For three generations, the Kaspari family has turned to the CU Denver campus for educational opportunities that have helped launch careers in electrical engineering and entrepreneurship. As CU Denver celebrated its golden anniversary, some members of the Kaspari family gathered for an informal family reunion on campus to share a beer at the Tivoli Brewing Company and discuss the impact of education. The campus has evolved dramatically over time, but the Kasparis embody something about CU Denver students that is unchanged: persistence.
At the table were Matthew “Matt” (BS ’05; MS ’10), Anthony “Tony” (BS ’86), and William “Bill” (BS ’63). Bill had just flown in from California and was thrilled to see his nephew, Tony, and grandnephew, Matt (both still live in the area). They quickly began rehashing their college experiences, and found common threads, like working through school and paying their own way. And they traced their family’s uniquely deep connection to the University of Colorado system. More than six people have attended one of the four system campuses, including John Ignatius Kaspari, who graduated from the Boulder campus in 1923 with an electrical engineering degree. But the CU Denver campus, in particular, has been a hub for Kasparis.
Here, three generations of Kasparis found a lower-cost alternative and local option for higher education. Matt recognized this and took advantage of the opportunity. “When I was choosing a school, I was paying for school with my own money,” he said. “For me, our family having deep ties to CU Denver is a serendipitous accident. I’m so proud of this.”
William “Bill” Kaspari | BS in Electrical Engineering, 1963
With a father as an electrical engineer, Bill joked that he was inspired to look at a different career—but he was too drawn to that field. “It was what made the most sense to me,” he said. Before he took classes, though, he joined the U.S. Navy during the Korean War. He was transferred to Long Beach, California, where he worked as an electrician’s mate on a Navy Destroyer and got plenty of hands-on experience in the field. He was discharged in 1957 and wound up back in Denver with his family. His grandmother lived nearby, across Speer Boulevard, so he saw the opportunity to stay with her rent-free while attending the Denver Extension of the University of Colorado (what CU Denver was originally known as). Bill was an engineer but an entrepreneur at heart. His first son was born with a serious heart defect, so he decided to focus his engineering on medical electronics. He invented the first fully automated electronic blood pressure cuff and founded a company to manufacture and market it. Based in Palo Alto, long before Silicon Valley developed, William continued to build businesses based on things he created with his engineering skills.
Building Blocks: Bill attended classes in the Tramway Building (now the Hotel Teatro), which had just been purchased by the University of Colorado in 1956. Back then, the campus was known as “UCLA” (the University of Colorado between Lawrence and Arapahoe). The Denver Extension would go on to become CU Denver in 1973.
G.I. Bill: Since Bill had served in the military, he was eligible for enrollment in the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act of 1944. Also known as the G.I. Bill, this program provided financial help for veterans of WWII and the Korean War. This act allowed Bill to receive $100 a month from the government, which helped support him as he worked through school. Today, CU Denver still proudly serves U.S. veterans, and was given the Military Friendly Schools Gold Award last year.
Anthony “Tony” Kaspari (Bill’s nephew) | BS in Electrical Engineering, 1986
For Tony, a college degree was an opportunity for him to follow in the footsteps of his uncle and grandfather. “In my situation—being one of eight kids—at the age of 18, you either went to school or you were out of the house,” Tony remembered. “Dad would say, ‘If you’re going to school, you can stay here. Mow the lawn, help around the house and you can stay,’” said Tony. He originally looked at other local schools, hoping for a wrestling scholarship, but decided on CU Denver because of access and affordability. He married his high school sweetheart, took classes, and enjoyed his time in Denver. When it came time to select a major, he picked electrical engineering “because of Grandpa and Uncle Bill,” he said. Tony ended up going into sales for a manufacturer representative that sold flow meters and other equipment, mostly in the oil and gas sector. He believes that his engineering degree from CU Denver opened the door for him in sales. “My dad taught me to have a good work ethic and after 30 years at the same company, I was able to retire at the age of 58,” Tony explained.
On Repeat: The name John certainly holds a special place in the Kaspari family. John Ignatius Kaspari was followed by William John Kaspari, Anthony John Kaspari, and Matthew John Kaspari.
Night Classes: Tony took a lot of night classes while at CU Denver and said that the competition in those courses was tough. His fellow students were extremely motivated people who worked during the day and attended school in the evening. “They worked so hard, they always threw off our bell curve,” Tony laughed. It was in these classes that Tony also met his mentor, Professor Marvin Anderson, in a circuits course. “Marv challenged me and helped push me to finish strong in electrical engineering,” Tony said.
Matthew “Matt” John Kaspari (Bill’s grandnephew) | BS in Applied Mathematics, 2005; MS in Applied Mathematics, 2010
A self-described “city kid,” Matt loved the idea of attending a school where his family had deep roots. And at a university in the heart of the city he called home, he quickly stepped into a math major and didn’t stop until he’d earned an undergraduate and a master’s degree. He was even eyeing a doctoral degree, but his entrepreneurial spirit had established a different path: He’d started a branded merchandise company, Kaspo Inc., that thrived. “We work with large corporations and small businesses to help them bring their brands to life,” Matt said of the 20-year endeavor. His first client was, not surprisingly, an uncle who purchased some shirts and hats. Now, he’s worked with companies that include Ducati and Delta Dental, and he’s a regular presence at CU Denver, where he helps the University Communications team and others reach new audiences with branded shirts, keychains, and more. He also played a pivotal role in the campus’ 50th anniversary celebration. “It’s amazing how something as simple as a takeaway can have an impact,” Matt said.
Square Root: Still a math fan at heart (it is not unusual for Matt to drop the name of famous equations in conversation), Matt started taking business classes. “But I felt there was some truth in mathematics,” Matt said. “I wanted to challenge myself.”
Role Models: Three professors—Alexander Engau (Mathematical and Statistical Sciences), Frederick B. Chambers (Geography and Environmental Sciences), and Harvey Greenberg (Mathematical and Statistical Sciences)—made a big impact on Matt, who also appreciated CU Denver’s small class sizes.
Homecoming: This fall, Matt will be on campus even more to teach about entrepreneurship at the Business School.