By Ann Gill (M.A., ’76)
When does working 45 years at the same organization become something other than a career? Dianna Kunz (B.S., ’70) says of her time at Volunteers of America: “It grabbed me because it was about meeting basic needs. It was more of a calling than a job.”
Dianna graduated from CSU with a degree in sociology-anthropology. She then earned a masters in social work and a doctorate in public administration at other universities. She also is an ordained minister. Volunteers of America Colorado (VOA) is an interdenominational church as well as a human services organization. It broke off from the Salvation Army in 1896. Their programs support at-risk youth, the frail elderly, low-income families, and those who are homeless or escaping domestic violence. They also run a veterans’ services center. Over 200,000 people received VOA’s services last year.
Dianna’s “calling” began in 1973, when VOA Colorado had 8 employees and 2 programs. When she retired in 2018 as the president and CEO, it had grown to 350 employees and 55 programs. She jokes that, during those 45 years, she has “done every job in the organization except accounting.” She felt like each position she held while at VOA Colorado was “the best job ever” and praises both the staff and volunteers for their commitment to meeting the basic human needs of others.
Her original plan had been to go into social work, a passion she developed while watching her father, an elder in charge of benevolence for the Church of Christ. The church referred individuals in need to her father, who invited them to his home. Dianna’s memories of those families, and particularly the children, stayed with her and led to her calling.
Retirement for Dianna involves some of the same activities she supported for 45 years. On Tuesdays, she works with a Head Start program. She is in a classroom with 16 preschoolers, many of whom have special needs. She laughs, “I have a doctorate degree, but that did not qualify me to teach 3- and 4-year olds!” On Fridays, she drives for Meals on Wheels. She always makes her last stop the home of a 100-year-old woman, where she not only delivers a meal but stays to help the woman with chores and listen to her stories.
She became a lifetime member of the CSU Alumni Association because she wanted to remain a part of and support her alma mater, and “lifetime membership financially is the best option!” She recalls her time at CSU as “the happiest four years of my life.” She joined Angel Flight, a civilian group associated with Air Force ROTC. Her time on campus coincided with two campus icons. Moby opened the spring before her freshman year, and she had classes in Old Main before it was destroyed by fire her senior year.
Dianna is a stalwart Ram and an icon in Denver human services. Her calling has made a tremendous difference in the lives of people in need. Fittingly, VOA’s Early Childhood Education building, which houses the Head Start program, is named in her honor.