Most of us are probably unaware of the many ways that Sam Gary has touched our lives. The community leader and philanthropist passed away at his home with his family on November 16 at the age of 94. There are, arguably, very few people who did more for Colorado than him.
In 1976, during a successful career in the oil industry, Sam Gary and his wife Nancy created The Piton Foundation to help support Colorado children and families in need. In a 2010 statement Gary said, “The creation of Piton caused me to see the world through the eyes of people who really didn’t have a chance.” And for more than 40 years, Sam Gary pioneered the idea that business and philanthropy can—and should—work together to create opportunities for those who need it most. The Piton Foundation has been an instrumental resource in several different aspects of life for Coloradoan families.
Gary was also extremely driven to address the education and health needs of at-risk children, exemplified by his creation of the Denver Preschool Program and the Colorado Children’s Campaign, and through support of Children’s Hospital Colorado, Colorado Children’s Healthcare Access Program, and more.
“Sam brought a unique blend of humility and chutzpah to his 45-year effort to improve the lives of the most at-risk children and families in our community,” said Tim Howard, ULC founding Board Member.
Gary worked to preserve the natural world as well as the built world. His commitment to open space took form in the creation of Colorado Open Lands and his redevelopment of the Stapleton Airport. In addition, it was Sam’s idea to have Gary Williams Energy Corp launch Urban Land Conservancy in 2003. In short, ULC is the result of an amalgamation of Sam’s passion for protecting the natural environment and his commitment to creating opportunity for families in Denver.
ULC CEO and President Aaron Miripol shared the following, “Soon after I started at ULC in 2007, I was fortunate to have a one on one meeting with Sam. He explained to me that his vision for ULC was to be a trusted real estate partner in Metro Denver that could take on large property acquisitions and donations to support neighborhoods that needed quality schools, affordable housing, and other community amenities. That early conversation stayed with me.”
Guided by Gary’s vision, ULC has made great strides in becoming a trusted real estate partner not just in Metro Denver, but the entire state of Colorado.
“Sam was truly a visionary who looked at the world around him and saw possibilities for what could be, like ULC and the redevelopment of the Stapleton Airport,” said Dave Younggren, founding ULC Board Member, and Founding Director and Chairman of Gary Community Investments. “He had an uncanny ability of inspiring people to collaborate to make those visions a reality. He will be sorely missed as my mentor and good friend.”
ULC’s largest property, one we recently upgraded to a sustainable campus, is Oxford Vista.
“In 2018, I was able to give Sam a tour of the Excelsior campus (Oxford Vista) in Aurora, which had recently been donated to ULC,” said Aaron. “I wanted Sam to see his vision for ULC was coming to fruition, but he was two steps ahead of me. Sam asked when the redevelopment would begin, where the early childhood education would be located, and about the affordable housing and other community services? We had just taken ownership of the campus a week earlier, and Sam was already thinking about how ULC could better serve the community.”
Gary’s passion and selflessness will live on in the positive impact he has made for Colorado’s most vulnerable. ULC will miss his spirit, but his vision and memory will continue to guide our work.