Donor Leaves Legacy with Her Time, Talent, and Treasure


Karen Shirey

Colorado State University alumna Karen Shirey expressed her passion for fashion at an early age, and, in retirement, her interest has come full circle with her support of the University's Avenir Museum of Design and Merchandising.

"My mother and grandmother were very accomplished in fashion design and construction, and I always had a needle and thread in my hands," said Karen, a Fort Collins native. "When I was 11 years old, I made a dress and won a Singer sewing contest. Since then, I've been sewing like mad."

Karen, who holds three degrees from CSU, earned her undergraduate degree in pre-med and vocational home economics education with a fashion design concentration in 1970. In 1974, she received a Master of Education in vocational home economics education and guidance and counseling. She earned her doctorate in vocational education in 1979. Her late husband, Jim, also was a CSU graduate, earning his doctoral degree in veterinary medicine.

Karen's career included teaching elementary, junior high, and high school; coaching junior high track; guidance counseling; and serving as an assistant principal. Karen's late father, Ray Kruse, a longtime Fort Collins teacher and administrator for whom Kruse Elementary is named, was an inspiration to Karen as she pursued her work.

In retirement, Karen has spent countless hours volunteering for the Avenir Museum, a facility that houses more than 18,000 cataloged articles of clothing, textiles, and interior furnishing artifacts. Karen's responsibilities have encompassed intaking of donated items; setting up exhibits; taking inventories; de-accessioning items; evaluating student projects; mentoring students; and assisting with the University's historic costume and textile collection's move from the Gifford Building to the expanded Avenir Museum at the University Center for the Arts. As part of her volunteer duties, Karen even constructed historically accurate petticoats needed for an exhibit of clothing dating back to 1835.

"The staff was very open to using my talents and abilities," said Karen. "They have treated me like a respected member of the team."

In addition to supporting the Avenir through her skilled volunteer work, Karen has included the museum in her will. "Fashion is an area that sometimes people forget. They may think it is a hobby, but it is much more. Any historic fashion collection is history; a study of people and a way to gain an appreciation for their way of life."

Other planned gifts Karen has made to the University include two endowed scholarships—one for professional veterinary medical students and one for graduate students majoring in school guidance and counseling. Karen has also designated funding to an exam room at CSU's James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

"Education was a very high priority for both my husband and me," said Karen. "We so appreciate what CSU did for us, and I wanted to make sure to give back what the University gave to us: an education that established our careers and our way of life."