Green and gold run deep in the veins of the Heap family. This is not just because Matt (B.A., ’94) and Beth (B.S., ’93) Heap fell in love on campus, or because their former roommates are also married and live next door, and it’s not because their daughter, Taylor (B.S., ’22), represents the third generation to attend Colorado State University. Beyond those built-in connections, all three family members say CSU can only be described by one word: home.
“It is my favorite place on Earth,” Matt said. “Some of our fondest memories as a family involve CSU. The kids [Taylor and Brad] have been tailgating and going to football games since they were born. There’s just something about it.”
It’s that intangible feeling and connectedness to CSU that made Matt and Beth want to become Lifetime Alumni Association Members.
“It’s part of the sense of pride we have with CSU,” Matt explained. “There are very few things in life where you have an experience that can be shared with your friends, your family, and now our children. That common bond is what makes CSU such a special place.”
Beth agreed, saying it’s a forever connection to CSU that will reinvest in and help other students have opportunities and a chance to build memories of their own.
One of those students is Beth and Matt’s daughter, Taylor.
“My parents instilled in me a love for CSU very early on, and I’ve always loved it here,” Taylor said. “They really helped show me how big the Ramily is.”
It may seem obvious now that Taylor would end up at CSU, but she says it was not her initial choice when she began her college search. Having spent so much time on campus as a child made her want to branch out and find something she could call her own.
“Then I took a tour in my junior year of high school and got to see the University from the student perspective. I thought, ‘wow, this place is amazing,’” she said. “I toured other campuses as a junior and senior and thought they were cool, but they weren’t CSU.”
When Taylor was awarded the coveted Boettcher Scholarship, which provides a full ride to any university or college in Colorado, the decision to become a Ram was sealed. When she arrived on campus, Taylor dove right in.
“I wanted to make my freshman year my ‘yes year,’ where I said yes to every experience and opportunity that came my way. That quickly turned into every year becoming my ‘yes year,’” she said with a laugh. “It allowed me to get involved with so many different things and really grow as a student and a person and help me discover my passions.”
One of those passions is philanthropy, and it’s what led Taylor to become a Presidential Ambassador.
“When I was interviewing to become a Presidential Ambassador, I explained that I wanted to show how CSU has changed my life and tell donors and those who came before ‘thank you,’” she said. “All the experiences I’ve had were made possible by philanthropy and the generosity of others. I try to honor that by giving back in any way I can.”
For Taylor, giving back also means staying connected to CSU. That’s why she asked her parents for a lifetime membership to the Alumni Association as her graduation present.
“As a student, you’re in such close proximity to the University that it can be hard to see how much of an impact CSU has made on you. When I stepped back and thought about all the incredible opportunities I’ve had here, it made me want to stay as connected as possible,” she said.
Matt and Beth weren’t shocked by Taylor’s request (it was their plan to get her a membership even before she asked), but switching from proud parents to proud alumni, they said it all goes back to how special CSU is.
“You can’t place too high of a significance on having young alumni immediately wanting to re-engage with the University the second they step off campus,” Matt said. “It speaks volumes to the impact the institution has had on them.”
The Heaps were excited enough for Taylor’s graduation, but then in April they received an unexpected email from Alumni Association Executive Director Kristi Bohlender asking the family to represent the Class of 2022 and kick-off Commencement by ringing the Old Main Bell. The Heaps were stunned.
“It is so exciting,” Beth said with delight. “The bell was still missing in action when we were in school, but I remember watching Iris and Michael Smith ring it at the dedication of the new Alumni Center and thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen.”
Matt called the opportunity the ultimate culmination of the family’s connection to CSU.
“It’s the greatest acknowledgement we could have as alumni. That’s the cool thing about CSU, they acknowledge there’s more ways to be a great alum than just by writing a check,” Matt said. “And to be able to do it with my daughter on her graduation day…I’m still speechless. You couldn’t write a better ending to our CSU story.”
Even though it hasn’t happened yet, Taylor said it’s already her favorite CSU memory. That’s saying something considering Taylor has 22 years’ worth of memories being part of the CSU community.
“To be able to celebrate all of that by ringing the most notorious bell on campus that has been around before CSU was even CSU with my parents is incredible,” she said before proudly stating: “I’m a Ram.”