Gary and Anna Olsen Leaving a Legacy


Gary and Anna Olsen have traveled around the globe, but their focus is here at home, and that includes their hometown University — Colorado State University. Both Gary and Anna went to college and have witnessed firsthand the significant impact that comes from an education, not only from their own experiences but also through their visits to undeveloped and developing countries. Convinced that education is the key to not only local but global success, their passion to give is unquestionable.

"Anna and I have been fortunate enough to do a lot of traveling, and we see that education is really what's changing the world and helping people at the lower end of the economy to move up and be able to make something of themselves. We want to promote that because we think that everybody has a chance to be successful in this world and education is a major way to get there," Gary says.

Gary and Anna's trip to Cambodia in October 2008 strengthened their feelings toward the value of a good education. "Cambodia was especially meaningful to us." Anna says. "Our guide was one of the children who ended up in a child labor camp under the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot administration. His story reduced us to tears." Witnessing firsthand a country struggling to rebuild itself in the aftermath of an administration that slaughtered anyone who had an education, only added to their desire to give.

Botswana, a country north of South Africa, was another trip that was inspirational to Gary and Anna. According to Gary, Botswana's diamond mining industry has not been poisoned by greed and, in fact, serves as model for humanitarian progress. "Profits from the diamond mines are being used to fund improvements to education and medical services, and other African countries are using Botswana as an example of how they want their government to be," Gary explains. "Young people are getting their first glimpse at a college education. It's a growing phenomenon that we see as part of the future of the world."

As for their life back home, Gary believes in the "roll-up-your-sleeves-and-do-something-about-it" approach. Gary, who attended Mesa State College and studied business, owned a local landscaping and sprinkler business for 32 years and, even in retirement, Gary stays busy running a small tree farm. Anna, a liberal arts graduate from Westmont College in Santa Barbara, Calif., also recently retired from a 33-year career in financial services. They both actively volunteer for the Red Cross and were readily available in the aftermath of the tornado that devastated Windsor, Colo., in Summer 2008.

"Even though we didn't go to CSU, we're local people and CSU is our local school, Anna says, "We're proud of CSU as a research University and, in particular, admire the colleges of Business, Engineering, and Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. We are also very pleased with Colorado State's recent environmental emphasis."

Gary and Anna's business backgrounds influenced their decision to designate, through their wills, a generous gift to the College of Business, specifically for scholarship funds. Although Anna has an extensive background in financial planning she says CSU's Office of Gift Planning was a big help. "They have a really nice website which is where I learned a lot of the verbiage we needed to finalize our plan. The people were great to work with and the follow-up was great too." In addition, Anna says, "Isn't it a universal principle that what you put out there is what you get back? We've been blessed, so we wanted to give back. It's just the right thing to do."