Stuart Conway and Jenny Bramhall: Leaving a Legacy for Local and Global Change

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After spending his freshman year of college at Yale, Stuart Conway was lured to Colorado by the Rocky Mountains. He initially attended the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he and his wife, Jenny, met, but it was his passion to study forestry that led him to Colorado State University. Jenny transferred from CU to the University of Northern Colorado, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in communications. After graduating with their degrees, Stuart and Jenny decided to travel to Latin America, but it wasn't long before they realized they wanted more out of their travels.

"We were tired of passing through people's lives and their villages, says Jenny. "We wanted a deeper knowledge of foreign culture, so we decided to join the Peace Corps because it allowed us to stay in one place and get to know one community, one culture."

Stuart and Jenny served three years in the Peace Corps in Guatemala, where Stuart taught local communities how to start tree nurseries and conserve natural resources, while Jenny taught small-animal care, gardening, health, and nutrition.

"The Peace Corps got me hooked on international development," Stuart says. "I knew I wanted to dedicate my life's work to helping people living in poverty."

After the Peace Corps, Stuart decided to further his education at Cornell University, where he earned a master's in international development and agroforestry. After graduation, he began working in Washington, D.C., on the New Forests Project. It was there he met Richard Fox, who, with Stuart, co-founded Trees, Water & People, a nonprofit organization based in Fort Collins.

Trees, Water & People work with communities in Central America, Haiti, and the American West to educate local people and empower them with tools to protect, conserve, and manage their natural resources. Through reforestation methods; building fuel-efficient stoves and solar-air heaters, and providing green-job training, Trees, Water & People has made tremendous strides in helping underresourced and underdeveloped countries to create jobs and conserve precious resources.

"We feel lucky because we've been given two awards that have really helped us get through the recession," Stuart says. In 2008, Trees, Water & People received the prestigious $1 Million Rio Tinto Prize for Sustainability, and in February 2010, the $100,000 Sasakawa Prize from the United Nations Environment Program.

Trees, Water & People also has greatly benefited from its partnership with Colorado State University by utilizing access to faculty research, student interns and research facilities. The organization has partnered with Fort Collins to beautify parks and open spaces.

"I love the direction Colorado State is going with a focus on being ‘green' and promoting diversity," Stuart says. "Because of that, CSU is now attracting better programs and better students."

Stuart and Jenny want to do what they can to help Colorado State continue in this direction, so they've planned a gift to the University through a bequest in their will. They have also established the Gerald A. and Martine V. Conway Scholarship Endowment in honor of Stuart's parents. The scholarship is awarded to first-generation students and those who would otherwise not have the opportunity to receive an education at Colorado State.

"It's so fun to give; it feels so good to be able to make the world we live in better," Jenny says. "All these students who got a little bit of help may go out and do something great and teach the world something we don't even know."

Jenny adds that whenever they receive thank-you letters from their scholarship recipients, they like to show them to their children because they want to instill a philanthropic spirit in them, just as Jenny and Stuart's parents did for them.

As if raising three children — two in college and one in high school – and promoting better communities worldwide is not enough to keep them busy, Jenny and her sister Becca also run their own retail store in Fort Collins: Clothes Pony and Dandelion Toys. Their unique children's boutique creates community for local families by inviting them to come in and play, participate in sing-alongs and story times, or just hang out and relax.

Jenny also serves on the board of directors for Fort Collins' Downtown Development Authority, and her youngest daughter, Charlotte, joins her as a member of the National Charity League, an organization that promotes philanthropy in children.

Whether your community is local or global, you, too, can make a difference by leaving a lasting legacy through a gift to one of Colorado State University's far-reaching programs.