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Posted: January 01, 2013

Colorado Business Hall of Fame laureate: Don Kortz

He believes in making the world a little better than when you found it

Maria Martin

Don Kortz’s background, and titles like president, chairman and CEO pop up frequently.

The chairman of the board of Cassidy Turley Colorado has been a tireless advocate for the underprivileged and medically underserved through the years. A founder of the Rose Community Foundation, Kortz was its first president and CEO.

The long list of boards he’s been on includes Health One, the Mizel Museum and the Denver Zoological Foundation. He’s also served terms as chairman of Colorado Concern and the Children’s Hospital.

But titles don’t mean a lot to him.

"I don’t believe in taking yourself too seriously," Kortz says. "You have to keep your sense of humor and laugh at yourself."

Staying active, both at work and with nonprofit organizations, is another key to living a good life, says Kortz, 72.

"I have no idea what I’d do with myself if I retired," says Kortz, who has been with Cassidy Turley, formerly Fuller Real Estate, for 40 years. "I’d probably travel, play some golf, then I’d want to get back to work."

He started at the commercial real estate firm as in-house counsel.

"As often happens with lawyers, I moved into the management side," he said. "While I haven’t practiced law in 25 years, you never forget the skills you learned."

Though he’s been committed to the firm through the years, he did take a three-year leave to start the Rose Community Foundation, which offers resources in the areas of aging, child and family development, education, health and Jewish life.

The Foundation, formed in 1995 with proceeds from the sale of the Rose Medical Center, was a cause dear to Kortz; his family has been involved in the center since his uncle helped establish it. After launching the grant-making process, he returned to Fuller.

The loyalty he shows his workplace is part of Kortz’s nature, says Joe Blake, past president and CEO of the Denver Chamber and former chancellor of CSU.

"He’s wise, he’s empathetic and he has a wonderful heart," says Blake, adding that he’s had the privilege of serving on several boards with Kortz, including the Chamber, Colorado Concern and the Denver Zoo. "He truly understands people, their needs and their aspirations. He wants to bring about positive change in the community."

It’s a community that Kortz has deep roots in. His family settled in Colorado in the late 1800s.

With the exception of the years he spent in the Army and in college, Kortz has always called Denver home. He’s been married to Denver native and artist Mary Lou Kortz for 30 years, and they raised their daughter in Colorado.

Kortz’s dedication to the Rose Community Foundation reflects his interest in public-health leadership.

True change evolves when people reach out to help their community, he says.

"That doesn’t mean you have to give huge sums of money," he says. "Everything isn’t solved by money. Volunteer at a school and read to kids who are struggling with English. That’s truly meaningful and will give you a sense of perspective."

And perspective is easy to lose in the blur of daily life, he says.

"It’s easy to get tied up in what you’re doing, and hard to step back and see the big picture," he says. "You should look forward at where you’re going. Ask what you can do better.

"Whatever you gain, you need to help others," he says. "In the Jewish religion, there’s a saying that one of the jobs you have as a human being is to make the world a little better than when you found it."

Maria Martin is a freelance writer.

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