Peak Profile: Ed Robson ’54

Ed Robson’s scholarship was in jeopardy when he was cut from the Colorado College hockey team by Coach Cheddy Thompson during his sophomore year (freshmen weren’t eligible).

Recognizing an opportunity to reclaim his spot, he joined CC alumni in a game against the varsity team, scoring a tying goal that ensured he was back on the team for the rest of his CC career.

“This was very fortunate, if not very lucky,” he says. “This is part of having some success along the way. The few chances I’ve had like that hockey game have gone a long way in contributing to my success.”

Robson’s CC hockey experiences parallel his hard-earned success as an entrepreneur and a leading developer of communities for active adults.

“After Colorado College, my next 10 years were like graduate school,” says Robson, who became a naval aviator in the U.S. Marine Corps, played hockey with Team U.S.A. in 1955, and served as an alternate on the U.S. Olympic Team in 1956. “I then went on to a short stint at the Del Webb Company, all before starting my own company with two friends.”

Ultimately that company, Robson Communities, Inc., became wildly successful after it established Sun Lakes, a master-planned community in Maricopa County, Arizona, in 1972. Like that CC hockey game many years earlier, timing was critical. In 1976, Robson bought out his partners and shifted from mobile homes to site-built homes, increasing sales and building Sun Lakes into one of the nation’s largest pioneering active adult communities, with nearly 20,000 residents today.

In 1985, while his business was thriving, Robson was challenged again when his wife, LaNelle Beck Robson ’58 was killed in a boating accident on Lake Powell in Arizona.

“I think about her often,” Robson says. “Her death was senseless. It took me a long time to recover.”

She and Robson have five children, including Steve Robson ’79. During this difficult time, the family bonded together to move forward.

Despite challenges, Robson always is optimistic.

“I have been very lucky,” he says. “But luck only counts if you build on it. Part of my outrageous
good fortune was having a good economy under several administrations with the gross domestic product  greater than 3 percent annually. Today, confidence in the housing market is good and the economy is growing now, which will help us immensely in the future.”

Robson’s good fortune and hard work have resulted in more than 30,000 homes and home sites sold in Arizona and Texas and hundreds of awards and honors recognizing his achievements in the home building industry. Some of those accolades include Builder of the Year and Icon of the Industry recognitions by the National Association of Home Builders 55+ Housing Council and the Grand Award by the Home Builders Association of Arizona.

Robson possesses a deeply held belief in helping others by creating exceptional communities and giving philanthropically. His generosity has benefited countless people at Colorado College, Arizona State University, the University of Arizona, the Boys & Girls Club, St. Joseph’s Hospital, and many other organizations.

“You have to have empathy for others,” Robson says. “You also have to be happy with your work to be happy with your life.”

In 2008, the Ed Robson Family Branch of the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Phoenix opened, and in 2015 contributions were made to the Boys Hope Girls Hope of Arizona to revitalize the Boys Hope home.

Robson has served on Colorado College’s Board of Trustees, endowed scholarships for CC students and hockey players, and was awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters from the college in 2014. Most recently, he gave $8 million for the Edward J. Robson Arena, a new on-campus hockey practice arena that the college will break ground for during the 2018-19 academic year.

Creating exceptional retirement communities for active adults complements his desire to help others and give back to formative experiences.

“Life has taught me that during your career, as well as your early years, having a few successes goes a long way to build confidence, and helps you along the way,” Robson says. “Sports and college life at CC were wonderful contributors to that.”