Michael Smith's $5 million gift will provide numerous scholarships for Colorado students

By Cara Neth

The College of Business recently received the largest single gift in its history, a gift that will have a transformative impact on the college and its students.

Colorado State University alumnus Michael S. Smith and his wife, Iris Smith, have donated $13 million to CSU – $5 million of which will benefit the College of Business. Smith and the college have partnered to develop the Michael Smith Elite Business Scholars program, dedicating $3 million toward the creation of 13 endowed, full-tuition scholarships to attract the most talented Colorado students to the college.

Michael Smith and his wife, Iris Smith

Smith’s generosity doesn’t stop there. He has pledged an additional $2 million for 37, four-year Michael Smith 50th Anniversary scholarships so that financial challenges will not prevent any outstanding undergraduate Colorado student from enrolling in the college. In total, the Smiths' contribution will result in 50 new scholarships at the College of Business.

Michael Smith is the chairman and chief executive of Freeport LNG, which is completing an LNG export facility based in the port of Freeport, Texas. Prior to Freeport, Smith was the chairman and chief executive of Basin Exploration, a Colorado-based E&P company he founded in 1981 in Fort Collins and sold to Stone Energy in 2001.

“I owe much of my success to the education I received at CSU and the combination of strong science and mathematics that enabled me to learn the oil and gas business," Smith said. "My career has been built around the opportunity this country’s energy business has spawned, and I hope my gifts help CSU to continue providing a premier education to generations of geologists, chemists and business leaders.”

When added to the existing 18 scholarships already created by generous donors so far this year, the College of Business has a total of 68 new scholarships, surpassing its goal of creating 50 new scholarships in honor of its 50th anniversary this year.  

"This is a great day in the College of Business during an historic year," Walker said. "Because of Michael Smith's incredible generosity, this tremendous gift will help us to provide a world-class business education to deserving, talented students who want to use business to change the world, but who may not have the means to attend CSU otherwise. We are grateful for the time and attention Michael Smith already has shared with our students, who are just in awe of his achievements and insight. This gift is another, outstanding demonstration of his leadership and commitment to investing in the next generation of business professionals."

About the gift

In total, the $13 million gift will include:

  • A $5 million gift to create 50 full-tuition scholarships in the College of Business, in honor of the College’s 50th anniversary – 13 endowed Michael Smith Elite Business Scholars awards and 37 Michael Smith 50th Anniversary Scholarship awards.
  • A $3.7 million gift to complete funding to build the Michael Smith Natural Resources Building in the Warner College of Natural Resources.
  • A $3.5 million gift to the new multipurpose on-campus stadium project; the Michael & Iris Smith Alumni Center within the stadium will be home to the University’s 205,000 living alumni.
  • A $400,000 gift to create 10 full-tuition Michael Smith Scholarships in the Department of Geosciences in the Warner College of Natural Resources.
  • And another $400,000 gift to create 10 full-tuition Michael Smith Scholarships in the Department of Chemistry in the College of Natural Sciences.

About Michael Smith

Michael Smith is an energy entrepreneur whose academic and business roots are in Colorado. A CSU chemistry major with a minor in mathematics, Smith attended Colorado State in the 1970s and holds an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the school.

The Smiths' donation will expand access to an impactful education for students throughout Colorado for years to come.

He has been extensively involved with the University in many ways over the years, including co-founding the Development Council and supporting Ram Athletics. He has many business and community affiliations throughout Colorado and a long history of philanthropic involvement including service on the boards of National Jewish Medical and Research Center, Colorado Ocean Journey, and as a member of the Colorado Governor’s Minerals, Energy, & Geology Policy Advisory Board. He is a past president of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association and served on its board for more than 10 years.

“Michael Smith is a brilliant, visionary business leader who, with this gift, has extended that vision to Colorado State University,” CSU President Tony Frank said. “We are humbled by his generosity and profoundly inspired by what we believe this will do for our students, alumni, and academic programs. The breadth and reach of the generosity from Michael and Iris Smith is truly unparalleled, with the potential for a transformative impact on three of our top academic colleges and our new on campus stadium currently under construction.”


Smith's gift will stretch across CSU

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