CU Denver officials and Franklins sign scholarship agreement

By University Communications

DENVER – Leading youth advocates Les and Marianne Franklin committed a major scholarship gift to the University of Colorado Denver on Wednesday, ensuring that at-risk students have an opportunity to achieve their dreams.

The Franklins’ gift will establish three scholarships for at-risk youth that extend the Shaka Franklin Foundation’s mission of mentorship, character-building and suicide prevention.

“We need people to have a good academic standing,” Les Franklin, seated next to his wife, Marianne, said at the agreement signing with CU Denver and University of Colorado Foundation officials. “I know what education can do for a child because I know what it did for me.”

The three Shaka Franklin Foundation for Youth scholarships will be designated for Denver-area students who might fall through the cracks of traditional scholarship awards — students with B-/C+ grade point averages, who could not otherwise afford tuition, who are willing to mentor adolescents in similar circumstances.

Information on all scholarships available at the university is available at the Scholarship Resource Office.

The scholarships will go to students in one of two schools — the Business School or the School of Education and Human Development. They will be named in honor of three regional trailblazers whose civil-rights efforts have been meaningful to the Franklins: Rachel Noel, Evie Dennis and James Ward. A goal is for the Franklin Scholarships to cover, in conjunction with other need-based grants, 100 percent of a student’s tuition need.

Raising money for scholarships is a top priority for the university, Chancellor Donald Elliman said. “We’ve got to find a way to fund education for more people than we’re doing right now, and we’re not going to be able to do that without scholarship money,” he said. “This really is a wonderful kick-start for us … We can’t thank you enough. This means more to us than we could ever express.”

Others at the agreement signing included Raul Cardenas, associate vice chancellor for student affairs; Rebecca Kantor, dean of the School of Education and Human Development; Clifford Young, associate dean of the Business School, Matt Wasserman, vice president of the CU Foundation at CU Denver; Kyle Jaccaud-Smith, associate director of development for the CU Foundation; and Aswad Allen, assistant dean, School of Education and Human Development.

The goal is for the Shaka Franklin Foundation Funds to instill in the scholarship recipients the idea that education is attainable. The CU Denver commitment will ultimately total $1.5 million, pending the sale of two properties whose proceeds will fund the gift.

Les Franklin noted how he came from humble beginnings and had a D average as a schoolboy until he hit his academic stride in college. He went on to become an executive at IBM.

“I want to inspire other children to pursue education,” Franklin said. “The world is only going to be a better place when everyone in the world has a chance to fulfill their dreams.”

The Franklins started the foundation in 1990 to address the problem of youth suicide, and were motivated to do so after the teen suicide of Les’s first son, Shaka.

The Franklins’ gift is one of more than 275,000 gifts made during Creating Futures, a $1.5 billion fundraising campaign to enhance University of Colorado education, research, outreach and health programs benefiting citizens throughout and beyond Colorado. Visit for more information.

The University of Colorado Denver offers more than 130 degrees and programs in 13 schools and colleges and serves more than 14,000 students. The university is located on two campuses. CU Denver is in downtown Denver and the CU Anschutz Medical Campus is in Aurora, Colo. For more information, visit the university’s newsroom.

(Photo: Seated at table from left are Raul Cardenas, associate vice chancellor for student affairs, Marianne Franklin, Les Franklin and Chancellor Donald Elliman. Standing at far left is Aswad Allen, assistant dean, School of Education and Human Development. Photo by Casey Cass.) 

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