A neighborhood tie leads to a generous gift for the future

After settling in Colorado, Ann Gronowski’s parents purchased a stately Victorian home on Lowell Boulevard, just across the road from Regis’ Northwest Denver campus. Ann’s mother was a lover of both architecture and history; she learned that, in the early 1920s, it had been the original residence of the Jesuit priests who led what was then known as Sacred Heart College.

“My parents lived in the house after we had all left the nest, and she fell in love with the location,” says Ann. “My mom really got into the history of the area and she did a lot of research around it."

“She found the original blueprints,” says Ann’s husband, Jamie Gronowski. “There are original stained-glass windows in many bedrooms. There’s a black-and-white photo in Main Hall from that era, roughly 1923 to 1925, of a horse and buggy, Main Hall, two dugouts and a baseball field. That’s about all that existed of Regis at the time.”

Though neither Ann nor Jamie had attended Regis, they discovered many ties to the University: They found an old receipt of a $10 donation Ann’s father had once made to the school. The children of two friends enrolled as undergraduates. Her youngest brother attended Regis High School, which was on the University campus then. When Ann’s sister married, she chose the Regis campus for her wedding photos.

“Within a short period, there were three things about Regis that resonated,” Jamie says. “God sends us signs. If you just listen and watch, God will send you the message about what you’re supposed to do.”

When the home on Lowell passed through inheritance to Ann and her siblings, she and Jamie decided to purchase the whole family’s shares, sell the house – and donate the proceeds to Regis.

“It was nothing short of those signs from God that drove us to that decision,” says Jamie. “We had no other alignment with Regis.”

In 2012, the family donated $1 million from the sale to the University. Regis used the family’s generous gift to build the Gronowski Innovation Lab, a state-of-the-art business incubator for students, faculty and staff.

Jamie, a successful business leader who has served as CEO for several high-profile food and marketing agency companies, developed the concept with Ken Sagendorf, director of the Anderson College for Business and Computing’s MBA program. Since the lab opened in David M. Clarke S.J. Hall in late 2017, it has nurtured next-gen Regis student entrepreneurs, many of whom have participated in the annual Innovation Challenge, in which teams compete for investments in new business ventures.

Jamie and Ann recently deepened their support of Regis by pledging to gift back five years’ worth of interest from their investment in the bond that funded the renovation of DeSmet Hall. This $257,000 commitment is helping to seed Regis’s new revolving loan fund to spur alternative revenue-producing programs as well as support for the President’s Innovation Fund, critical to ensuring that President Salvador D. Aceves’ vision for Regis’ future is realized.

The Gronowskis’ gift was motivated by the couple’s shared belief in both the power of education and a desire to share their resources with others.

“It feels good to give,” says Ann. “We’ve had a lot of positives in our lives, so we want to move that forward. Education is a big part of it, one of our keystones. We’ve helped some of our family members go to university. It’s such a gratifying feeling, to support others who might not have the opportunity. Paying it forward is always a good thing.”

“The opportunity to allow young people to both use the facility and compete in our annual challenge is what the Innovation Lab is really all about for me,” says Jamie. “It’s about seeing more and more young people pursue that graduate degree. Education is the key to ensuring small business remains the lifeblood not only of the economy but of society and democracy. Eventually, hundreds of small businesses will rise from this emerging part of Regis.”

The Gronowskis’ philanthropic giving extends beyond the financial – Jamie has served on the Regis Board of Trustees since 2018. Beyond Regis, the couple support several organizations that work to protect animals and the environment. An accomplished writer, Ann is a major supporter of Lighthouse Writers Workshop, which recently opened a new literary center in Northeast Denver. Yet as Jamie, the University occupies a special place in their hearts, just across the street from a home that brought much joy to her parents, especially her mother.

“Our family has always loved the campus,” she says. “It brings a good energy to the neighborhood, with all of the younger people. To see the way Regis has grown, to the level of academia it is now, it’s a good experience and something we’re really proud to be a part of.”


 Salvador Aceves signature

Salvador D. Aceves, Ed.D.