Kat Heiden

Alumnus invests in new lab space for student Capstone projects

The J. Don ’55 and Lois Thorson Capstone Lab will provide a dedicated space for Capstone Design@Mines projects
Don Thorson, center, with four students

Don Thorson ’55 and his wife, Lois, have made a generous gift to support a state-of-the-art lab within the Labriola Innovation Complex at Colorado School of Mines.

When built, the J. Don ’55 and Lois Thorson Capstone Lab will provide a dedicated space for Capstone Design@Mines projects. The culmination of a Mines education for many majors, the Capstone Design@Mines experience is a creative, client-driven opportunity for students to provide designs for industry, government agencies and community organizations. More than 100 teams of Mines students from across engineering disciplines participate in Capstone Design@Mines projects and have the opportunity to display their solutions and prototypes in a twice-a-year Design Showcase. The projects in the showcase are judged by volunteers, with the best projects receiving special recognition. Don Thorson frequently serves as a volunteer judge for the competition.

The Thorsons have recognized the importance of this unique hands-on, real-world engineering opportunity at Mines for many years. In addition to Don’s service as a volunteer judge, he and Lois have donated to Capstone Design@Mines (formerly called Senior Design) for over two decades, from the earliest days of the program. The J. Don ’55 and Lois Thorson Capstone Lab will be a physical manifestation of the Thorsons’ generosity and visionary belief in the value of the program from the very beginning.

“Giving students a designated space to use their hands, learn with tools and fabricate these unique projects is important to me as a person and as a Mines alumnus"
Don Thorson

Not only does Capstone Design@Mines allow students to put their engineering skills to use and create things that truly make a difference, it also prepares them for the workforce by emphasizing project management skills, leadership, teamwork, human-centered design and client-consultant engagement. As part of the Labriola Innovation Complex, The J. Don ’55 and Lois Thorson Capstone Lab will provide easy and convenient access to peers, faculty and resources throughout the complex. Capstone students can receive and implement feedback, bounce new ideas off other students, and be inspired by the engineering happening all around them while still having their own space to work.

“Capstone Design@Mines is a critically important part of the professional development of our students,” said Mines President Paul C. Johnson. “The Thorsons’ support of the Capstone program for over 20 years and their generous new commitment to building a dedicated lab space for students to work on these projects show how much they believe in the value of this program. We are so thankful for their incredibly generous investment in future generations of Orediggers. I’m excited that Don and Lois will always be associated with the program that, for our students, is the culmination of their Mines education.”

About Don Thorson

Don Thorson ’55 grew up in the Osage oil field in Wyoming, where his father worked as a superintendent. At the age of six, he decided to become a mechanical engineer and by 14 was working with his father’s bentonite business, mixing concrete during the plant construction and doing field work during the summers, including test drilling, mapping and running equipment.

Thorson graduated from Colorado School of Mines with a degree in geophysics, eventually joined the army and then returned home to join his father’s new oil business, which was the beginning of a distinguished career in oil and gas and bentonite production.

Thorson served two terms in the Wyoming House of Representatives and was on the board of directors of the Mountain States Legal Foundation for 12 years, where he is still the emeritus director. He has served on numerous Mines reunion, fundraising and geophysics visiting committees. He also established the Thorson First Year Honors Program and the Thorson Engineering Senior Design Endowment Fund, sponsors the annual Student Leadership Summit and supports the Wyoming Scholarship Fund. Thorson received the Mines Distinguished Achievement Medal in 2012.

About Colorado School of Mines

Colorado School of Mines is a public university focused on science and engineering, dedicated to educating and inspiring students, advancing knowledge and innovating to address the great challenges society faces today—particularly those related to earth, energy and the environment.

Founded in 1874 with specialties in mining and metallurgy, Mines’ scope and mission have evolved to meet the needs of industry and society, producing distinctive graduates and revolutionary innovations, with impact to the energy, aerospace, civil infrastructure, defense, IT, health and earth resource industries.

Kat Heiden

Kat Heiden

Advancement Communications Writer, Colorado School of Mines Foundation
About Mines
Colorado School of Mines is a public R1 research university focused on applied science and engineering, producing the talent, knowledge and innovations to serve industry and benefit society – all to create a more prosperous future.