Geologist Donates $30 Million to Colorado State; Largest Gift in University History Names Warner College of Natural Resources

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Colorado State University President Larry Edward Penley today announced that Edward M. Warner, renowned geologist, philanthropist and distinguished alumnus, donated a total of $30 million to position the College of Natural Resources at Colorado State as a global leader in research and education. In honor of this gift, the college will be named the Warner College of Natural Resources, becoming the first named college at Colorado State and one of only a few named public colleges or schools of natural resources in the nation.

Warner’s gift is the largest in the history of Colorado State University and is believed to be the largest private gift given to name any U.S. public college of natural resources.

"This unprecedented gift will further enhance the ability of the Warner College of Natural Resources to address critical issues of environmental health and sustainability, possibly the greatest single challenge facing our world in the 21st century," Penley said. "Ed Warner’s very generous support is an investment in the future of Colorado State that will elevate the Warner College of Natural Resources’ national stature in innovative and ground-breaking research, teaching and outreach initiatives. It additionally enables the university to realize its vision as the nation’s premier 21st century land-grant university that addresses the great global challenges."

Penley added that a gift of this magnitude has the power to positively change the future of natural resources education worldwide.

The total gift of $30 million includes a previous $4.3 million gift from Warner to the College of Natural Resources’ Department of Geosciences, which has allowed for great strides in geological education, research, and oil, gas and mineral exploration. The gift also created two endowed chairs in geophysics and economic geology at Colorado State.

"It is a great honor for me to give this gift to Colorado State University and to invest in an educational institution that has fostered – and today still reflects – my passion for the environment," Warner said. "I don’t look upon this as altruism; I look upon it as a great investment. I see great value in the College of Natural Resources and Colorado State University as a fantastic research and educational institution. The university’s land-grant mission of outreach, especially in the area of natural resources research and education is critical to the economic and environmental future of the state, the nation and the world."  

"This historic gift signals a new era in private philanthropy at Colorado State University; investing in Colorado State supports the passion, entrepreneurship and educational leadership for our future," Penley said. "Ed Warner, through his extraordinary generosity and vision, has demonstrated the power of private giving to enhance the learning environment and the overall excellence of our university. It is highly fitting that our College of Natural Resources will now bear the name of one of its most distinguished alumni, whose gift will help to transform the quality of education in the college for generations of students to come."

Through the donation, a preeminent scholar will be hired to fill an endowed chair and serve as director for a newly created community-based conservation institute. The institute will feature science-based education and research through the creation of public-private partnerships that will empower communities – in the United States and globally – to manage and sustain natural resources while enhancing economic and social well-being. Furthermore, an additional endowment in geosciences will fund technical and faculty support.     

"This is a phenomenal gift from a phenomenal human being," said Joyce Berry, dean of the Warner College of Natural Resources at Colorado State. "A gift of this magnitude has the power to revolutionize the future of natural resources and environmental education, research and outreach. It will transform who we are and who we will become by greatly enhancing the ability of the Warner College of Natural Resources to create the knowledge and educate future professional leaders to address our increasingly complex global issues.

"The college is enormously grateful to Ed Warner. His passion for this program has strengthened our commitment to provide the leading programs that will connect the sustainability of natural resources and the environment with the well-being of human communities in the region and throughout the world."

Colorado State’s Warner College of Natural Resources offers a comprehensive range of undergraduate and graduate degree programs that focus on critical environmental management programs. The college, which includes the Departments of Fishery and Wildlife Biology; Forest, Rangeland and Watershed Stewardship; Geosciences; and Natural Resources Recreation and Tourism; and is responsible for the international leader in environmental science – the Natural Resources Ecology Laboratory – as well as the unique Center for Environmental Management of Military Lands.

Warner, a Colorado State University College of Natural Resources Honor Alumnus, discovered Jonah Field, the single largest natural gas field in the Rocky Mountain region in the past 20 years.

"When I saw the opportunity coming to pay Colorado State back – to pay society back – for my good fortune, there was no question in my mind that it was Colorado State University where I wanted to lend my support," Warner said.

Warner’s inquisitive nature has contributed to many of his accomplishments, which have included devising ways to extract natural gas from coal, turning a mining hazard into a useful resource. His discovery of the Jonah Field is expected to yield 3,500 wells and 8.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in a thick, non-marine section of sandstone and shale that is trapped in an extraordinary geologic structure. The gas holdings could be worth more than $60 billion over the lifetime of the field.  

Warner’s past support of professors and geology graduate students at Colorado State has enabled the Department of Geosciences at Colorado State to become a national leader. He has donated a major subsurface database on Jonah Field to the department and funds the Spatial Analysis Computer Laboratory, which gives Colorado State the ability to analyze subsurface, three-dimensional seismic data. Warner also has assisted in teaching graduate seminars on petroleum exploration at the university.

"My experiences at Colorado State University as an undergraduate set early on a sense in me that some day it would be my turn to mentor young people, to support science education, to support Colorado State," Warner said. "It was something I always wanted to do."

Beyond his active association with Colorado State University, Warner is a director of the Sand County Foundation, applying Aldo Leopold’s conservation principles to project areas in the United States and countries in sub-Saharan Africa. He also is a director of the Explorers Foundation and a trustee of the American Geological Institute Foundation. In addition, he manages a volunteer program in geology at the famous Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, N.M. When not actively volunteering, Warner pursues his interests in scuba diving and traveling.

Warner graduated from Colorado State with a bachelor’s in geology and received his master’s from University of California-Los Angeles. He lives with his wife, Jacalyn, in Denver.