[I now] “ … realize that the discrimination I experienced was trivial compared with what my wife went through without bitterness or rancor. … I am moved in this year of loss of my only priceless possession, and on the 31st anniversary of my graduation day at Colorado College, to contribute this bit toward matching of the Ford Grant.”
— excerpted from a letter by Ellis U. Butler Jr. ’40.
Ellis U. Butler Jr. ’40 was one of the earliest African-American students to attend and graduate from Colorado College. Despite experiencing racial discrimination as a student, Butler ultimately overcame his conflicted feelings for CC and in 1971 began giving an annual gift to the college. With his passing in 2009, Butler left a legacy to CC that will benefit students for years to come.
After graduating magna cum laude in 1940 with a degree in physics, Butler went to the University of California, where he received his engineering degree. In 1947, he met Ora Brandon, who would become his wife and “faithful, good, charitable, compassionate, devoutly religious, repentant, and cherished helpmate” for nearly 20 years.
After Ora Brandon Butler passed away in 1971, Butler began giving an annual gift to Colorado College in her memory. With that first gift, he wrote a moving letter to CC that alluded to “unpleasant experiences I went through as a Negro student” at CC. He contrasted his time at Colorado College with the “soul-killing racial discrimination” his wife experienced in Louisiana, and was eventually able to reconcile his own experiences and cast them in a new light. Butler moved to a place of gratitude and forgiveness in his relationship with CC.
In 2009, Butler passed away and left $149,000 to Colorado College. The money will be used to create the Ellis U. Butler Jr. Center for Intercultural Leadership in the existing Glass/Lennox House, a multicultural-themed residence hall on campus.
“Naming this space after Ellis Butler honors the presence and experience of all minority students — past, present, and future — at Colorado College,” said Kristina Lizardy-Hajbi, interim director of the office of minority and international students.
Construction will be completed in September 2010. The new facility will offer:
- A large area for meetings and events
- Intimate study spaces for individuals or groups of students
- A “smart” classroom and student computing portals
- A kitchen and dining room table for meetings
- Storage for student organization supplies and materials
- ADA accessibility, ensuring full access for all students
- and campus members.
Ellis U. Butler Jr. Center for Intercultural Leadership
Homecoming and Parents Weekend, 4-6 p.m. Saturday, October 9, Glass/Lennox House, 1001 N. Nevada Ave., CC campus.
Celebrate the construction of the new Ellis U. Butler Jr. Center for Intercultural Leadership.
RSVP online at www.coloradocollege.edu/alumni/homecomingreunions/.