About

Our Mission

The mission of the Gates Family Foundation is to invest in projects and organizations which have meaningful impact in Colorado primarily through capital grants and Foundation initiatives that enhance the quality of life for those living in, working in and visiting the state.  The Foundation seeks to promote excellence, innovation and self-sufficiency in education, healthy lifestyles, community enrichment, connection to nature and stewardship of the state’s natural inheritance.  The Foundation’s actions will remain consistent with the founders’ intentions and the principles of citizenship, entrepreneurship and free enterprise.

The Gates Family, the Foundation, and State of Colorado

Colorado offered Charles Gates, Sr. a place to establish a business and raise his family. In return, family members have given and continue to give to the state through the Gates Family Foundation. The Foundation’s emphasis on advancing excellence, innovation and self-sufficiency in education, and promoting healthy lifestyles originally came from the Gates family's interest in the well-being of company employees. Through the Foundation, the family’s philanthropy expanded into helping Coloradans of every age lead more productive lives. It was Charles C. Gates, Sr., John G. Gates, and Hazel R. Gates, who created the Gates Foundation in 1946 as a formal organization through which their family would make philanthropic investments. In December 1995, the name of the Foundation was changed to the Gates Family Foundation. Since inception through 2016, this private foundation and its affiliated family funds have awarded grants totaling $352.6 million. On December 31, 2016, the Foundation's endowment, including Family Funds, was valued at $422.5 million. The Foundation and its associated family funds will invest more than $19.7 million in grants in 2017.

 

  • Chateau
  • Hazel, Charles and John Gates
  • Gates Family

The Legacy Begins

Charles C. Gates Sr. was a recent honors graduate of the Michigan College of Mining and Technology when he arrived in Tincup, Colorado in 1904 to work in the gold mines. He moved on to Nevada, working as a nomad engineer for several years before returning to Denver in 1910. Upon his return, he used his life savings of $700, and borrowed $2,800 more, to purchase the Colorado Tire and Leather Company, which made leather bands that were attached to bald tires to extend tire life. His wife, Hazel, and brother, John, joined him in 1911. In the beginning, the company consisted of a small inventory of leather and rivets, a few rented machines, and a mail order office used to distribute leather tire covers.  They considered it "an opportunity in work clothes," and with courage and a fresh approach, a prosperous enterprise was born. The company gradually replaced leather in its products with a new material - rubber. Rubber's corrosion resistance and its flexibility, adhesion, temperature stability, and resilience made it ideal for tires, belts, hoses, and many other products. The company was renamed The Gates Rubber Company in 1918.

In addition to product innovation, the company launched a strong corporate culture that featured one of the first comprehensive health care programs, employee Christmas and summer outings, and tuition and career development assistance.

  • Gates Factory the early years
  • Gates Factory the early years
  • Gates Factory the early years

The Company Expands

Following World War I, the company expanded its product line to encompass a broad range of rubber products, all manufactured in Denver. From the 1950s onward, the company expanded domestic and international sales and production facilities. By the time Charles Gates Sr. transferred the presidency of the company to his son, Charles C. Gates in 1961, the Gates Corporation had annual sales totaling $136 million. In the following decades, the business diversified, adding ventures such as cattle ranches, real estate development, a trucking company, lead-acid batteries, electronics, aircraft, and mutual funds. One venture was Gates Learjet which was remarkably successful for many years until it was sold in 1987.

  • John, Charlie and Charles Gates
  • Gates Never Break Halters
  • Gates Plant

The Company Evolves

In August 1996, the Gates family merged the Gates Corporation into Tomkins, PLC, a British firm. The merger was accomplished through an exchange of stock, valued at $1.16 billion, thus ending 85 years of 100% family ownership. At the time of the sale, the Gates Corporation employed over 14,000 people, manufactured products in 21 plants scattered across every continent, and served customers from a total of 170 Original Equipment Manufacturer and distributor locations worldwide. The family retained its non-rubber businesses and consolidated them under the Cody Resources banner. In the 1990s, Charles Gates, Jr. initiated a transfer of family leadership to the next generation, a process that was completed well in advance of his death in August 2005.

High ethical standards and a strong entrepreneurial spirit continue to characterize the Gates family's approach to business and their personal lives.

Colorado offered Charles Gates, Sr. a place to establish a business and raise his family. In return, the Gates Family Foundation has been the vehicle through which the family has given back to the state.

  • Gates Water Tower

Board Members

Richard G. Kiely, Chair
bio

Richard G. Kiely is President of Kiely Enterprises and has a deep interest in the future of Colorado and how philanthropy will influence Colorado’s future.  He is a practicing veterinarian focusing on Equine Medicine.

Rich earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado.  He then attended Colorado State University and graduated in 1976 with his Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine.  In addition he spent three and one half years at Texas A&M University where he completed a residency in Internal Medicine at the College of Veterinary Medicine and pursued additional graduate studies in Physiology.  He has attended the Harvard School of Business “Families in Business” program and the Wharton School of Business “Private Wealth Management” program.

In addition to his service with the Gates Family Foundation he has served on various hospital and health care boards, the Wickenburg Rural Fire District (AZ), Bear Creek Inc. a Wyoming Trust Company, the Roundup Riders of the Rockies and is on the board for the Cody Resources Management located in Denver.

He is an active pilot, scuba diver and an avid horseback rider.

Rich and his wife Sandra live in Wyoming and have two children.

Valerie Gates, Vice Chair
bio

Motivated by a passion for balance in the natural world, Gates creates and sponsors environmental education and conservation programs nationally and internationally.   Currently, her work is focused on the protection of water resources in Colorado, with a continued interest in Colorado land conservation, and the development of leadership skills in young adults.  Large carnivore research remains a long-term investment.

Gates is an honors graduate from San Diego State where she earned her degree in finance.

In addition to the Gates Family Foundation, Gates has served on the boards of Bear Creek Inc. (a private trust company), Graland Country Day School, and is currently chairman of Gates Capital Management.

A Colorado native, Gates has two adult sons.

Doris J. Biester
bio

Dr. Biester served as President and Chief Executive Officer at The Children’s Hospital, Denver, Colorado from July 1998 to January 2007.  Prior to assuming the position of President and Chief Executive Officer, Dori served as Senior Vice President, Director of Nursing, then as Senior Vice President/Patient Care Services, and as Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer.  During her tenure at Children’s, she created the vision and strategic direction to establish new modalities for the care of children, established professional nursing at the hospital as a national model, and provided leadership for the planning and development of a new Children’s Hospital on the Anschutz Medical Campus.  While Dori served as CEO, The Children’s Hospital was consistently ranked among the top 10 children’s hospitals by U.S. News and World Report. Most recently, Dori has held the position of Interim Director for the Center for Bioethics and Humanities at the University of Colorado Denver, Anschutz Medical Campus.

Dori earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Iowa, her master’s degree in pediatric nursing from the University of Wisconsin, and her doctorate degree in nursing from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center.

In addition to her involvement with the Gates Family Foundation, Dori serves on Rose Community Foundation’s Education Advisory Committee, and is a Board Trustee for Clayton Early Learning.

Wes Brown
Wesley A. Brown
bio

Wes Brown has had a distinguished career in investment banking, specializing in merger transactions and debt and equity financings for financial businesses, primarily commercial banks.  His investment banking career spanned the time period of 1981-2015, including involvement with 150 transactions totaling in excess of $4 billion.  Wes has been personally involved in approximately two-thirds of all bank and thrift merger transactions in Colorado between 1993 and 2015.

Wes’ investment banking career included serving as a Senior Vice President for Boettcher & Company and Director of the Corporate Finance Department (1981-1990), serving as Executive Vice President and Chief Compliance Officer of the Wallach Company, LLC (1991-2000), and serving as Senior Vice President and the leader of the Denver investment banking office for McDonald Investments, a Division of KeyCorp, following the purchase of the Wallach Company (2001-2004).

Wes went on to co-found St. Charles Capital, LLC in 2005, and served as its first President.  The firm grew to 30 employees and the leading Denver-based investment banking firm prior to its sale to KPMG Corporate Finance LLC in 2014.  Wes continued in the role of Managing Director for KPMG Corporate Finance through October of 2015.

Wes teaches at the Graduate School of Banking affiliated with the University of Colorado, and currently serves on the corporate boards of FirstBank Holding Company and Jack Henry Associates.

Wes holds a Masters of Business Administration with honors from the University of Chicago, and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics with distinction from the University of Colorado.

Wes is an avid outdoorsman and mountain climber, and has been a Field Active member of the Evergreen-based Alpine Rescue Team for many years.  Among other things, Wes brings to the board an extensive first-hand knowledge of and interest in Colorado’s diverse rural communities.

Richard F. Celeste
bio

Dick Celeste has had a diverse and distinguished career.  In 1970, he was elected to the Ohio House of Representatives from Cuyahoga County. He was subsequently elected the 55th Lieutenant Governor in 1974. President Carter appointed Celeste Director of the Peace Corps from 1979 to 1981, where he was responsible for programs in 53 countries. In 1982, Celeste was elected governor of Ohio and served as governor from 1983 to 1991. As governor, Celeste increased support for human services, mental health and addiction recovery services, funding for education, and children services including providing onsite daycare for state employees. Before the Celeste era, Ohio ranked near the bottom among states in funding for these programs. Later in his career, Celeste established the consulting firm Celeste & Sabety Ltd. in Columbus. After he served as the Director of the Democratic National Committee’s healthcare campaign in 1993, President Clinton appointed him as US Ambassador to India, a position he served in from 1997 to 2001. Celeste was inaugurated as the 12th President of Colorado College in 2002. He retired in 2011.

Celeste graduated magna cum laude from Yale University, and received a Rhodes Scholarship to attend Oxford University

Celeste is married to Jacqueline Lundquist. He has six children from a previous marriage and one child, Samuel, with Lundquist.

Lauren C. Davis
bio

Lauren Cannon Davis joined the Foundation board in January 2016.  Lauren is part of the vibrant heart of the new Denver, while remaining steeped in the heritage of our historic city. She also brings an intimate understanding of Colorado’s mountain communities, from Evergreen to Steamboat Springs. 

Entrepreneurship is a key driver in our state’s economic and cultural emergence. Lauren is deeply invested in this movement as President of Lauren Davis Designs, an interior design firm specializing in high-end residential projects. Lauren’s path to independent business ownership was a deliberate one; she honed a particular skillset over a decade with JF Design, MDC Holdings (parent of Richmond Homes) and Colorado Expression Magazine.

Lauren is equally passionate about Colorado’s culture of giving. She serves on the Board of Directors of The Kempe Foundation and has held positions of event or committee leadership with the Denver Art Museum, Denver Botanic Gardens, Susan G. Komen and the University of Denver. Lauren also serves on the Board of Managers for Gates Capital Management.

Lauren graduated from the University of Denver with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, with a Major in Marketing. In addition to design and philanthropy, Lauren’s interests include family, friends, travel, fitness, reading and outdoor adventure. She lives in Denver with her husband Christopher and son Charlie.

Walter R. Obermeyer
bio

Wally Obermeyer, a Colorado native, lives in Aspen and brings a Western Slope perspective to the Foundation.  He has a keen interest in the environment, education and economics.

Wally is President of Obermeyer Asset Management Company, an investment advisory firm that manages approximately $800 million for clients residing in roughly 40 states. For five consecutive years, the firm has been recognized in Barron’s list of the Top 100 Independent Financial Advisors.

Wally also serves on the board of his family’s ski wear business and is the president of a hydroelectric generation company.

In addition to his service as a trustee for the Gates Family Foundation, Wally is a trustee for the Aspen Buddy Program and, until recently, served as president of the Aspen Valley Land Trust’s board.

Wally earned his bachelor’s degree, cum laude, from Harvard College and his master’s in business administration from Harvard Business School.

Wally is married to Helen Ward.  He has two sons, a daughter and two step-daughters. His passions include fly fishing and aviation.

Dane Harbaugh
Dane G. Harbaugh
Board Associate - Non-Voting
bio

Dane, a Denver-born Colorado native, is passionate about engaging with children and encouraging future generations to appreciate the natural world as much as he does. He pursued a career in commercial real estate in Denver, working in mortgage banking and multi-family development before completing his MBA at the University of Denver. He currently is actively engaged with his wife in starting an outdoor education program outside of Steamboat, CO and aids in managing his Family’s ranch on the same site.  Dane has also served in a variety of roles contributing to the management and governance of Gates family entities.

Harbaugh graduated Magna Cum Laude from Tulane University in New Orleans, LA with a BS in Finance and Management, and Magna Cum Laude from the University of Denver with a MS in Real Estate and Construction Management and his MBA.

Dane is an avid skier, hiker, cyclist, runner, SCUBA diver, and traveler.

Staff Members

Rennie and Boo
Thomas A. Gougeon, President
bio
Tom Gougeon has served as the President of the Gates Family Foundation since August of 2010. Prior to Gates, Tom was a Principal and the Chief Development Officer for Continuum Partners (2000-2010), a developer and operator of mixed use urban real estate projects. Tom worked extensively on the Belmar redevelopment project in Lakewood, CO and the Union Station transit hub in central Denver among others. Tom also served as the Executive Director of the W.M.B. Berger Foundation (1997-2000), the CEO of the Stapleton Redevelopment Foundation (1991-1996) and as Assistant to the Mayor of the City and County of Denver (1983-1991). While in the Mayor’s office Tom was responsible for activities in the areas of budget and finance, planning, community development, infrastructure and liaison with the state and federal governments. Tom was heavily involved in the development of Denver International Airport and had direct oversight of the project from 1987-1990. Tom also worked as an Associate in the Industrial Economics Division of the Denver Research Institute, as a policy analyst at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and on the staff of U.S. Senator Gary Hart. Tom has served on the boards of numerous community organizations including The Nature Conservancy, Denver Civic Ventures, the Urban Land Conservancy, Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, the Piton Foundation, Neighborhood Housing Services, the Stapleton Foundation, Preservation Action, A+ Denver, the Denver Urban Renewal Authority and the Denver Water Board. Tom has a BA in Economics and Political Science from the University of Denver and a MCRP from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design.
Tonks
Beth Conover, Senior Vice President for Natural Resources and Community Development
Contact for information on Natural Resources and Community Development Initiatives
bio
Senior Vice President – Natural Resources, Rural Communities and Urbanism Beth Conover has worked for over twenty-five years at the intersection of environmental protection and economic development. She is a senior vice president with the Foundation, leading its initiated grant making for natural resources, rural communities and smarter, greener, healthier urbanism. As policy advisor to Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper from 2003-2007, she was the architect of Greenprint Denver, one of the nation’s earliest and largest urban sustainability programs, and helped lay the groundwork for the greening of the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver. Beth worked for the Stapleton Redevelopment Foundation and the Stapleton Development Corporation from 1994-1998 as Director of Parks and Programs. Conover also worked in Zimbabwe, southern Africa from 1989-91 on a community forestry initiative, and was a consultant in private practice for 9 years, helping public, private and non-profit clients with strategic planning and program and policy development. Beth is a native of Denver, a graduate of Brown University and holds a joint MBA/Masters of Environmental Studies from Yale University. She is author/editor of How the West Was Warmed: Responding to Climate Change in the Rockies, a collection of over 40 essays by leading journalists and policy makers (Fulcrum Press, 2009), and author of Trees for Zimbabwe: An Illustrated Guide for Teachers (ENDA-Zimbabwe, 1991). Beth has served on numerous boards, including those for the Colorado Youth Corps Association, the Sand Creek Regional Greenway, Conservation Colorado, the Africa Schools Assistance Project and the Beim Family Foundation in Minneapolis, MN. She is a recipient of the University of Colorado Wirth Chair Sustainability Award (2008).
Shanti
Laia C. Mitchell, Program Officer - Community Development
Contact for information on Community Development
bio
Laia Mitchell joined the Gates Family Foundation in April of 2015, and works in the areas of Natural Resources, Rural Communities and Smarter, Greener, Healthier Urbanism. Laia has twelve years of experience, largely in the nonprofit sector. From 2003 to 2006, Laia lived in northern Spain, where she worked with organic farmers with support from a Fulbright grant. She also served as an English language teacher and tutor. More recently, she worked as a vocational rehabilitation specialist in Florida and as a shelter and program manager/caseworker for the Emergency Family Assistance Association in Boulder, CO. Laia graduated Summa Cum Laude with a BA in Anthropology and Political Science from the University of Florida, and received her Masters in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Colorado, Denver in May of 2015. While pursuing her graduate degree, Laia served in a number of research assistant and intern roles with organizations including the Mile High Business Alliance, the Piton Foundation/Gary Community Investments, the Public Works Department of the City and County of Denver and Mile High Connects. She also provided staff support to the DRCOG Sustainable Communities Initiative analyzing transit oriented development options at rail station sites and conducted research on livable streets in ten Denver neighborhoods on behalf of the Department of Urban Planning at the University of Colorado, Denver.
Suba
Russell Schnitzer, Program Officer - Natural Resources
Contact for information on Natural Resources
bio
Russ joined the Foundation in the fall of 2016. His work is concentrated in the natural resources area, particularly water resources management and land conservation. Russ's career in nonprofit conservation has carried him from organizational development and strategic planning to large-scale project management, major gifts fundraising, and public policy. His primary conservation interests focus on finding mutually-beneficial solutions to the increasingly complex demands facing people, communities and their environment through creative collaboration and leading through innovation. He spent a decade with Trout Unlimited, most recently as the Agricultural Policy and Partnerships Advisor to TU's Western Water Project. Prior, he was with The Nature Conservancy as Director of External Affairs for its Wyoming office. Russ is a recipient of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Achievement Award, and has co-authored a number of publications pertaining to the intersection of social values and the environment. He played a key role in the development and eventual reauthorization of the 2014 Farm Bill’s conservation title, and was a founding steering committee member of the Western Agricultural and Conservation Collaborative. A former US Forest Service “smokejumper,” he is a graduate of the University of Idaho, where he earned his M.S. in Environmental Studies and B.S. degrees in Conservation Social Sciences and Wildland Conservation.
Forrest Bluebador
Mary Seawell, Senior Vice President for Education
Contact for information on K-12 Education Initiatives
bio
Mary Seawell leads work on education initiatives, particularly in the areas of innovations in governance and delivery of public education services, rural school innovation, public policy and strategies for expanding the pipeline of excellent school leaders and teachers. Mary has served previously as the Executive Director of the Sturm Family Foundation and the Judith Ann Griese Foundation. She has also served as a Director and member of the Grantmaking Committee for the Charles T. Beaird Foundation, and a board member and Chair of the Grantmaking Committee for the Chinook Fund. From 1993 to 2003 she worked in various capacities at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Denver District Attorney’s Office. Mary also worked for Get Smart Schools developing an MBA program at the University of Denver for autonomous school leaders. Mary has served on numerous community boards including the Odyssey School, the Denver Language School, The Lab at Belmar, Bluff Lake Nature Center and Rape Assistance and Awareness Program. Mary was elected to the Denver Public Schools Board of Education in 2009 and served as its President from 2011-2013. Mary is a graduate of American University (Print Journalism and Philosophy) and has a law degree from the University of Denver College of Law. She also studied Literature at Cambridge University in Cambridge, England.
Fado
Abigail Schaller, Program Officer - Education
Contact for information on K-12 Education
bio
Abby joined the Gates Family Foundation staff in September of 2015, and supports the Foundation’s initiated education work. Abby identifies and assesses new partner relationships and grant opportunities in K-12 public education in Colorado, and monitors and evaluates the impact of existing grants. Prior to Gates, Abby worked as a Graduate Research Assistant at the University of Colorado – Denver School of Public Affairs and at Jefferson County School District. At Jeffco, she supported the collection, reporting, analysis, and interpretation of data to inform curricular and instructional decision-making. Previously Abby worked for Klein Buendel, a public health research firm, administering various grant-funded behavior health projects, and as a Program Assistant (Americorp member) for an activity and employment center for adults with developmental disabilities in Tacoma, WA. Abby has a BA in Sociology from the University of Puget Sound and a MA in Public Administration from the University of Colorado – Denver.
Kaydee
Lisa Rucker, Program Officer/Grants Manager
Contact for information on Capital Grants
bio
Lisa Rucker joined the Foundation in April of 2014. She is the primary Foundation staff for the capital grants program, and oversees the Foundation’s grants management system. Lisa was most recently a Program Officer/Grant Administrator for the Anschutz Foundation from 2009 to 2014. In that role she performed staff review and analysis of proposals and was responsible for the Anschutz Foundation’s grants management system. Prior to Anschutz, Lisa worked for a developer of senior living communities, Siemens Building Technologies and Farmers Insurance. Lisa has a degree in Business Administration from Towson University in Maryland, with a concentration in Marketing.
Bailey
Carol A. Menard, Office and Assistant Grants Manager
bio
Carol Menard joined the Foundation in 1998. She serves as office manager, coordinator of information technology services, provides grants management staffing for the family funds housed at the Foundation and supports the Foundation’s overall grants management activities. Prior to Gates, Carol worked as an administrative assistant for Gates Capital Management. From 1989 to 1998, she served as a purchasing assistant and inventory control manager for a private business in Denver.
Lilah
Susan N. Dorsey, Vice President for Finance and Administration
bio
Sue Dorsey joined the Foundation in 2016. She has over 20 years of experience in nonprofit management, international development and finance. Sue is responsible for all financial management, accounting, investment management, human resources, reporting and compliance activities at the Foundation. Prior to coming to Gates, Sue served for seven years as the Chief Financial Officer for Water for People. Water for People is an NGO focused on sustainable, market-based solutions to global water and sanitation challenges. Prior to joining Water for People, Sue spent 12 years as the Executive Director of Friendship Bridge, a microfinance and education organization operating in Vietnam and Guatemala. Sue served as a Peace Corps volunteer in rural Costa Rica from 1990-92, working in small business development. Prior to the Peace Corps, Sue worked for several years in banking and finance with the First National Bank of Maryland. Sue is an adjunct professor at the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School for International Studies. She has an MBA from the Yale School of Management and a Bachelor’s degree in Business and Finance from the University of Vermont. Sue has served on the Board of InsideNGO since 2013 and as Treasurer since 2015.