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Celebrating 80 Years - 1966, Air Force Academy Foundation

Tags: #Celebrating80Years

#Celebrating80Years: 2017 marked 80 years of working with Colorado’s nonprofits as they seek to strengthen their communities. Throughout 2018, we will be looking back on this history of the outstanding organizations and the people the Trustees have had the opportunity to support. On the blog you will find a history of the Foundation’s grant making and a representative organization from every year since our founding in 1937.

AFAF received the Academy's Distinguished Service Award in 2015


It is no secret that Colorado Springs has been closely connected to the United States military throughout its history, and one element of that is the United States Air Force Academy, located in the northern part of the city. The Air Force Academy was established in 1954 and graduated its first class in 1959, and El Pomar has proudly supported the Academy through the Air Force Academy Foundation from the beginning.

The Academy changed the landscape in Colorado Springs. Spencer Penrose was nothing if not a promoter of the Pikes Peak region; he believed strongly in big investments that reshaped the region in a way that showcased its assets to the Country and the world. Trustees knew that support for the development of the Air Force Academy was consistent with the Penrose’s ethos and so in 1957, the year following Mrs. Penrose’s death, they provided the first grant to the Air Force Academy Foundation.


Grantee Spotlight:  Air Force Academy Foundation

Colorado Springs has long been recognized for its vibrant military presence and support of the U.S. Armed Forces, and a great moment in the city’s history was the announcement on July 24, 1954 that the future United States Air Force Academy would be established at the foot of Pikes Peak. Colorado Springs had previously been named one of the three finalists, but was initially considered a long-shot for selection by locals due to the fact that Camp Carson (now Fort Carson) and Ent Air Force Base (now Peterson Air Force Base) were already located in the city. Even so, members of the Site Selection Board were impressed by the overwhelming community support for a third service installation, and decided that Colorado Springs would be the most suitable location for the Academy. Among the driving forces behind the campaign to bring the Academy to Colorado was the Air Academy in Colorado Foundation, later rebranded as the Air Force Academy Foundation. El Pomar Trustees William Thayer Tutt and Charles L. Tutt III, also served on the Colorado Springs Chamber's Committee to promote Colorado Springs as the site of the Academy (pictured below). 

The initial meeting of the Air Force Academy Foundation was held at the Broadmoor Hotel and consisted of business, government, and nonprofit leaders from around the state. Colorado Governor Dan Thornton was named the first president of the foundation and W. Thayer Tutt, a Trustee of El Pomar Foundation, was named Vice President. The Foundation’s first major fundraising project was a response to a request from Secretary of the Air Force, Harold Talbott, who asked that the Foundation “provide the Air Force Academy with the best golf course in the world,” in what was ultimately a $700,000 project. Over time, the Air Force Academy Foundation contributed to a number of high-profile projects essential in building the Academy as it exists today, including Falcon Stadium, Farish Memorial Recreation Area, the Barry Goldwater Visitors Center, and the Holaday Athletic Center.

Air Force Academy Colorado Springs Committee, 1954

Since 1985, the Air Force Academy Foundation has shifted its giving from major capital projects to annual scholarships to graduating cadets for participation in the George Mason University Scholarship Program through The Fund for American Studies, as well as the Colorado Leadership Alliance. The Foundation also sponsors the Leadership and Scholarship trophy, awarded to the squadron with the highest number of cadets on the Superintendent’s Honor List; and the Distinguished American Award, which has previously been awarded to five U.S. Presidents and an extensive list of high ranking government and military officials. Currently, the Air Force Academy Foundation provides ten scholarships annually for cadets to travel around the world through the George Mason program.

Since 1957, El Pomar has granted more than $3.3 million to the Air Force Academy Foundation, primarily in capital support.


El Pomar in 1966:

The Foundation granted nearly $1.2 million in 1966, with grants ranging from a $200 contribution to the Salvation Army to the first of two grants of more than $600,000 to the city of Colorado Springs for the purchase of land for the Penrose library building.


Images courtesy of the United State Air Force Academy and El Pomar's collection

Spotlight by Matt Nuñez