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A generous gift from the late Joy Burns supports an array of programs

Joy Burns’ name already graces many sites on the University of Denver campus, and now, thanks to a substantial estate gift, her support for the institution she loved will continue in perpetuity. 

“In our long history, the University has had few better friends than Joy Burns,” DU Chancellor Jeremy Haefner says, adding that Burns, who died in 2020, was a passionate advocate for DU’s students, athletes and academic programs. 

Via her gift, the largest in DU history, Burns, a two-time chair of DU’s Board of Trustees, provided significant funds for many programs she held especially dear, including those serving women student-athletes. Part of her gift will enhance women’s gymnastics, the Joy Burns Arena and the Colorado Women’s College Leadership Scholars Program, which gives women the opportunity to fulfill their educational and career leadership goals. 

Her gift also supports the Franklin L. Burns School of Real Estate and Construction Management and the Fritz Knoebel School of Hospitality Management. Burns and her late husband, DU alumnus Franklin Burns, established the real estate school in 1997.

“There isn’t a student, faculty or staff member at Fritz Knoebel or the Burns School who hasn’t benefited from her gifts, and now those benefits will be further enhanced,” says Vivek Choudhury, dean of the Daniels College of Business.

Burns joined DU’s Board of Trustees in 1981 and served as board chair from 1990 to 2005 and again from 2007 to 2009. She was the first woman to fill that role. Working with then-Chancellor Daniel Ritchie, she oversaw significant innovations in academics, a rejuvenation of the physical campus, and the launch of one of the most successful capital campaigns in DU history. 

“Joy left a lasting mark on this campus and on all who knew her,” Haefner says. “We are deeply grateful for Joy’s visionary leadership, tremendous generosity and, most of all, her friendship and love for DU.”

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