At CU Denver’s Spring Commencement, the University of Colorado honored Jerry Wartgow, PhD, with an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.
The award recognized Wartgow for his long and distinguished career in public service and education, including two stints as chancellor of the University of Colorado Denver. Wartgow was nominated for the honor by CU Denver Vice Chancellor of University Communications Leanna Clark and Vice Chancellor of Advancement Andrea Wagner. Additional letters of support for the nomination were written by Gov. John Hickenlooper and then CU Denver student Allie Kriese.
In her letter, Kriese recalled working with Wartgow on the creation of the CU Denver Student Wellness Center, which is currently under construction.
“I have no doubt that I am only one of many students to feel so supported by Dr. Wartgow,” Kriese wrote. “I feel honored to have had the opportunity to spend the last year working alongside him. His influence and dedication have been pivotal to develop the Wellness Center, educate students, and empower them to choose what they get out of their educations. Not only has Dr. Wartgow changed the Auraria Campus to facilitate fulfilling experiences for CU Denver students, but his impacts on the University will continue to shape the lives of future students—a legacy quietly imposed through dedicated empowerment.”
In his letter, Gov. Hickenlooper wrote, “Dr. Wartgow’s tireless commitment to make quality education available to all Coloradans has greatly improved our communities, our workforce, and our knowledge base.”
‘It’s wonderful and humbling’
Wartgow said that he was both surprised and delighted to receive the call notifying him about the degree. He was previously honored by the university in 2004 with the Distinguished Service Award. “Each time I receive an award, I am deeply honored because I know what’s involved and who the past recipients have been,” he said. “I’m well aware of the significance of it. It’s wonderful and humbling.”
Wartgow noted that he has two sons who have graduated from the University of Colorado, so he will now join them as CU degree holders. He confesses that he is “strategically” recruiting his four grandchildren to also attend CU.
As he prepared to receive the honorary degree, Wartgow praised President Bruce Benson. “President Benson has done a remarkable job bringing all the campuses together,” Wartgow said. “Regardless of the type of education a student is seeking, we have something for everyone.”
‘Education is better today because of Dr. Jerry Wartgow’
In bestowing the honorary degree, Regent Glen Gallegos made note of the many ways that Wartgow has served the state, the community and individual students. He reminded attendees that Wartgow had been executive director of the Auraria Higher Education Center (AHEC) and from 1978 to 1986, he helped AHEC grow from a small conglomerate of colleges into a massive, tri-institutional campus with a collective student, staff and faculty population of nearly 50,000 people.
After working with AHEC, Wartgow became the founding president of the Colorado Community College and Occupational Education System, a position he held for over a decade. He brought community colleges closer to business industries with training programs targeted to manufacturing, telecommunications, health care and other areas.
Under Dr. Wartgow’s leadership as superintendent of Denver Public Schools from 2001 to 2005, the district improved student achievement, pushed for greater literacy among students and revitalized the DPS Foundation.
More recently, Dr. Wartgow led the University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus as chancellor from 2010 to 2012 and as chancellor for CU Denver from 2014 to 2015. During his years of leadership, he oversaw the successful 2011 re-accreditation process and directed the expansion of facilities at both campuses. He forged strong partnerships with the Denver Chamber of Commerce and many industry collaborations through the Business School.
“For more than four decades, Dr. Wartgow’s professional life has been a trajectory of intellectual achievement and public service, including remarkable service to this university,” said Gallegos in his address. “Education in Colorado, from the preschool to the university level, is better today because of Dr. Jerry Wartgow’s service and achievements.”