Boettcher finds a successor in scholar
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, firstname.lastname@example.org 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