The Denver Press Club has received a $500,000 gift from the estate of late Club member Walter Baas, a longtime photojournalist for Rocky Mountain PBS and KMGH-TV.
The donation is believed to be the largest gift since the Club was founded in 1867, according to Club historian Alan Kania. Baas, who died June 2019 from complications of cancer, was quietly recognized by the Club with a portrait on its caricature wall on Aug. 24 in honor of his bequest.
As part of the bequest, Baas asked that each year $1,000 be taken from the gift and put toward the John C. Ensslin Memorial Scholarship, named after John Ensslin, who died Aug. 5, 2019. Ensslin was a friend of Baas’s and an ardent supporter of the Press Club.
Baas also requested the club find a way to recognize the leading role Denver television photojournalists have played in the city’s history, many of whom have won numerous national awards. A select committee led by board member Roger Ogden, a former CEO with Gannett Broadcasting, is exploring options.
The Denver Press Club board of directors at its February board meeting authorized that $231,586.16 of the gift be used to pay off the balance of the Club’s mortgage, which had been taken out to renovate the Club in 2004. The board also passed a motion requiring the Club to contribute an amount equivalent to the mortgage payment back into the gift until the full original amount is restored.
President Daniel Petty and general manager Tom Foutch paid off the mortgage with Evergreen National Bank on Feb. 21.
The remaining $269,000 of the gift is being invested in funds managed by The Denver Foundation, Colorado’s oldest and largest community foundation. The organization already administers the scholarship fund for the Ensslin Memorial Scholarship, awarded annually at the Damon Runyon Award banquet to a college journalist attending a Colorado college or university. A group of judges composed of Press Club members last month met and reviewed portfolios before selecting the finalists and an overall winner.
“Walter’s gift to us is simply stunning,” Petty said in a statement. “His generosity has truly transformed the Club, allowing us to continue to support student journalism scholarships at a time when the field is under tremendous pressure. It has also enabled us to pay off our mortgage — the single greatest liability the Club had for its longterm viability. Words cannot express how grateful we are to him.
“I also want to express my thanks to former president David Milstead, board member Roger Ogden, general manager Tom Foutch and Jake Eppler, a personal friend of Walter’s for many years, for their help throughout this process.”
Petty announced the gift at the Club’s annual meeting on April 7. As part of the bequest, the Club has also created the Denver Press Club Legacy Society and is seeking bequests and gifts from members, other donors and corporations to add to Baas’s donation. The fund will be administered and managed by the Denver Foundation.
Club leadership has established a $5 million goal for the fund. The earnings on that amount — assuming a conservative 5 percent annual market rate of return — would fund nearly all of the Club’s annual operational budget and would allow the organization to significantly grow its mission through expanded programming. Visit denverpressclub.org/donate to pledge a gift.
About the Denver Press Club
The historic Denver Press Club is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to build engaged communities by supporting the pursuit of ethical journalism. It held its first organizational meeting in 1867 — nine years before Colorado became a state — making it the nation’s oldest press club. Since 1925, its headquarters has been at 1330 Glenarm Place, a building that in 2017 was added to the National Register of History Places. Its more than 450 members includes journalists, public relations professionals, communications experts, politicians and other supporters of press freedom and the First Amendment. We further our mission by nurturing the growth of aspiring journalists through our annual scholarship program, facilitating conversations about the issues of the day, providing professional development to journalists and students and helping the public understand the world around them.
Each year since 1994, the Club has held its annual Damon Runyon Award banquet — its largest fundraiser — to recognize a journalist who embodies the storytelling prowess of Damon Runyon, an early Club member and Colorado newspaper writer who went on to fame in New York and whose stories were eventually compiled into Guys & Dolls, the famed Broadway Musical. The Club also annually inducts a class of accomplished Colorado journalists into its Hall of Fame.You can become a supporter of the Club regardless of whether you’re a member of the news media. To join our cause, sign up denverpressclub.org/membership.
Contact for Media Inquiries:
President, The Denver Press Club