Soaring high

Alumna, donor and avid balloonist Janice Marie King calls MSU Denver her “launching point.” Now she’s helping others reach new heights.

By Tom Wilmes

Publish Date: April 18, 2016

Photo by Michael Richmond

When asked if she has any advice for current students, alumna Janice Marie King (B.S. land use ’78) replies with a single word. “Persevere.”

That deceptively simple answer holds a world of meaning for King, who graduated from high school a year early and went straight to work at a bank. After a year of toiling in the file room and answering phones, however, King realized that a high school diploma alone would not get her where she wanted to go.

“I wanted something else but because we came from humble means, I didn’t think college was economically available to me,” said King.

That is until she heard about MSU Denver and its offerings for nontraditional and working students. King became the first person in her family to attend college when she enrolled at MSU Denver in the mid-1970s.

“That was my launching point,” she said. “It opened my eyes to a world of opportunity.”

While King explored several areas of study, her attraction to earth sciences led her to major in land-use management. The program required an internship, and King was recommended for a position with Adams County’s planning department, working for an assistant planner who happened to be a former MSU Denver faculty member.

The internship turned into a full-time position where, among other responsibilities, King was charged with running title searches with the goal of identifying a large chunk of open land on which to locate the proposed new Denver International Airport.

King quickly transitioned to the booming oil and gas industry, working for a title company, using industry software and applying her experience in land work to “everything from a four-man operation to Exxon,” she said. She lived in places far and wide, including Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma and even Russia.

Along the way, King developed a love of hot-air ballooning and earned her pilot’s license. Flying balloons and officiating at numerous rallies is a passion that has taken her around the world, including to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in New Mexico, the Great Reno Balloon Rally in Nevada and the Saga International Balloon Fiesta in Japan.

But Denver remains home for King, who moved back to the Mile High City in 1996, and is currently employed by Anadarko E&P as a senior staff land analyst.

Although King says she’s struggled at times, especially with regard to the volatility of the oil and gas industry, she’s always persevered.

“I credit my time at Metro for instilling a sense of can-do confidence,” she said. “But more than that, education is what gave me an opportunity to participate.”

It’s this gratitude to MSU Denver that causes King to pay it forward – literally. She’s been a loyal donor to the University for many years simply because she wants to help others reach their highest potential.

“I’ve been very fortunate and I want to share that with those who may be seeking that same opportunity,” King said. “Once you get a little confidence behind you and things start working, it’s so rewarding and well worth the effort.”

For more information about giving back to MSU Denver, visit