Colorado School of Mines recently celebrated the grand opening of the Starzer Welcome Center at the corner of 19th and Illinois streets, named for Michael R. and Patricia (Patty) K. Starzer ’83, who gave a $4 million gift for construction of the building. It is the new home for the Colorado School of Mines Office of Admissions, Foundation and Alumni Association.
The Starzers say they attribute school, family and faith to their personal and financial successes. It’s also where they place their contributions.
Their gift and the story of their financial successes dates back more than 100 years and involves the man that Stratton Hall was named after.
Patty tells it best in this story she shared during the building’s ribbon-cutting ceremony held on Nov. 2:
“In the mid 1860's, there was a young man living in the midwest who dreamed of striking it rich prospecting in the Wild West of Colorado. He followed after and prospected with another enterprising young man named Winfield Scott Stratton.
This young man ventured off to seek his fortune with Stratton and others in their prospecting party in the Colorado Mountains, leaving Justina Reichuber-Starzer, his wife at home.
After long, lonely months of prospecting with nothing to show for it, the young man decided to stick it out a little longer than he and his wife had agreed and prospected a few more months. Still not finding his fortune, he decided to return home to his wife, while he still had a wife. He knew she would be miffed, so he purchased a peace offering for her in hopes that she would forgive him for being away so long and coming home poor. Upon returning home to Justina, he presented the peace offering. The story is that while his wife indeed welcomed him home, she flatly refused to accept the gift—which she viewed as very expensive at the price of their savings.
Stratton, however, stuck it out and in July 1891 staked what became the Independence Mine near Cripple Creek. Stratton became not only rich, but was very generous. He was appointed to the Colorado School of Mines Board of Trustees in 1899. In 1900, Stratton presented a check for $25,000 to Regis Chauvenet to benefit the school. This was the first sizable philanthropic gift to Mines. The money was applied to construct Stratton Hall, completed in 1904, which still stands on our Mines campus today. Unfortunately, Stratton passed away in September 1902 and did not see the completion of the building that bears his name.
So how did I hear of the young man’s story? About one and a half years ago, Mike and his mom, Marilyn, and I were discussing the history of Mines and the various buildings on campus, and the need for the Welcome Center as a starting point for prospective students and their parents. When we mentioned Stratton Hall, Marilyn began questioning us about Winfield Scott Stratton and the timeframe of his involvement in the Colorado gold and silver rush and Mines. She then shared with us this story told to her by Mike’s grandfather, Joseph Francis Starzer, about Joseph’s grandfather prospecting in Colorado with Winfield Stratton and others in the prospecting party.
The story and the peace offering were passed down four generations, beginning with Mike’s great, great grandfather, that prospector from Kansas, Xaver Starzer, who wore the ring himself on his pinky because his wife, Justina, refused to accept it. This same ring I am wearing today.
Today—111 years later—we celebrate the opening of the Starzer Welcome Center on the same campus as Stratton Hall. I feel like we have come full circle and wonder what the two young prospectors would think if they were here today. We are privileged to be a part of Mines history and hope that many generations to follow will be blessed as well.”
Other major donors to the building include David and Marti Wagner (East and West Board Rooms), the Patrick M. James Family (Heritage Lounge) and Howard and Cherine Janzen (Executive Conference Room). Supporters include: Heather Boyd, The Galena Foundation, William Jr. and Jann Klett, Linda Landrum, Ronald and Judy Lease, and William and Kyle Neidt.