Lyda Hill is latest recipient of UCCS entrepreneurship award

photo - Lyda Hill stands in front of new displays in the recently renovated Garden of the Gods Visitors Center. Hill is founder of the foundation that built the center and completed the renovations.
CAROL LAWRENCE/THE GAZETTELyda Hill has mostly made her mark in Colorado Springs through philanthropy, but the innovative way she has done so will be highlighted when she receives the Lifetime Entrepreneurship Award Friday from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs College of Business.

Hill, 74, was a pioneer in the social impact business sector, building the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center in 1995 to generate funding for maintenance and other projects in the city’s best-known park. The center was started as a for-profit business that donated its profits to the Garden of the Gods Foundation she formed to finance upkeep of Garden of the Gods Park and donated the center to the foundation once the income from the center reached $3.5 million in 2011. She spent another $6 million to renovate and expand the center two years ago.

“Lyda Hill’s legacy is woven throughout the fabric of Colorado Springs in innumerable ways. Not only is she a generous philanthropist, but she also has an incredible business mind,” Cathy Claiborne, interim dean of the College of Business, said last month in a news release announcing the award, which will be presented during a luncheon at 11:30 a.m. Friday in Gallogly Events Center that is expected to draw more than 400 business and community leaders. “She’s constantly thinking about how to innovate in order to help more people.”

Hill is the 11th person to receive the award, which was first presented in 2009 to Gary Loo. Other recipients include Bruce Shepard, Joe Woodford, Cari Shaffer, Chuck Murphy, David Jenkins, Jon and Becky Medved and Ed and Mary Osborne. The award luncheon is a fundraising event that benefits the College of Business and its alumni and student initiatives, including a mentorship-focused Career Coaching Program. Tickets are $150 for the public and $95 for UCCS College of Business alumni.

Hill started a travel agency in Dallas in 1967 that became the city’s largest by the time she sold it in 1982. She and a partner redeveloped the Fort Worth Stockyards into a shopping area and tourist attraction and founded the Oklahoma Breast Care Center in Oklahoma City and a Dallas venture capital fund that invests in early biomedical research companies. In Colorado Springs, Hill spent nearly 40 years as president of her family’s Seven Falls tourist attraction. She also is president of the Lyda Hill Foundation and LH Holdings Inc.

Hill gave $5 million to UCCS to open the Veteran Health and Trauma Clinic, launch the UCCSTeach program that trains math and science teachers, support the Heller Center for Arts & Humanities and build the Ent Center for the Arts now under construction. She ranked 35th in The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s annual list of 50 most generous Americans in 2013, donating $63.2 million. She is one of 158 individuals or couples to take the “Giving Pledge” to donate their entire fortune to charity, the bulk of it during their lifetime, including Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates.