During a celebratory donor event on March 9, Metropolitan State University of Denver announced a transformational gift from longtime University supporters Ferd and Christy Belz that will build sustainable funding for the Student Success Endowed Fund.
During her welcoming remarks, President Janine Davidson, Ph.D., spoke about wraparound services being the secret sauce in helping students navigate higher education, making it possible for them to achieve their dreams at MSU Denver.
“The Student Success Endowed Fund is all about providing the kinds of resources that get our students over the finish line and into the Colorado community and economy,” Davidson said. “This is what Ferd and Christy have invested in with their transformational gift – thank you!”
The Student Success Endowed Fund will expand student support services, increasing access and the quality of these programs. Wraparound services can be a determining factor in the success of college students, with studies showing that those who receive comprehensive services have higher rates of improved mental health, social-emotional development and academic learning, including retention and graduation rates.
“Most of MSU Denver’s nontraditional students need additional assistance to access a system that was not built for them,” said Cynthia Baron, Ph.D., interim associate vice president of Student Engagement & Wellness. “Ferd and Christy Belz are passionate about providing pathways for our students, and we are so grateful for their generosity.”
The gift will provide flexible resources in perpetuity to fund student services like the Student Emergency Fund; identity-based peer support programs; access to free food and school supplies at Rowdy’s Corner; tutoring and mentoring services and more.
MSU Denver student Mariana Pascual-Miranda said that the support of services like the First-Generation Initiatives Program helped her overcome higher ed barriers, inspiring her to give back as a student coordinator. “I have been able to mentor students and it’s been so beautiful to see them grow into who they are. We really appreciate your investment in our students.”
Ferd Belz, president of L.C. Fulenwider, Inc., and a member of the MSU Denver Foundation Board of Directors for over 10 years, including a term as chair, was effusive in his praise for the University.
“You can all see why we believe in this place,” he said before passing the mic to his wife, Christy. “The students, faculty, staff and administration are amazing – they are changing the education landscape in this city and state.”
Christy Belz, president of Empowerment Coaching and Consulting, said she and Ferd discussed at length which campaign pillar they wanted to support, landing on Student Success. One reason for their decision was that, as first-generation college students, they wanted to ensure students have access to the resources they need to get through college. Another reason had to do with her experience as a social worker.
“When I was in graduate school in Denver, I transitioned to a nonprofit called Project WISE, working with women who were transitioning from welfare to work,” said Belz, explaining that, at the time, if a client started college, their TANF benefits were taken away, eliminating a resource they needed to support themselves. The organization lobbied, changing legislation at the state level. “We know that education for women, specifically, will change the trajectory of their lives.”
Belz continued, saying that wraparound services and education transform people, moving them to self-sufficiency. She also shared how curating TEDxMSU Denver events and Ferd’s work with the Foundation gave her a behind-the-scenes look at the machine in action and the amazing things happening in the organization.
“I see the passion the students have for the University, the professors are unbelievable and the staff is remarkable,” she said. “We’re very, very honored to give this gift and make a difference for these kids.”
As a surprise, the Belz’s son, Charlie Belz, joined the event virtually from Bloomington, Indiana, to express his gratitude for how they have made a difference in his life and the lives of others.
“When I hear about all of the great things my parents and others are contributing to, it puts a smile on my face,” said Belz, a senior and Finance major at Indiana University’s Kelly School of Business. “And the ripple effect is unbelievable – I could not be happier to be part of your lives and see all the great things you do.”
Ferd Belz closed the event by encouraging others to join them in making a gift to provide students with the support they need to succeed.
“This University is transforming lives, and in turn, those students and graduates are transforming the future of our city and our country.”