by Douglas Adams
The summer before my junior year of high school, I attended a summer program called Grab the Torch which emphasizes the core principles of leadership, ethics, and philanthropy. During the Colorado program, we visited numerous foundations and nonprofits throughout the state including the Daniels Fund, the Coors Foundation, and, most notably for me, El Pomar Foundation. Grab the Torch’s program helped me develop a better understanding of the American tradition of philanthropy and the widespread and benevolent impact that capitalism and accumulated wealth can have on regional communities for generations. After our visit to El Pomar Foundation in particular, I realized an important truth. The modern city of Colorado Springs that I have come to know and love, the neighborhood I live in, and the high school that I attended—Fountain Valley School of Colorado—would likely not exist if it had not been for the entrepreneurial mind and philanthropic spirit of a single couple, Spencer and Julie Penrose. Realizing the humbling truth--that one couple can have such a large impact on the development of a region both in their lifetime and for generations after--remains one of the most profound moments I have experienced in my life thus far.
Now, four years later, I am lucky enough to have the position of Investment Office Intern at El Pomar Foundation. When I told my friends at the University of Denver that I would be working at El Pomar Foundation over the summer, some of them had trouble understanding what exactly I would be doing, a demonstration of the fact that many college-aged Americans do not fully understand what a 501(c)3 charitable foundation is, how it operates, and what impact it can have on both a regional and national level. Additionally, as an accounting major in the Daniels College of Business, many people thought it was a strange choice for me to work in a charitable foundation that gives money away as opposed to a for-profit consulting internship.
El Pomar drew me in for two reasons. First, I love Colorado Springs and greater Colorado communities. In my opinion, the quality of life in the Rocky Mountain West is virtually unparalleled anywhere in the United States. Secondly, I was interested in the way that for-profit investment techniques can be used to create continued growth and wealth in a charitable endowment. This is the most important component to a charitable foundation, because the regional impact of the foundation is contingent on its ability to generate increasing value over time.
I was thrilled to have the incredible opportunity of working at El Pomar Foundation last summer. My experience as an intern had a transformative effect on my life, as both a student of business and as a member of the Colorado community.