The Willy Schaeffler Scholarship Fund (WSSF) at the University of Denver (DU) began in late 1986 as a movement to honor the late, great, DU, Olympic and U.S. Ski Team coach Willy Schaeffler. The WSSF was initiated by his son, Jimmy, who received early help implementing the program from Willy himself, as well as from several former DU athletes, friends of Willy and friends of DU.
Willy, often called "America's Most Successful Ski Coach," coached the DU Pioneer Ski Team to 13 NCAA Ski Championship titles from 1951-1973, an NCAA record that still stands. He was the director of skiing events for the VIII Winter Olympic Games in 1960. Schaeffler also served as Alpine Director for the 1972 U.S. Olympic Ski Team during the Winter Games in Sapporo, Japan, where his women’s skiers won gold and bronze medals. Willy organized the first-ever amputee ski program, which started in 1968 at the Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, as a joint effort between the Denver Children's Hospital and the U.S. Army's Fitzsimmons Medical Center for its military amputees and other patients returning from wounds suffered in the Vietnam War.
Willy Schaeffler was similarly a renowned ski area developer and planner, having designed the runs for the Olympics in Squaw Valley, Calif., and Lake Placid, NY, as well as those in Mt. Whistler-Blackcomb, Canada, the site of the alpine skiing events for the 2010 Winter Olympics. Schaeffler also worked closely with Walt Disney and his Disney team on the planned development of Mineral King and Independence Lake in California. A native of Bavaria in southern Germany, Willy is one of Colorado's ski legends, having been long ago enshrined in the DU, U.S. National and Colorado ski halls of fame.
The purpose of the WSSF is twofold. First, it endeavors to assist a disabled scholar-athlete, preferably a competitive skier, in his or her efforts to study at the University of Denver and abroad. Second, it is meant to recognize and honor Willy Schaeffler's many years of profound dedication and contributions to people in the world of sport, and to carry on Willy's exemplary tradition, including a foremost dedication to academic performance.
Set up as an endowment fund, the WSSF provides tuition, and room and board costs for a recipient in need of financial assistance, allowing him or her to attend DU for four years, plus an additional year at a university in a country where a foreign language is spoken.
Initially, several large donations were made to the WSSF endowment. Some of these donors were Colorado’s Allan Phipps and the El Pomar Foundation, as well as Ron and Diane Disney Miller, the Kennedy family, DU trustee Otto Tschudi and his wife, Yvonne Tschudi, IBM's Tom Watson, Mr. & Mrs. Allan Phipps, and Vernon and Ruth Taylor.
As of March 2009, more than $200,000 had been contributed to the WSSF, and its market value rested at approximately $410,000. Thus, through third party donations, it is critically important that this endowment continue to grow. Donations toward the expenses of the current recipient are particularly helpful.
The first WSSF fundraising dinner was held in February 1989, in Beaver Creek's Village Hall, during the 1989 World Alpine Championships, and it attracted almost 500 supporters, including former President Gerald Ford, entertainer Andy Williams, sports and TV legend Frank Gifford and former U.S. Alpine Ski Coach John McMurtry.
Since its inception in 1986, five talented student-athletes have received a full-ride scholarship as five-year recipients of the WSSF.
The first WSSF recipient was Carol Oakleaf. She entered the University of Denver in September 1987. Carol graduated in June 1992, having taken an extra year to study abroad at the University of Oslo, Norway. Upon returning to the U.S., Carol began her studies at the University of Colorado Medical Center. Today, she lives in Denver and practices as a physician’s assistant with a renowned Denver clinic. Carol, an Arvada High School graduate, was involved in both the children’s hospital and Winter Park handicapped ski programs. Carol skied competitively and volunteered as a ski instructor for the disabled. Carol exemplified the student-athlete and the kind of mature young student-athlete Willy so admired.
Louie Bucud was the second recipient of a scholarship. In the fall of 1992, he enrolled at DU to take an engineering degree. Louie graduated from West High School in Denver. He worked part time at a downtown McDonalds. He was born in the Philippines, the youngest of seven children. Due to a birth disease defect, Louie had been hospitalized so much that at age nine he was considered a second grade student. He suggested to the doctors at Children’s Hospital in Denver that he was ready to lose his foot so that he could continue his life goals: Attend school and make good use of his talents. Louie also took part in the Children’s Hospital and Winter Park handicapped ski programs. In his off time, Louie participated in foot races as a wheel chair competitor. Louie lives the Willy Schaeffler Scholarship slogan: “Achievement in the face of adversity.”
| Robbie Shelton
The third WSSF recipient was Robby Shelton. He began his studies at the University of Denver in autumn 1997. During his time at DU, Shelton was actively training with the able-bodied skiers on the DU varsity team, and according to former DU championship ski team coach, Kurt Smits, more than held his own. It was his academics, however, that eventually maintained Shelton’s full attention, and lead to his amazing story in biological research. Robby truly epitomizes the saying, “when one door shuts, another opens.” To learn more about Robby, read this front page story from USA Today.
The fourth WSSF recipient entered DU as a freshman during the fall of 2002. Allison Jones may be the highest caliber athlete to have received the WSSF scholarship. She was a Paralympic medalist in the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Utah. In addition to her great skiing accomplishments, Allison is an outstanding cyclist. During the 2003 European Championships for disabled in Prague, Czech Republic, she won the 500m sprint and in the road races, she was second in the 7.1km TT, and third in the 3km pursuit. In the 500m, she set the first world record in the event. For more information on Ali, check out her website at www.jonezysport.com.
| Nick Catanzarite
Presently, the WSSF is proud to have student-athlete Nick Catanzarite as its fifth recipient. Nick, 32, is a dual graduate major in law and international relations. In the first quarter of 2009, Nick competed in the world cup finals in Mt. Whistler-Blackcomb, Canada, in a test event for the 2010 Paralymics, as well in the U.S. Nationals in Winter Park (where he placed second in the giant slalom discipline). Nick Catanzarite is a two-time Paralympian, having competed for the U.S. national team in 2002 in Salt Lake City, Utah, and in 2006 in Turino, Italy. In his previous summer, Nick interned as a law clerk with the Honorable McGahey, a judge in the Denver District Court. Nick is a product of the Winter Park Disabled Ski Program, and a current member of the U.S. National Adaptive Ski Team.
The Willy Schaeffler Scholarship Fund has grown over time, to where it almost has the ability to fully support a scholarship for a disabled skier, thus fulfilling one of Willy’s core goals. It was, however, Willy’s ability to recruit blue chip able body skiers to DU, and their racing success, that lead to the winning record of the DU ski team. As the current team tries to continue in this storied tradition, having just its 20th NCAA Division I skiing championship in 2009, they now more than ever need a lending hand with respect to financial support.
Please join the DU ski team family with your pledge to the WSSF and help us continue in our search for future DU national skiing champions. Funds may be targeted by the donor for either (or both) the WSSF endowment (for long term investment) or the current spending and tuition needs of the current WSSF recipient. The ultimate goal of the WSSF is to fully fund both a disabled and an able-bodied DU student athlete.
To make a donation to the University of Denver’s Willy Schaeffler Scholarship Fund, go online to the website. Once on that site, the donor can select the The Willy Schaeffler Scholarship Fund from the various areas to support. During these times of tighter budgets and fewer investment funds, a donation to The Willy Schaeffler Scholarship Fund significantly supplements the endowment fund, and thus is particularly helpful for the current funding of our current WSSF recipient, Nick Catanzarite. Or, the donor may also donate by sending a check to the Athletics Development Office, Mail Stop Code 3200, University of Denver Athletics and Recreation, 2201 E. Asbury Avenue, Denver, CO 80210-9714, noting Willy Schaeffler Scholarship Fund on the check, or by calling Senior Associate AD for Development, Ryan Peck, at (303) 871-2785, for more information.