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 January 1, 1998

Buechner readies road show to kick off TLE fund-raiser

BOULDER — Let’s say you’re a chief executive officer or an entrepreneur who wants to invite the University of Colorado’s president, John Buechner, into your executive boardroom to discuss a proposal and the possibility of making a contribution.

Maybe you’ve decided to donate directly to the CU Foundation or instead give to Buechner’s own Total Learning Environment initiative, where you specifically can earmark where you money goes.

Wouldn’t it be disappointing to learn he’s usually booked solid six months in advance? Because, in fact, he is. Don’t give up, however.

Beginning this month, however, Buechner says he plans to free up his external calendar a bit to start conducting business briefings around the state; namely, in Grand Junction, Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Douglas County, Denver and Boulder.

“That’s where I will sit down with a group of CEOs and business leaders and talk about what the university hopes to do,” Buechner explained. “It’s not going to be a casual process, it’s going to be a formal and organized form of outreach.”

When he’s done gathering information, Buechner is expected to use the recommendations to kick off a $300 million to $500 million Total Learning Environment fund-raising campaign. According to people who have donated to the already $80 million TLE pot, new funds will be used for specific programs at the four-campus university. Some may go to business partnerships and research, for example, according to Bob Nero, assistant vice president for public affairs and university relations. Other donations may go to computers, scholarships or the business school.

“What CU wants to do is form some strategic business partnerships,” Nero said, where business partners donate to Buechner’s Total Learning Environment concept to perform “quid pro quo research.” Such a concept is not uncommon at universities around the country, he said.

“While you could be considered a donor, let’s look at this from the point of a venture capitalist who is making an investment in the university,” Nero said. ” The partners could share in any profits made resulting from the development of any research or royalties, licensing agreements or products.”

Scholarships are also important, said Bob Sievers, a CU Regent and generous university donor.

“Certainly my wife and I have favored uses for the money we have given. One of those has been to encourage women to pursue careers and fields that they have not been traditionally represented in, like science and math,” Sievers said. “We just put it in our letter with the money we gave, saying what we wanted it to go for.”

An unofficial announcement was made July 1 to kick off the fund-raising campaign, said Betsey Jay, vice president of communications for the CU Foundation.

“We’re refining the list to address issue-specific projects,” Jay said. “People can give in-kind donations like computers or software, or $10,000 for a scholarship for accounting students, so it’s very specific.”

After serving as interim president at CU from November 1995 to April 1996, Buechner was selected permanently to the post by the Board of Regents. Soon afterwards, he announced his Total Learning Environment initiative, which is poised at positioning CU as a world leader by emphasizing innovations in learning, technological advances, and improving teaching and CU’s infrastructure.

Donors can earmark funds for favorite departments, said Peter Steinhauer, a CU Regent.

“There will be a lot of hard work,” Steinhauer said. “But I think it’s going to be successful.”

As for political ties, Buechner recently named oil and gas executive Bruce Benson and wife, Marcy, a former director of the President’s Committee on White House Fellowships under both Reagan and Bush administrations, as national co-chairs of his TLE fund-raising committee.

Benson, who currently owns Benson Minerals Group in Denver, says he has known CU’s president since before the days Buechner ran against Tim Wirth in 1982 as the Republican nominee for the U.S. House of Representatives.

“I haven’t known anybody in the business community to say anything bad about him,” he said of Buechner. “I think everyone has the highest regard for him.”

Other couples Buechner has appointed to chair campus fund-raising committees for the TLE initiative include Gary and Terie Roubus for CU-Boulder; Richard and Pamela Bard for CU-Denver; Pete and Eileen Honnen, and William and Billie Maniatis for CU-Health Science Center; and Michael and Carolyn Byram for CU-Colorado Springs.

“I know President Buechner’s vision of the Total Learning Environment is exciting to people,´ said Betsey Jay, vice president of communications for the CU Foundation.

Thus far, Buechner’s approach to compete for big contributions to lift CU’s regional reputation to that of a world-class university has earned him mostly praise.

“I think I would like to be thought of as a person who has a stabilizing influence for a very complex system,” Buechner added.

Buechner’s so-called “multidimensional” style of leadership has won him many supporters over the past two years, when he first began traveling with faculty members, regents and other university officials around the state to meet with constituents.

“We’ve been as far away as northeastern Colorado to Antonito,” he said. “I now have community relations committees in those geographic areas of the state that I meet with that are in a sense advisory groups, which represent business ties.”

Buechner said the main reason for taking his executive table on the road to meet with various economic drivers is because “it behooves me to take the university to them, rather than expect them to drive up here.”

At one point, CU officials mulled over the possibility of moving the president’s office to downtown Denver, Buechner said. “There has always been, since the system was started, some discussion of whether the president’s office ought to be on the (Denver) campus. It was looked into at one point, what it would cost if you moved everything to Denver.”

The outcome of that study was seen as far more trouble than it was worth because it would have required relocating many other staff members and offices as well

“But, in my presidency it was never an issue,” Buechner explained. “If I were located in an office on 17th Street in Denver, I would bet you that I would have to spend much of my time going to a campus just for the reason of interacting with (people) … But having interactive TV and five telephones also means you’re in constant touch with people. So, I think the nature of the job is the focus, rather than the physical setting.”

Buechner, 63, a former state representative (1972-74), Boulder mayor (1970-71), and CU-Denver chancellor (1988-95), says that to run a university with a $1.4 billion budget he’s found it necessary to play various roles “… as a donor, a businessman, and a politico.”

BOULDER — Let’s say you’re a chief executive officer or an entrepreneur who wants to invite the University of Colorado’s president, John Buechner, into your executive boardroom to discuss a proposal and the possibility of making a contribution.

Maybe you’ve decided to donate directly to the CU Foundation or instead give to Buechner’s own Total Learning Environment initiative, where you specifically can earmark where you money goes.

Wouldn’t it be disappointing to learn he’s usually booked solid six months in advance? Because, in fact, he is. Don’t give up, however.

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