More By This Author

Current Issue

Current Issue

Posted: January 01, 2013

Colorado Business Hall of Fame 2012

New inductees helped shape Colorado and found time to give back

Lisa Ryckman

It was a case of great minds thinking alike: The Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce wanted to host an event honoring business leaders, and Junior Achievement wanted to launch a Colorado Business Hall of Fame.

So a partnership was born: one that not only pays homage to the brightest business stars from Colorado’s past and present, but also gives JA’s future business leaders shining examples of success – a list that has grown to nearly 150 over the last 23 years.

"The history of the Colorado Business Hall of Fame is the alignment of the work JA does with kids and the business community that cares deeply about that," Chamber President and CEO Kelly Brough says. "It’s a chance for two organizations that very much share the same vision – but whose missions are executed very differently – to be able to highlight those in our history who have delivered so much to our community through work, business and success. It’s a way to model what JA is trying to teach kids and honoring those who reflect those values at the highest possible level."

The Hall of Fame is meant to be a celebration of free enterprise and all the good that flows from it, says Robin Wise, Junior Achievement Rocky Mountain President and CEO.

"We wanted to honor the risk-taking and the philanthropy and the job creation by key business leaders in Colorado," she says. "It’s not enough to have built a business and employed a lot of people. These are men and women who set good examples for young people to follow, and they’re also people willing to give their time, talent or treasure to help the state or their communities grow."

The 2013 laureates are perfect examples of the caliber of business leader the Colorado Hall of Fame recognizes: architect Temple Hoyne Buell; technology innovator Glenn Jones; attorney and real estate mogul Don Kortz; bank chairman Ron Montoya; interior design icon Beth Slifer; and Slifer’s husband, Vail real estate pioneer Rod Slifer.

"They’re all fabulous businesspeople – smart, savvy and risk-taking," Wise says. "But without a doubt, all have this passion for giving back, and they all have the highest integrity. Over the years, there have been people we won’t put into the Hall of Fame because they don’t meet all those standards.

"We’re not talking about just money," Wise adds. "These are people who have chaired initiatives in town or helped get the Broncos’ stadium and Coors Field built, and who got the airport going and brought the railroad to Denver. Those are the kind of people who built the fabric of what Colorado is."

A committee made up mostly of current laureates makes the selections each year from new nominations and a large database of potential candidates.

"I think you really see the committee looking for people who have had business success and an ethic and value about how they went about it," Brough says. "These are people who recognized that their business success would only be as good as the community in which they were trying to grow it and make it work. These are people who knew that their success depended on extremely strong civic engagement in the world in which they live."

Diversity – in geography, gender and industry – also figures into the mix, Wise says. They’ve had success finding people around the state and across a broad spectrum of businesses, she says, but adding women to the mix hasn’t always been easy.

"Most people we induct are at the zenith of their careers, and women just didn’t start businesses and do those kinds of things back in the day. So it’s very hard to find historical women who were innovators, risk-takers and businesspeople," Wise says. "Now we’re getting the opportunity to look at more. Many of them are still too young, they’re still building businesses and are very actively involved. In coming years, we’ll have more women to choose from."

Over the years, the laureate list has added bankers such as Eugene C. Adams, Elwood Brooks and LaRae Orullian; kings of cable such as Bob Magness, Bill Daniels and John Malone; and oilmen Aksel Nielsen, Sam Gary and Philip Anschutz.

The Hall of Fame includes brothers – Nathan, Mickey, Jerry and Melvin Gart; Dick and Eddie Robinson; and Alan and Gerald Phipps. A grandfather, son and grandson – A.B., Edward and Barry Hirschfeld. And an occasional couple: David and Renie Gorsuch, and this year’s Slifers.

"It’s an incredible list of folks and accomplishments, and the committee each year is challenged yet rewarded," Brough says.

Figures from Colorado’s rich business history – people such as railroad builder Otto Mears; silver king Horace A.W. Tabor; and this year’s laureate Temple Hoyne Buell – are honored alongside their contemporary counterparts.

"Who we are today is a mixture of both of those," Brough says. "The Hall of Fame recognizes those who built such a foundation and the families who are often still here. Temple Hoyne Buell is a perfect example of that."

The lavish dinner and awards ceremony, featuring polished performances from JA kids as the evening’s emcees, catch some laureates off-guard, Wise says. They’re simply not expecting such an elaborate tribute.

But it’s nothing less than the best of the best in Colorado business deserve, Wise says. They have risen to the top of a crowded field – a huge accomplishment in itself, considering the caliber of the competition.

The selection committee’s job is tough, and that’s a good thing, Brough says.

"If we do it right, it will reinforce the values they brought that made their business successful and brought great value to our region and our state," she says. "It will really highlight for those who are up and coming, which is so important in JA: These are the things that have value, these are the things you should strive for – and the greatness that can come from them."


The 2013 laureates will be inducted at the 24th annual Colorado Business Hall of Fame black-tie event on January 31, 2013 at the Hyatt Regency Denver at Convention Center.




Lisa Ryckman is the Associate Editor/Online at ColoradoBiz. Contact her at

Enjoy this article? Sign up to get ColoradoBiz Exclusives. The opinions expressed in this article are solely that of the author and do not represent ColoradoBiz magazine. Comments on articles will be removed if they include personal attacks.

Readers Respond

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.

ColoradoBiz TV

Loading the player ...

Featured Video