Rod and Barbara Burwell’s three sons had not planned to go to the same college. Peter (BSBA ’11) initially sought a technical theater program before following a business track. Blake (BSME, MBA ’15) wanted to pursue an engineering degree. Michael (BA ’16, MBA ’17) was interested in business and lacrosse.
Each son ended up enrolling at the University of Denver, which meant that by the time the Burwells graduated, their parents were more than familiar with the buildings near the intersection of University and Evans.
“You get to know that it’s not just a campus,” Barbara says. “It has a heart, soul and energy.”
With that energy in mind, Barbara and her late husband Rod knew they wanted to do something in appreciation for the family’s experiences at DU.
“One of the values of our family is ‘to whom much is given, much is expected,’” Barbara says. “We are grateful to the University and its stellar faculty for their contributions to the outstanding education our sons received. So it’s our pleasure to be able to give a little something back.”
On June 6, Barbara and her sons rooted themselves to the place they have grown to love, turning the first shovel of dirt on what will become the Burwell Center for Career Achievement. A $5 million gift from the Burwells will back an innovative design that will unite alumni, prospective employers and all DU students.
The Burwell Center will debut in fall 2020 as a 23,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art structure, aspiring to become the first LEED Platinum building on the DU campus and one of the first v4 LEED Platinum buildings in the state of Colorado. It will sit at the intersection of Asbury Avenue and South Gaylord Street, in place of the former Leo Block Alumni Center.
The brick and mortar specs of the building aren’t as important to Barbara, a former Miss USA who leads the philanthropic Burwell Family Foundation. The family is more excited about the programming, possibilities and opportunities for gathering, and the ways in which the center will prepare students for lives of worth and service. Look for an employer connections floor, interactive electronic displays and a welcoming patio on the ground level that connects students to the building and users to the Colorado-themed landscape.
It’s the programming that she loves most, Barbara says — “the heart of what’s going to happen in the building that will transform the lives of students and our alumni in our community. We are hopefully an over-the-top resource for industry that will build the workforce of tomorrow.”
Peter, Blake and Michael certainly have found their professional footing in the years since their graduation. The trio bought and operates Echo Mountain ski area in Colorado and has a hand in a number of ventures across the country.
The connections the three Burwells forged on campus made their professional successes possible, Peter told DU Magazine in 2017. Each was heavily involved on campus, particularly as members of the Kappa Sigma fraternity, of which Peter and Michael were presidents and Blake an officer.
In addition to the functions it will serve for students and prospective employers, Barbara hopes the Burwell Center for Career Achievement will be a place where graduates return when coming home to campus.
“They will actually have a physical place to return to and be welcome,” she says. “I am excited that this is a beginning and continuation of our partnership — an opportunity to transform lives as we prepare our students for the future.”