Bob Mook

May 13, 2024

University News

VIDEO: How MSU Denver inspires this year’s Marathon Award recipient

Business pioneer, philanthropist Barbara Grogan received the highest honor at the Spring Commencement ceremony.

Bob Mook

May 13, 2024

Barbara Grogan could easily impart wisdom when she speaks at Metropolitan State University of Denver’s Spring Commencement ceremony. Instead, the pioneering businesswoman plans to celebrate the success of MSU Denver’s graduates.

“To see the impact that MSU Denver has on families and the quality of our students is quite remarkable,” Grogan said. “I don’t inspire them; they inspire me.”

Grogan will give an address along with receiving this year’s Marathon Award, MSU Denver’s highest honor, during Commencement on Friday. She first connected with the University over a decade ago after former MSU Denver President Stephen Jordan, Ph.D., and the Board of Trustees committed to providing accessible in-state tuition for residents regardless of immigration status.

Inspired by what she called the University’s “courage and conviction” on the issue, Grogan made a significant charitable gift to fund MSU Denver scholarships for undocumented students. Later, she was introduced to students who benefited from the donation and started meeting them for lunch regularly.

“I got to know MSU Denver through the eyes of students,” Grogan said. “They give me hope in our future.”

In recent years, Grogan got more engaged with the University. As the former chair of MSU Denver’s Board of Trustees, she was instrumental in the appointment of Janine Davidson, Ph.D., as president. Grogan now serves on the board of the MSU Denver Foundation.

Grogan’s life journey

Grogan was born in St. Louis and attended the University of Colorado. After graduating, she took a job at the regional phone company and started a family. After her marriage ended, Grogan founded Western Industrial Contractors in 1982.

“Life sort of threw me a curveball,” she said of the end of her marriage. “I thought it was the worst thing that ever happened to me, but it catapulted me into this life that I could have never imagined.”

Western Industrial Contractors flourished with help from Grogan’s entrepreneurial skills and supportive mentors. The plucky construction company built security and baggage-handling systems at more than 300 airports and added several well-known clients.

On the heels of the company’s success, Grogan was named the first female chair of the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City (Denver Branch) and the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, among numerous high-profile positions and prestigious awards.

RELATED VIDEO: Dawn P. Bookhardt recognized by MSU Denver

Grogan sold her business in 2004 and shifted her focus to philanthropy, largely involving education and children. She considers her work with MSU Denver to be among the most fulfilling accomplishments of her life.

“MSU Denver is such a marvelous place that feeds my soul,” she said. “I am profoundly honored to receive this award and grateful for my ability to participate there.”

That sentiment is reciprocated by MSU Denver’s top executive.

“Barb is one of the most passionate, mission-driven people you’ll ever meet,” Davidson said in a video celebrating Grogan.


Never miss a story

Subscribe to the RED newsletter to receive the University’s most topical and engaging stories.