Polina Saran

May 11, 2023

University News

VIDEO: Dawn P. Bookhardt recognized by MSU Denver

Attorney and activist will receive Marathon Award at Commencement ceremony.

Polina Saran

May 11, 2023

After Dawn P. Bookhardt, J.D., contracted a rare eye infection and became visually impaired in 2015, she soon found herself navigating unfamiliar terrain. But her first committee meeting at Metropolitan State University of Denver’s School of Hospitality set her at ease. The student who greeted her walked her to her meeting room and narrated the experience along the way. His willingness to go above and beyond to help touched Bookhardt deeply.

“He said ‘that’s the MSU Denver way,'” Bookhardt recalled. “He was representative of our students.”

The encounter inspired Bookhardt to serve and support the University in many ways over the years — work for which she’s being honored with MSU Denver’s prestigious Marathon Award.

“The Marathon Award is a recognition that perhaps I’ve done something right in relation to this fabulous Metropolitan State University of Denver organization,” said Bookhardt, who will accept the award from MSU Denver President Janine Davidson, Ph.D., at the University’s spring 2023 Commencement ceremony on May 12.

Bookhardt was admitted to the Colorado bar in 1988 and has since received numerous awards and recognitions, including a Philanthropic Award from NEWSED, a Woman of Excellence Award and a National Leadership Award and has been named among the Top 25 Most Powerful Women by the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce. Now, the chair of the MSU Denver Foundation board of directors will add MSU Denver’s highest honor to her list of distinctions.

RELATED VIDEO: Change agent: Marathon Award winner Robert Cohen

A lawyer with Butler Snow, Bookhardt specializes in helping to finance public facilities and structures. She has played a leading role in land-development projects all over the city, said Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock, including Denver International Airport, Union Station and the National Western Center.

“Her expertise is undeniable and quite frankly incomparable,” Hancock said. “She is without question one of the unsung heroes of our city.”

When Bookhardt was first asked to join the MSU Denver Foundation board, the University’s Hospitality program stood out as a unique opportunity. Bookhardt helped the program acquire a hotel, SpringHill Suites Denver Downtown by Marriott, where Hospitality students could receive hands-on experience.

“(I said) we can get our students educated, we can put them at the top rung, if we have a hotel where they can learn,” Bookhardt said. “That was the combination that … got me in the door.”

RELATED: Hospitality Learning Center turns 10

The hybrid hotel and learning center recently celebrated its 10th anniversary and is at the forefront of the industry for experiential learning. Bookhardt was critical in helping MSU Denver navigate the financial and legal processes that made the Hospitality Learning Center possible.

“She’s excellent at financing structures,” said Ferd Belz, former board chair of the MSU Denver Foundation. “She understands what MSU Denver is bringing to our community, to our city, to the students.”


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