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Laying a foundation

Photos by Wayne Armstrong

DU celebrated its 156th anniversary at the March 5 Founders Gala in downtown Denver. The event recognized the impact of teaching, internationalization and philanthropy on the institution by honoring three individuals who have left a lasting legacy at the University of Denver.

Jane Hamilton and her late husband, Frederic Hamilton, are known for transformational gifts that enhanced spaces in the Daniel L. Ritchie Center for Sports & Wellness, the Robert and Judi Newman Center for the Performing Arts, the engineering and computer science building and elsewhere. And Ved Nanda, international law professor at the Sturm College of Law, has served the University for more than 50 years, educating generations of leaders and helping to further DU’s internationalization efforts.

“The Founders Gala is a time to celebrate our incredible institution and, more specifically, the people who have made DU such a force in the landscape of higher education — people like Fred and Jane Hamilton and Ved Nanda,” says Chancellor Jeremy Haefner. “With our students at the center of our mission, we are so grateful to our 2020 honorees.”

Serving the community: Frederic and Jane Hamilton

The Hamiltons first got involved with DU in the 1970s, when two of their children attended the University. Jane Hamilton served on the Board of Trustees for 39 years, starting in 1976, and over the decades she and Frederic donated more than $9 million to DU. Hamilton Gymnasium in the Ritchie Center and Hamilton Recital Hall in the Newman Center are testaments to their generosity, but their gifts also have impacted the Denver Tennis Park, the Visiting Artist Fund, the Ritchie School for Engineering and Computer Science and the Anderson Academic Commons, among others. A scholarship in their name supports an undergraduate freshman in any discipline for four years and is awarded on the basis of academic merit.  

“You couldn’t have two people who really believed more than they did together about the importance of this university,” says Chancellor Emeritus Dan Ritchie.

Trustee Cappy Shopneck echoes Ritchie’s sentiments, noting the couple’s impact elsewhere in Denver, most notably at the Denver Art Museum, which named a building after Frederic in 2006.

 “There are very few places you can go that serve our community in so many different ways that they haven’t touched in some fashion,” Shopneck says.

Global influence: Ved Nanda

While the Hamiltons helped to burnish DU’s reputation locally, Ved Nanda did the same on a global scale. Because of his impact on the University, Nanda — who celebrated his 50th year of teaching at DU in 2015 — received the faculty Founders Medal at the March 5 ceremony.

A native of India, Nanda came to DU in the late 1960s. He soon introduced an international human rights law course at Denver Law, making it the second course of its kind in the nation at that time. In 1972, Nanda founded the law school’s International Legal Studies Program, one of the oldest such programs in the country. The Ved Nanda Center for International & Comparative Law was established in 2006 with a focus on public and private international law.

“He really played a major role in the internationalization of DU,” Ritchie says. “We have become one of the most global and respected universities on a global basis. Ved really led that.”

Beyond his work at the law school, Nanda served the University as its first vice provost of internationalization. Working under Ritchie, he helped create and implement the Cherrington Global Scholars program that made DU one of the top institutions in the country for study abroad. It’s a legacy he’s especially proud of because of the ways in which international travel affects the lives of students. 

“They come back and their life is transformed,” he says. “They understand their own country better, they appreciate their own country better, and they understand the world in which we live. If they don’t understand the world, and don’t understand cultural differences and appreciate them, then I don’t think that they can be good citizens—either of this country or global citizens.”

Nanda also is an editorial columnist for the Denver Post, where he has written on a variety of international topics, including, recently, the coronavirus.

“He’s created this interest in several generations of students and people all around Denver and beyond because he is such a wonderful teacher and a wonderful explainer of what international law is, can be and means to the world,” says Doug Scrivner (JD ’77), chair emeritus of the Board of Trustees. “Because DU has been his home for more than 55 years, and because of the impact he has had on generations of students and on our law school and on the Korbel School and other parts of the University, all of those combined make him absolutely the right person to receive the faculty Founders Medal.”   

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