Scholarship fund reflects legendary ski coach’s commitment to academic performance

Willy Schaeffler often was called “America’s most successful ski coach.” He coached the University of Denver Pioneer Ski Team to 13 NCAA ski championship titles from 1948–70 and coached the U.S. ski team to Olympic medals in 1972. Schaeffler also started the first U.S. amputee ski program at Arapahoe Basin in 1968. It later moved to Winter Park.

In honor of his dad’s remarkable career, Jimmy Schaeffler, along with several former DU athletes and friends of his father, created the Willy Schaeffler Scholarship Fund (WSSF) in 1986. The endowed fund is designed to help scholar-athletes with disabilities, preferably competitive skiers, study at the University of Denver and abroad. It reflects Schaeffler’s years of commitment to people in the world of sport and his dedication to academic performance.

Otto Tschudi (BSBA ’75) came to DU to ski for Schaeffler in 1969 and is one of the scholarship founders.

“Before Willy died, at his bedside … about four or five of us agreed to establish a scholarship for disabled skiers, either from the U.S. or from Europe, for athletes that would have financial need,” says Tschudi, who currently serves on the DU Board of Trustees.

The full-ride scholarship provides tuition, room and board for four years at DU, plus an additional year at a university in a country where a language other than English is spoken.

Tschudi was among a handful of early donors, including Ron and Diane Disney Miller, who kicked off the fund with a $75,000 gift.

“[Willy] was very close to the Disneys, who have been avid supporters of the scholarship all along,” Tschudi says.

Since 1987, seven scholar-athletes have attended DU through the Willy Schaeffler Scholarship Fund.

“We’re super proud of all [the recipients],” Jimmy Schaeffler says. “They’ve done great things with their careers and are great ambassadors.”

Carol Oakleaf

1987: Carol Oakleaf (BSBA ’92) was the first recipient of the WSSF award and took a fifth year to study abroad at the University of Oslo, Norway. Upon returning to the U.S., Oakleaf began studies at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. She has worked as a physician’s assistant in the Denver area since 1995.

“The Willy Schaeffler scholarship changed my life,” she says. “I would never have gone to college if it weren’t for this scholarship. I received a wonderful education from DU, and it prepared me for the PA program at the CU Med Center. My career as a physician assistant/associate has made my lifelong dream of helping others possible. I will be forever grateful.”

1992: Louie Bucud was born in the Philippines. Because of a birth defect, Bucud had been hospitalized so often that, at age 9, he told doctors at Children’s Hospital in Aurora that he was ready to lose his foot so he could continue his goals: Attend school and make good use of his talents. Bucud took part in the Children’s Hospital and Winter Park ski programs for athletes with disabilities and lives the Willy Schaeffler Scholarship slogan: “Achievement in the face of adversity.” 

Robby Shelton

1997: Robby Shelton (BS ’02) actively trained with the able-bodied skiers on the DU varsity team while he studied at DU. And he more than held his own, says former DU ski team coach Kurt Smits. Today Shelton is a senior professional research assistant for the Department of Psychiatry’s Addiction Biology Lab at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. His research focuses on molecular biology methods and wet-bench work, and it involves sequencing and immunoassays. “The research studies I am working on range from stress biomarkers, immunology, to substance abuse,” he says.

2002: Allison Jones (BSME ’07) was a Paralympic medalist in the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City. In addition to her skiing accomplishments, Jones is an outstanding cyclist. During the 2003 European Championships for disabled in Prague, Czech Republic, she won the 500m sprint. And in the road races, she was second in the 7.1km time trial and third in the 3km pursuit. In the 500m, she set the first world record in the event.

Nick Catanzarite

2009: Nick Catanzarite (JD ’11) is a two-time Paralympian, having competed for the U.S. team in 2002 in Salt Lake City and in 2006 in Turino, Italy. Today he is a Grand County judge for Colorado’s 14th Judicial District. Before his 2015 appointment to the bench, Catanzarite practiced law in Grand County for three years with a focus on criminal defense, real estate and family law. As a volunteer with the National Sports Center for the Disabled, he shares his skills with new sit skiers.

2012: Jamie Stanton (BSBA ’17)  is a 2016 Adaptive Athlete of the Year from the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame. He represented the U.S. at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. Four years later, he won a bronze medal at the Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

“Attending the University of Denver would not have been possible without the assistance of the Schaeffler Scholarship,” Stanton says. “The University of Denver and the Daniels College of Business did an amazing job at preparing me for my current position at Citigroup in New York City. The education I received and the support of the faculty, coupled with the ability to race and train with the U,S. Team, were unparalleled, and I will be forever grateful DU gave me that experience.”

2020: Kristian Moen (current recipient) grew up in Oslo, Norway, and excels at snowboard cross and banked slalom. He won a silver medal at the 2015 Para Snowboard World Championships and represented Norway in the 2018 Winter Paralympic Games. Moen is in training to compete at the 2022 Paralympic Games in Beijing.

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