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Photo of Jim and Connie Calaway with Calaway Scholars

For decades, Jim and Connie Calaway of Carbondale, center, have provided hundreds of scholarships to students to attend Colorado Mountain College. Here, in 2011, the Calaways gathered with that year’s class of Calaway Scholars.

By Carrie Click

Jim and Connie Calaway didn’t know Heather Landry when the young woman applied for one of the first Calaway Scholars awards to attend Colorado Mountain College. It was over 15 years ago, and the Calaways were just starting a scholarship to cover tuition, books and fees for students to attend CMC.

“I don’t know how they came to choose me,” Landry said. “They took a risk. I’m very, very thankful.”

Help with college

Born and raised in Leadville, Landry had headed to the University of Colorado right out of high school to study kinesiology, though got hung up with the heavy math emphasis that was required. She switched to psychology but that didn’t work for her, either. Coupled with navigating CU’s enormous campus, Landry said she started thinking, “Oh well, forget it.” She would just forget her educational and career aspirations.

That’s when she looked at CMC’s nursing program, and the newly created Calaway Scholars program. With the Calaways’ help, Landry was able to earn two associate degrees in science and in nursing at CMC, propelling her into further study and a successful nursing career.

Thriving

Today, Landry says the Calaways played a significant role in supporting her educational goals. Thanks to the Calaway Scholars program at Colorado Mountain College for giving her a start, today she is a nurse on the orthopedic/neurology unit at Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland, which is part of the UC Health system.

Landry remembers meeting Jim Calaway at one of the well-known luncheons he hosts with each new class of Calaway Scholars. “I was at CMC Spring Valley from 2001 to 2004,” she said. “I can remember that Jim said he wanted us to thrive.”

The recipient of a Daisy Award, an international award given to extraordinary clinical nurses, Landry said she would not have the rewarding career she has if not for Colorado Mountain College and the Calaway Scholars program.

‘Gift of giving’

Rosa Gonzalez-Ortega is another recipient of the more than 100 Calaway Scholars awards over the past several decades. She has first-hand experience in what Jim Calaway calls “the gift of giving.”

Gonzalez-Ortega knew from the time she was a little girl that she wanted to be a nurse. She also knew that paying for college tuition and supporting herself while going to school was going to be a challenge. So when she read on the Colorado Mountain College website about the Calaway Scholars program, she filled out the required forms.

“I was very excited and thrilled to be one of the recipients,” she said.

Gonzalez-Ortega will graduate in May 2018 from CMC Spring Valley with an associate degree in nursing, and plans to continue her studies until she earns her bachelor’s degree in nursing.

“I have many plans,” she said. Ultimately she would like to work in emergency care, either in missionary work or as a flight-for-life nurse.

Scholarships as way to give back

The Calaway Scholars program reflects Jim Calaway’s own background and passion for education. A self-made man, Calaway came from a family of tenant farmers and was the first in his family to attend college. After a successful career, he dedicated himself to become the humanitarian and philanthropist he is today.

He says he wants to encourage others to donate. Amounts can vary, from supplemental financial assistance to help with college expenses for one student, to establishing a full scholarship program like the Calaway Scholars.

“Jim Calaway is a very caring person,” said Gonzalez-Ortega. “He understands what it means to be underprivileged and wanting to have an education.”

Beyond scholarships

In addition to underwriting 102 CMC scholarships to date, Jim and Connie Calaway continue to support the college and its students in numerous ways. Both have served on the CMC Foundation Board; Connie was chair of that board from 1999 to 2002.

At Colorado Mountain College in Spring Valley-Glenwood Springs, the James C. and Connie L. Calaway Academic Building, which houses a theater and a number of classrooms, is a testament to the Calaways and their dedication and support of CMC. In 2012, Jim founded and is chairman emeritus of the Colorado Mountain College Board of Overseers, a volunteer board of advisors to the college’s president.

The Calaways have also led the fundraising effort for the Isaacson School for Communications, Art and Media, including a new $1 million pledge.