By Ann Gill (M.A., ’76)
Why would two graduates of another institution become members of the CSU Alumni Association? Tony and Kathy Phifer take advantage of faculty/staff membership because they are passionate about CSU, its mission, and “all the good it does.”
Colorado State always has been part of Tony’s life. He grew up in Fort Collins, and his mother and sister both worked at CSU. He served on the Ram Club Board of Directors for a decade. After 28 years at the Coloradoan, Tony became a communications specialist at CSU, writing articles for online and print publications.
Kathy has worked at CSU for 28 years; she currently is director of strategic communications and college initiatives in External Relations. Kathy says she feels like an alumna, as her “greatest education—intellectual and social experiences and opportunities — occurred at CSU.”
The Phifers not only believe in CSU’s mission, they live it. In 1993, Kathy started School is Cool, which raises funds to purchase school supplies and backpacks for children in local schools whose families cannot afford them. The program provided 63 backpacks filled with supplies the first year; this year, 2511 were distributed. Recently, Tony spearheaded a drive to create the Kathy Phifer School is Cool Legacy Scholarship, which is awarded to a Poudre School District graduate who attends CSU and has significant financial need. School is Cool “is a labor of love” for the Phifers and epitomizes the values they hold.
It is not, however, the only project they have spearheaded. Tony’s favorite project (Kathy calls it “an obsession”) resulted in two very special oak trees being planted on campus. Some time ago, he read a book that mentioned Glenn Morris (B.S., ’35), a star Aggie athlete who won a gold medal in decathlon at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. That year, each gold medalist also received an oak sapling. Tony located an old photograph indicating Morris had given his sapling to his alma mater. After exhaustive research, Tony was unable to find that oak tree anywhere on campus or learn what became of it. He connected with a man who had grown oak trees using acorns from existing Olympic oaks; three of those seedlings were donated to CSU. One was planted on the lawn south of Glenn Morris Fieldhouse. Fort Collins city forester Tim Buchanan raised another that grew to 10 feet tall. At a ceremony in fall of 2017, Tony helped plant it on the east side of the Iris & Michael Smith Alumni Center in honor of Morris.
Kathy’s favorite project was the recent CSUnite: No Place for Hate walk that occurred on campus March 29. It was a demonstration of what CSU, as well as the Phifers and so many others on campus, value. It was a statement that our campus community would confront acts of hate and reach out across differences that can divide people to support anyone targeted or harmed by hate or bias.
Kathy and Tony Phifer, themselves both first-generation college students, are extraordinary members of the CSU community and our Alumni Association!