Giving Back is a Family Affair

Doctor Copeland examines a CMU student-athleteAn endowment at CMU can come in many shapes and sizes and can support any number of academic causes. 

In the case of the endowment begun by Grand Junction physician Mitch Copeland it was very much a family affair. 

The Copeland Family Endowment didn’t begin life as such. It is an outgrowth of the Western Colorado Sports Medicine Foundation begun by Dr. Copeland in 2004, which was created to provide financial aid to CMU athletes. But after a couple of years, Copeland concluded that raising money for collegiate sports was difficult. There were simply too many organizations raising money and sports didn’t seem to be a high priority for donors. 

So the Sports Medicine Foundation lay dormant for a few years. 

But Dr. Copeland didn’t lose his passion for sports medicine or his drive to support student-athletes. 

“I really admired and wanted to support the concept of the academic athlete,” he said. “Someone who does community service. I get tired of hearing about these athletes who behave poorly… So much good comes out of the concept of the student-athlete who does well and excels. Athletics can give you really good tools for later life — goal-setting, teamwork, fitness for life.” 

Copeland took the money from the Sports Medicine Foundation, along with other gifts from family members, and created an endowment at the CMU Foundation. 

Foundation CEO Liz Meyer said endowments are the key to the college’s ability to grant scholarships. “They are the lifeblood of what we do,” she said. Dr.

Copeland and the rest of the Copeland family have a long and rich history with CMU. Mitch’s father became CMU’s medical director in the early 1980s and eventually passed that job on to his son. Copeland's mother is also a past Foundation Board president. 

Dr. Copeland attended CMU for a semester, his son-in-law is there now and five of the six children in his blended family have attended. 

He sees the Copeland endowment as a way to help an institution that he has come to love and as a vehicle for his family to give back to CMU. 

What’s more, it’s an opportunity to teach younger family members the importance of giving. He relishes telling the story about his 13-year-old niece, who overheard family members talking about the endowment one evening. “She said she wanted to give $20 of her birthday money,” he said. 

“It’s important to our family to develop the culture of giving back,” he said. “Education is important to us. Sports medicine is important to us.” 

The endowment targets three types of students for scholarships. 

First is anyone who is majoring in a healthcare field. Second is a student-athlete. And third is a student working on a good project at the Monfort Family Human Performance Center. 

Dr. Copeland and his family decide each year which of those efforts they want to fund and the university picks the student. “Having a student come up and give you a hug and say, ‘Thanks doc,’ that’s our thrill of victory,” he said.