Alumnus Joseph Phelps’ gift to create memorial garden at Colorado State University in honor of brother

Note to Reporters: Photos of Danforth Chapel are available with this release at

Joseph Phelps was a young teenager when his older brother, John, was killed in a car accident while driving between his family’s home in Greeley and his college home in Fort Collins. John, an active member in the Sigma Nu Fraternity, was killed near the end of his freshman year in 1940.

Now, more than 70 years after his brother’s tragic death, Phelps is honoring his legacy with a $50,000 gift that will create the John Quincy Phelps Memorial Garden at Danforth Chapel on the Colorado State University campus. Construction of the garden is expected to be completed this summer.

“Joe Phelps is one of CSU’s most loyal and visionary alumni, and his influence as a donor is felt across our campus, most notably in Construction Management but in many other areas as well,” said Colorado State President Tony Frank. “This recent gift in support of the Danforth Chapel is particularly special, in my mind. It honors the memory of Joe’s older brother, John Quincy, and is a stirring reminder that, while a University must have great classrooms and labs, it also needs quiet places for thought, reflection and contemplation. Danforth is the spiritual heart of our campus and vitally important to our students and faculty of many different faiths and philosophies. We are deeply honored that Joe has recognized this and chosen to honor his brother in this way.”

Danforth Chapel, at the north entrance to CSU’s historic Oval, was dedicated in 1954 and is one of the most beautiful buildings on campus. Designed by renowned architect James Hunter, Danforth Chapel has been nominated for inclusion on the National Historic Register.

The non-denominational gathering place features copper doors, stained glass, walnut pews and many other unique features. It has hosted thousands of weddings, memorial services and other events, and is a favorite spot of students, faculty and community members for quiet contemplation.

CSU has been seeking ways to update the area surrounding the chapel, and Phelps’ gift will make that possible.

“Danforth Chapel is little jewel that you have to seek out; it’s one of our most beloved buildings,” said David Hansen, the project’s lead designer for CSU’s Department of Facilities management. “We want to make it more welcoming and more useable, and try to make it feel like a more intimate garden.”

Hansen said CSU will remove a dead tree and overgrown shrubs before planting flowering shrubs and annuals to create the feel of an English garden. The plaza area will also be upgraded to create easier access for disabled visitors.

Phelps (Industrial-Construction Management, ’51) is one of CSU’s most generous donors, supporting programs in Construction Management, Athletics, the Alumni Association and the Morgan Library.