2015 Honoree: Community Service

Adele Phelan
Adele PhelanEducation, Health, and Community Advocate

Adele Phelan has dedicated her personal and professional life to improving the lives of low-income children in an effort to ensure that everyone has access to high quality education and affordable healthcare. She brings leadership, passion, and commitment to all her endeavors.

Ms. Phelan began her professional life as a teacher in St. Louis and Denver. This set the stage for her leadership positions with higher education institutions, including serving as President of Loretto Heights College. Her engagement with the nonprofit community expanded with her work at the Piton Foundation and The Clayton Foundation. Ms. Phelan was appointed by the Colorado Probate Court to be one of the seven original trustees of the Clayton Foundation, and in 1985 was appointed President, helping to shape the Foundation’s critical role in serving disadvantaged children. Following her work with Clayton, Ms. Phelan served as Project Consultant to help establish the Caring for Colorado Foundation. She has been instrumental in launching and building other important health and education programs including Mile High Montessori Early Learning Centers, the Denver Preschool Program, and The Colorado Health Institute.

In addition to her professional contributions, she has served on the boards of Bright Beginnings, FACES, Girl Scouts, America Scores Denver, and Invest in Kids. As part of her educational commitment, Ms. Phelan has been active on the boards of The Public Education and Business Coalition, Qualistar Colorado, Kent Denver School, St. Mary’s Academy, and Metropolitan State University. Ms. Phelan’s focus on health led her to serving on the Board of Directors of Swedish Medical Center, the Webb-Waring Lung Institute, and The Denver Hospice. Dedicated to the Denver community, Ms. Phelan was a mayoral and gubernatorial appointee to numerous task forces and commissions. She helped shape and launch the Center for Nonprofit Development and served as Board President.

Ms. Phelan has received many honors: she was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, a National Defense Education Act Fellow, has an Honorary Doctorate in Public Service from Regis University, received the Big Sisters Salute to Women award, the Girl Scouts Women of Distinction award, and the Public Education and Business Coalition Cal Frazier Investing in Education Award.

Ms. Phelan received her BA in English from Webster University, MA in English from St. Louis University, and MA in Educational Psychology from the University of Minnesota.

Ms. Phelan’s energy, compassion and dedication to the community and, in particular, to disadvantaged families, set her apart. She is a role model and mentor to many young students and leaders and an inspiration to us all. Adele and her husband, Gerry, have been married for 43 years and, as natives of Denver, enjoy the amenities of the city and the beauty of the state.