con­cert Hall, home to the Colorado Sym­phony Or­ches­tra.

The fam­ily’s most en­dur­ing legacy came in 1937, when they launched the foun­da­tion, which ini­tially em­pha­sized help­ing non­prof­its con­struct build­ings.

But the Boettch­ers also re­al­ized the im­por­tance of hu­man cap­i­tal. In 1952, they launched a schol­ar­ship pro­gram to stem the brain drain the state was suf­fer­ing.

In 2002, the foun­da­tion started a teacher res­i­dency pro­gram, and in 2008, the Webb-War­ing Foun­da­tion en­trusted its money to the Boettcher Foun­da­tion, which matched with its own fund to sup­port bio- med­i­cal re­search grants in the state.

One dif­fi­culty the foun­da­tion has faced is that the money left af­ter fund­ing schol­ar­ships and other pro­grams doesn’t go very far given to­day’s el­e­vated con­struc­tion costs.

Rather than fund­ing whole projects out­right, the foun­da­tion now steps in at crit­i­cal junc­tures.

One of the tough­est tasks fam­ily foun­da­tions face over time is try­ing to keep fam­ily mem­bers in­volved, which can re­quire en­gag­ing the third and fourth gen­er­a­tions, ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey from Na­tional Cen­ter for Fam­ily Phi­lan­thropy in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

But theBoettch­er­sweren’t a large fam­ily, and the foun­da­tion board lost its fi­nal fam­ily con­nec­tion when Claude’s grand­daugh­ter, Clau­dia BoettcherMerthan, moved out of state in 2007.

Still, the foun­da­tion has found a way to re­main Boettcher with no Boettch­ers on its board, in part due to the thou­sands of schol­ars.

“Be­causewe have kept the foun­da­tion young by the schol­ar­ship pro­gram, it gets its strength from the strength of the young peo­ple,” said Ge­orge, also one of those schol­ar­ship re­cip­i­ents.

Boettcher schol­ars are ac­tive in ev­ery cor­ner of the state, and the foun­da­tion has placed a greater em­pha­sis on con­nect­ing them with each other, as well as with the new­est re­cip­i­ents.

Al­though the full-ride schol­ar­ships are mer­it­based and not in­come­based, they proved lifechang­ing for­many, open­ing up a door that might have oth­er­wise been closed.

Kramer is among that group. Her father, an air­craft me­chanic, of­ten found him­self out of work given the ups and downof the avi­a­tion in­dus­try. Meet­ing monthly bills was of­ten a chal­lenge, much less try­ing to fig­ure out how to pay for the kids’ col­lege education. Boettcher cov­ered the cost of Kramer’s bach­e­lor’s de­gree at the Univer­sity of Colorado.

“It was a huge bless­ing,” Kramer said, her eyes welling up. “It took so much pres­sure off our fam­ily.” Aldo Svaldi: 303-954-1410, as­valdi@den­ver­post.com or @al­dos­valdi

Left: MetroDen­verCham­ber ofCom­merceCEOKelly Brough, left, with KatieKramer, VPand as­sis­tant ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor at theBoettcher Foun­da­tion, at an an­niver­sary event for Lead­er­ship Den­ver. Right: Kramer andTim Schultz. Pro­vided by Boettcher Foun­da­tion

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