You never know where a game of bridge, or the “bridge” of friendships and alumni help, will take you.

When Carol James and Jody Smith were at Colorado College, they spent a lot of time playing bridge. “Maybe more than we should have,” they both admit somewhat sheepishly today. When truly desperate for someone to round out the game, they would “sink to the lowest depths and tolerate having either Brad (James) or I play,” said David Smith. Little did they know then that the friendships formed over a hand of bridge would someday help to bridge a financial need in a young person’s life.

Colorado College’s Barker-James-Smith Scholarship is named for the three families responsible for its funding: Scot Barker ’71 and Karen Barker; Brad ’71 and Carol ’68 James; and David ’70 and Jody ’70 Smith.

The three men were friends at CC. After earning MBAs and spending a few years in early jobs, they teamed up in 1979 with three other entrepreneurs in Denver to form a niche broker-dealer focused on underwriting tax-exempt bonds nationwide for multi-family affordable housing. The friendship among the three families, much like the firm, thrived, so it seemed only appropriate that the families team together to honor Colorado College.

The Barker-James-Smith Scholarship was created in 2001 and is awarded annually based on financial need to first-generation and/or minority students from Colorado.

“I’m so lucky,” said Sirina Milsap ’09, a first-generation and minority student who graduated from Denver’s East High School and the current recipient of the Barker-James-Smith Scholarship. “I wouldn’t have been able to come to Colorado College without the scholarship.” Milsap, a history major and Asian studies minor, says it was as though the scholarship was tailor-made for her.

She and the Smiths had met briefly between innings of CC softball games (Milsap pitched for the CC softball team for four years), but never sat down to get to know one another until the March 2009 Scholarship Appreciation Dinner. There, they quickly found things in common – including the fact that both Milsap and the Smith’s younger daughter played softball at East High School under the same coaches.

Both benefactors and recipient – the Smiths and Milsap – were among the 265 people who attended this year’s Scholarship Appreciation Dinner, where donors and recipients were able meet each other – often for the first time.

Sitting at the same table were Blake Hammond ’09, Ella Street ’09, and Mark Neuman-Lee ’09, recipients of the CC Alumni Student Leadership Scholarship, along with Ray Petros ’72 and his wife Catherine Petros, contributors to the scholarship. The Petroses, like the Smiths, drove from Denver in a near-blizzard to attend the dinner.

“It’s satisfying to be face-to-face with the student scholarship recipients,” said Ray Petros, who has been on the alumni board for eight years. “The opportunity to talk to the students is terrific; it makes our contribution come alive.

“It reinforces the value of our contributions to the college. We are reminded how creative and enthusiastic and accomplished the students are at CC,” he said.

The Colorado College Alumni Association Student Leadership Scholarship was created by the Alumni Association Board to recognize students deemed likely, based on their college activities, to continue their contributions to the college after the graduation. The scholarship is designed to replace a portion of the loans the recipient would otherwise have to carry, thus reducing the student’s debt at graduation.

“The scholarship provides assistance to student leaders who hopefully will become alumni leaders,” Petros said. “It’s very important to encourage students to think about the importance of alumni contributions to the school. It’s a launching pad to remain connected to CC.”

“The scholarship dinner is one of my favorite events at CC,” said Debby Fowler, director of stewardship and organizer of the event since its inception in 2002. “It’s a time when we bring together some of our talented and motivated students and the benefactors whose generosity helps bring these students to CC.”

The CC Alumni Student Leadership Scholarship and the Barker-James-Smith Scholarship are group efforts, proving that there is strength in numbers. Both scholarships are emblematic of what alumni can do when they band together.

Which brings us back to those games of bridge, the “bridge” of friendships and the help of others …and most importantly, the new bridges to Colorado College they can create.