2011 Honorees

Arts and Humanities


Dianne Perry Vanderlip is the founding curator of modern and contemporary art at the Denver Art Museum. During her 29-year tenure, she raised the funds and support to build a world-class collection of more than 8,000 pieces including paintings, sculpture and photography.

Under her leadership, the Denver Art Museum was the first American institution to acquire works by major contemporary artists including Thomas Demand and Damien Hirst. She brought to Denver the works of significant artists such as Andy Warhol, Alexander Calder and Frank Stella, and put Denver on the map as part of the international contemporary art scene. She facilitated the acquisition of paintings and drawings by acclaimed abstract expressionist Robert Motherwell and famed Bauhaus artist Herbert Bayer. In addition to building the Museum’s collection, she was responsible for major exhibitions such as the James Rosenquist traveling retrospective as well as small but powerful shows devoted to Colorado artists.

Her superb curatorial expertise was showcased with the October 2006 opening of the Museum’s Frederic C. Hamilton Building where she oversaw the first permanent installation of modern and contemporary work at the DAM in more than 20 years. She was instrumental in the selection of Denver as the repository for more than 2,000 works by abstract expressionist Clyfford Still.

Active in her field, Dianne participated on numerous panels, boards and juries, including the National Endowment for the Arts, Getty Grant panels, and the Berlin Art Forum. She served on the board of the Fabric Workshop in Philadelphia and was a member of the International Association of Art Critics.

Prior to coming to Denver, she was the founding director of the Moore College of Art Gallery in Philadelphia, where she organized the country’s first exhibition of artists’ books. She holds a B.A. from Ohio University and studied at Pratt Institute.

At her retirement from the Denver Art Museum in 2007, Dianne became curator emeritus, a title never before bestowed by the institution. News articles referred to her at the time as the most important and influential person in the Denver art world. Her legacy includes not only an important collection of modern and contemporary art, but also lasting friendships that stretch from gallery owners in Berlin to major artists in Los Angeles to art lovers and collectors throughout Colorado.

Community Service


Bruce and Marcy Benson are skilled problem solvers, adept coalition builders, and consummate fundraisers who have given generously and tirelessly of their time, talent and treasure for the betterment of the citizens of Colorado.

Born in Chicago on the 4th of July, Bruce went to work as a roughneck in the oil fields, and then earned a B.A. in geology at the University of Colorado before founding the Benson Mineral Group. For the next 30 years, he served Colorado through community service, business and politics. A champion of education, he chaired the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Panel for Higher Education and was co-chair of Governor Ritter’s P-20 Education Council. He chaired the boards of Metropolitan State College of Denver, the Denver Public Schools Foundation, the Denver Area Council of Boy Scouts, and the Denver Zoological Foundation, and served on numerous local and national corporate boards. In his political life, he was chairman of the Colorado Republican Party and Republican nominee for governor of Colorado. He received an honorary doctorate from the University of Colorado and was inducted into the Colorado Business Hall of Fame in 2009. Bruce became the 22nd president of the University of Colorado in March of 2008.

Marcy is also well steeped in public service. Born in Oklahoma City, she spent 19 years in Washington, DC, where she directed the White House Fellows program in the Reagan Administration and the first Bush Administration. Her tenure in Washington also included working for Citizens for America, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Federal Judicial Center. Since coming to Colorado, Marcy has been a tireless advocate for quality health care for children. She has been a board member for The Children’s Hospital and The Children’s Hospital Foundation, and co-chaired the $273 million campaign to support the hospital’s move to the Anschutz Medical Campus. She has also served on the boards of the University of Northern Colorado, Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD), Denver Public Library Friends Foundation, and Vail Valley Institute. She received her B.A. from the University of California, Santa Barbara and her M.A. from George Washington University.

The Bensons have shared numerous awards for their exceptional community service, including the 1999 Humanitarian Award from the Rocky Mountain Arthritis Foundation.

Science and Medicine


Marion Downs is a renowned pediatric audiologist whose pioneering work in newborn hearing screening led to a universal program that today screens 95 percent of all newborns in America.

Convinced that early detection and intervention could help nurture speech and language skills during critical development years, she was the first audiologist to venture into the newborn nursery and test whether newborn babies could hear. She developed the first infant hearing screening program in 1963 and spent more than 30 years persuading her peers to adopt the test in hospitals and place hearing aids on infants who showed hearing loss. Her success in alerting the medical profession to the developmental problems of children with hearing loss helped establish newborn hearing screening programs in nearly all 50 states and in many foreign countries.

She is a Distinguished Professor Emerita at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center where, for more than 35 years, she provided clinical services to benefit patients with hearing loss. An exemplary teacher, she has lectured throughout the United States and in 15 foreign countries. She has published nearly 100 articles and books, including serving as co-author of Hearing in Children, a seminal textbook for audiologists-in-training. She earned a B.A. from the University of Minnesota, an M.A. from the University of Denver, and was awarded honorary doctorate degrees from the University of Colorado, the University of Northern Colorado, and the Arizona School of Health Sciences.

Marion received prestigious awards from the American Academy of Audiology, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, and the American Medical Association. She was the founder of the American Auditory Society and among the founders of the International Audiology Society. She was inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame in 2006.

In recognition of her outstanding professional career, The Marion Downs Hearing Center was established at the University of Colorado Medical Center in 2005. The Center provides diagnostic, early intervention and family-centered programs for individuals with hearing loss and for the families and professionals who work with them.

Still active at the age of 97, Marion skied until she was 95 and won five gold medals for tennis at the national Senior Games. In 2007, she published “Shut Up and Live: A 93-Year-Old’s Guide for Living.” She is the mother of 3 children, grandmother of 11, and great-grandmother of 25.