On May 3, 2023, the Diversity House at Colorado State University was officially renamed the Mary Ontiveros House by the Office for Inclusive Excellence. It is the first building on campus to be named for a Latina.
The ceremony, which took place on the building’s front lawn, was attended by about 275 people, including family members, faculty, staff, and administrators from across campus, CSU President Amy Parsons, CSU System Chancellor, Dr. Tony Frank, and several members of CSU’s Board of Governors.
Ontiveros (B.S., ’73, M.E.D, ’79) invested 50 years at CSU, starting as a student in 1969, and after graduation, served in a variety of leadership positions, including executive director of admissions, associate vice president in the Division of Enrollment and Access, and a faculty member in the School of Education. True to character, she was also a lifetime member of the Alumni Association. In 2010, she was named by then-President Frank as the University’s first vice president for diversity and was CSU’s first Latina vice president. In that role, she established an office that grew to 10 staff members under her leadership providing the campus with comprehensive training and advocacy. Ontiveros, who retired on December 31, 2020, passed away on Feb. 19, 2022.
Following in her footsteps was Kauline Cipriani, who became the vice president for diversity and inclusion in August 2021, and changed the name to the Office for Inclusive Excellence. Although she did not personally know Ontiveros, Cipriani knew she was succeeding a trailblazer. “It’s always somewhat daunting to step into the shoes of someone who has the kind of ties to CSU that Mary did. But it’s part of why I chose to come to CSU because of the legacy of doing the work on this campus that was led primarily by her. This position wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for her. Others helped advocate for this, but she drove it.”
The first employee Ontiveros hired for the new office was Ria Vigil (B.A., ’07; M.S., ’09), who currently serves as the assistant vice president for Inclusive Excellence. “Mary was such an authentically caring person who had integrity. She loved CSU and was such a champion for the land-grant mission,” Vigil said. “My only disappointment is that she’s not alive to see the house renamed. She would be so humbled and honored as the first woman of color to have a building named for her. As a Latina from Pueblo, from a very working-class family, she would just be over the moon.”
Similarly, Shannon Archibeque-Engle (B.S., ’94, M.S., ’96, Ph.D., ’15), now the associate vice president for Inclusive Excellence, became acquainted with Ontiveros in the early 1990s, long before joining her staff in 2017. “Mary was very humble and never forgot where she was from, but she set the standard for the University. Everything that we take pride in around access, diversity, equity, and inclusion, Mary was part of,” Archibeque-Engle said. “CSU works well because we work hard and we work together. It was people like Mary who built that culture, and she never lost sight of who we are supposed to serve. She knew representation mattered and it is very fitting that Mary is now that representation.”
Prior to the unveiling of the new sign by members of Ontiveros’ family, Cipriani, President Parsons, and Chancellor Frank all spoke at the renaming ceremony, each one offering personal reflections on Ontiveros.
Citing a statement Ontiveros penned in 2018, Cipriani said, “‘The Office for the Vice President of Diversity was created with a conviction that we could not fully deliver on the land-grant promise of our University if we did not actively strive to reflect the society we serve.’ I deeply appreciate all that she did to bring sustainable change in her own way both gradually and urgently …. Mary deserves the bright light this dedication shines on her legacy because she left so much behind for all of us, and all who will work and learn at CSU in future generations.”
In President Parsons’ previous roles on the main campus with the general counsel’s office and as the vice president for University Operations, she worked with Ontiveros in various capacities and reflected on that in her remarks. “I had the good fortune of knowing Mary,” Parsons said. “She worked with thousands of us in the CSU community, and she approached the work with grace, patience, humor, great skill, and expertise. I’m a better leader today because of Mary and I think we are all individually and collectively better for CSU because of the foundation Mary created here.”
Chancellor Frank spoke about the personal attributes that made Ontiveros so effective and how she embodied the changes she was deeply committed to manifesting. “Mary brought people along by being a great listener,” he said, “and once she knew where you were at, she knew how to teach you. And not in a way that made you defensive or called out in some manner, but in a way that just made you want to walk the walk alongside her, that made you think, ‘Maybe I can be as good as the person she thinks I can be.’ That’s a special gift that Mary gave to all of us.”
He concluded his remarks by saying, “I can’t think of any more fitting honor to Mary O.’s legacy than to name this home after her. It’s a home for diversity and inclusion on our campus. It’s a home where justice lives. It’s a home where people can come together and work, and dream, and imagine a better world, and in doing so, build a better CSU. It’s a home where everyone should feel welcome. So, welcome to Mary O’s house. We are all welcome here.”
* * * *
The Ontiveros Inclusive Fellowship Program
This program, offered through the CSU Career Center, gives students opportunities to gain professional experience through fellowships, which are monetary awards that subsidize costs. The program removes barriers to academic and professional development by providing project-based funding to students who might otherwise not have access to those opportunities. These fellowships are open to all students, regardless of citizenship status. We encourage you to honor Mary’s legacy today by making a gift to the Ontiveros Inclusive Fellowship Program.
A Home with History
The farmhouse that became known on campus as the “President’s House,” was built about 1940 and was originally part of the Wolfer Farm, which included the house and 95 acres of land located at what is now the intersection of South Shields and West Laurel Streets. In March 1946, the State Board of Agriculture purchased the house and most of the farm’s land from Mr. Clair F. Wolfer, an alumnus and local banker, and soon after it became the home to President Roy M. Green, followed by Isaac E. Newsom, William E. Morgan, and Adrian Ray Chamberlain before becoming home to Alumni Relations in 1978. Learn more about the home’s history at CSU Libraries’ Archives and Special Collections.