Karen Thorpe, Ph.D., former assistant vice president of Student Affairs and dean of Student Life at Metropolitan State University of Denver, died at her home in Denver on Oct. 28 at age 72. Thorpe, who spearheaded the creation of MSU Denver’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Breakfast, was remembered by friends and family as a kind, loving person who made everyone happier when she walked into a room.
After graduating from high school in her hometown of Parkersburg, West Virginia, Thorpe earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Marshall University and a doctorate in Student Personnel Administration from the University of Northern Colorado.
A career in higher education took Thorpe to several colleges, including Loretto Heights College and then-Metropolitan State College of Denver. During her time at MSU Denver, Thorpe was instrumental in organizing the inaugural MLK Peace Breakfast held on Jan. 15, 1992. The event brought together 50 people from across campus and the Denver community to commemorate the life and legacy of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. More than 30 years later, Thorpe’s impact on the University endures through this annual January celebration.
Known for her generous spirit, Thorpe was a longtime member of the First Baptist Church of Denver, where she sang in the choir, volunteered at the homeless shelter, counseled others and made lifetime friends. Her interests and passions included playing guitar, dancing, decorating for the holidays, spending time in the great outdoors, traveling throughout the U.S. and going on cruises with her partner.
Forced into early retirement after being diagnosed with scleroderma and later breast cancer, Thorpe embodied her mother’s mantra, “Never give up.” She remained a rock for her loved ones, even when her own challenges were daunting. On her final day, Thorpe tried hooking up a new printer so she could write to loved ones, letting them know how much they meant to her. She didn’t get the chance, but they knew.
Thorpe is survived by her spouse, Kathye Thomas; sisters Becky and Mary Ann; brothers Fred, Joe and Andy; her nieces and nephews; the world’s greatest friends; and Graysea, the grey and white cat who will sorely miss her lap.