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A culture of giving

Denver Legates Pete and Marilyn Coors have made philanthropy a way of life . . . .


Pete and Marilyn Coors are as close to royalty as one can get in their beloved Rocky Mountain State. The storied family rose to prominence after Pete’s great-grandfather Adolph Coors founded the Coors Brewing Co. in 1873.

In addition to having a hand in running the seventh largest brewing company in the world — Molson Coors — the Colorado power-couple are known for backing conservative values, the free market and the Republican Party. Pete ran for U.S. Senate in 2004, losing by a slim margin of 47% to 51%.

Faith-focused philanthropy

What most people don’t realize, however, is that Pete and Marilyn — members of Legatus’ Denver Chapter — are serious Catholics. Marilyn is a lifelong Catholic and Pete is a convert. They give of their time and resources to a host of Catholic endeavors within the Archdiocese of Denver. But for the Coors, philanthropy is not just about writing a check.

Pete Coors

Pete Coors

“They really get involved, personally,” said Monsignor Michael Glenn, rector of St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver. “They’ve been willing to take their Catholic convictions to the public square.”

Although Pete is heavily involved in the Adolph Coors Foundation, he and Marilyn engage in their own philanthropy as a couple through a separate, private foundation.

“We have decided that the bulk of our philanthropy is going to Catholic institutions or activities with a special focus on education,” Pete told Legatus magazine.

“For secular institutions, we give to those that espouse the values of Christ and the Catholic Church,” Marilyn added.

Pete comes from a family that has made philanthropy a way of life. His great-grandfather Adolph aided victims of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake by starting a private relief fund.

“The company [Coors Brewing Co.], for as long as I can remember, has been active in the local community,” said Pete, who serves as its chairman. “It was important to us to be good citizens. The Adolph Coors Foundation, which was formed after our first IPO in 1975, was really due to the generosity of my father and one of my uncles. They turned a great part of the wealth into a foundation.”

Education and evangelization

Pete and Marilyn Coors

Pete and Marilyn Coors

While Pete spends the bulk of his time in the family business, Marilyn has developed a full-blown career as a bioethicist with a focus on genetics. She earned a doctorate in bioethics from the University of Colorado’s School of Medicine. Besides her job as an associate professor there, Marilyn has lectured locally, nationally and internationally on bioethics. She has published scores of papers and is due to publish a book on bioethics next spring. Marilyn has been a board member of the National Catholic Bioethics Center for over a decade.

Since the Coors live in one of the most dynamic archdioceses in the nation, they are involved with a host of homegrown Catholic endeavors — groups like the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, St. John Vianney Seminary, ENDOW and Regis University.

They attribute the dynamism of their archdiocese to Pope John Paul II’s 1993 World Youth Day visit. Pete was so moved by the event that he ended up converting to the Catholic faith soon thereafter.

“We are still experiencing the incredible fruits of that visit,” said Marilyn.

Pete grew up in the Episcopal Church, but his father was not religious. “None of my forebears took religion seriously — though they lived the principles of religion,” he explained.

After the couple married in 1969, Pete began to attend Mass with Marilyn. As their family grew to six children, he continued going to Mass because he thought it was important for the children’s character development. Then one day, a friend asked why he wasn’t Catholic.

“Nobody had ever asked me,” said Pete. He soon entered RCIA.

Giving back

Monsignor Michael Glenn

Monsignor Michael Glenn

Besides her work as a bioethicist, Marilyn is a board member of Denver’s St. John Vianney Seminary, founded in 1999.

“We contribute to them and their wonderful work involving our future priests,” she said. “They are doing an amazing job. Their enrollment continues to increase — and the men they are turning out are outstanding.”

Marilyn says one of her proudest accomplishments has been to help found ENDOW — Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women — with two other women in 2003. ENDOW is an international apostolate that reaches thousands of women who seek to transform the culture through their “feminine genius,” inspired by the writings of Pope John Paul II on the dignity of women.

“That has been a major focus of our philanthropy, time and prayers,” she said.

The couple has also been involved in Regis University — a Denver-based Jesuit school — for decades. Pete was chairman of the board for 15 years. After that, Marilyn was on the board for nine years.

One of the Coors’ future projects is an outreach to non-practicing Catholic millennials — men and women aged 18 to 32. “This outreach will be via social networking,” said Marilyn. “The aim is to reintroduce them and others to Christ and the Catholic Church.”

Marilyn and Pete joined Legatus in 2006. Although Pete often travels for work and cannot make all the monthly meetings, Marilyn attends most of them.

“Through Legatus, we have met a circuit of individuals who inspire us,” Pete said. “The speakers always have a message that has some relevant impact on our lives. We think it’s a valuable organization to participate in.”

Marilyn concurs. “The members and the speakers have really contributed to our spiritual lives,” she added.

A personal touch

Archbishop Samuel Aquila

Archbishop Samuel Aquila

Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila first met the Coors during World Youth Day 1993. The couple was on the organizing committee and had contributed financially to the global gathering.

“What impresses me about Pete and Marilyn Coors is their deep concern for others within our community,” said Archbishop Aquila. “As Catholics they exemplify what Christ asks us to do in caring for others and placing them before ourselves.”

He is quick to add that both Pete and Marilyn have achieved every level of success — he in the business world and she in academia. “But within that success they are truly servants of God who cherish their faith, their marriage, their family and their community,” the archbishop said. “They truly care about everyone and it shows.”

Monsignor Glenn recalled how, while studying for his doctorate in Rome, the Coors would always look him up when visiting the Eternal City with their children.

“They were personally supportive of me when my parents died,” he said. “They always call me for the holidays and invite me over at Christmas and Thanksgiving. I have brothers, so I always end up going to my family. But the Coors always call to make sure that I’m taken care of.”

Despite all their professional and charitable obligations, the Coors make sure that family comes first. Every Sunday, the couple invites all of their Denver-based children and grandchildren over for dinner.

“Family takes up a great deal of our time — joyfully,” said Marilyn.

According to Archbishop Aquila, the couple recently helped build a Habitat for Humanity home in Mexico with their grandson Peter — one of their 10 grandchildren.

“As we work on our estate-planning for the kids, one of our conditions is that 10% of revenues generated from those trusts must go to charity,” said Pete.

“Philanthropy for us as Catholic Christians is really an obligation, to the end that Christ said we should share what we have,” Marilyn said. “I think it is a privilege for us to be able to do this.”

SABRINA ARENA FERRISI is Legatus magazine’s senior staff• writer.

ENDOW embodies the ‘genius of women’

Ministry counters radical secular feminism

For most of the last century, Catholic women of substance found themselves in a box. Betrayed by a secular feminism with a frantic pro-abortion agenda and unsure of their place in a supposedly male-dominated Church, they looked for a way to exercise what Pope John Paul II called “the true genius of women.”

Enter ENDOW.

Feminine genius

ENDOW — Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women — is a ministry dedicated to educating women in order to transform and humanize society. It has blossomed among women in all walks of life because of its low-key approach and its promotion of “the feminine genius.”

“It’s refreshing,” said Joanie Todd, a member of both Legatus’ Denver Chapter and the ENDOW board of directors. “I fell in love with what it meant to be a Catholic woman. ENDOW has really become a passion of mine and has changed my life.”

One of those changes was to take the two Todd children out of public schools and send them to Catholic schools; another was Todd’s transformation into an advocate for authentic feminism.

Terry Polakovic, ENDOW’s executive director, was also changed by the ministry. She said her participation helped bring order to her life and gave her a clear sense of her vocation.

ENDOW provides weekly small group studies with a trained facilitator. Groups study papal encyclicals and other source documents that educate them on fundamental Catholic Church teachings and highlight women’s roles in the Church and in society. Each study guide is made up of eight sessions, each with the imprimatur of Archbishop Charles Chaput. ENDOW is active in 54 dioceses across the country.

The new feminism

John Paul II wrote extensively about motherhood and women’s unique dignity and vocation. “The personal resources of femininity are certainly no less than the resources of masculinity: they are merely different,” he wrote in his 1988 apostolic letter Mulieris Dignitatem. “Full respect for women and their identity,” he wrote in his 1995 Letter to Women, “must first and foremost be won … beginning with a universal recognition of the dignity of women.” (Emphasis his.)

ENDOW began five years ago with a pilot program based on John Paul’s writings. It has grown to include 3,800 participants.

“ENDOW’s mission is to change the culture, from a culture of death to a culture of life,” Todd said. “It emphasizes the complementarity of men and women.”

Polakovic said ENDOW fills a void.

“Women are hungry for an alternative to what our culture is offering as far as feminism goes,” she explained. “I think they know in their hearts that it’s false, and they want to have the truth articulated by people like Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict and backed up with Scripture and scholarship. It opens a brand new world to them.”

Women in the Church

Archbishop Chaput, who vetted the initial ENDOW program, said that women need a “Catholic brand of feminism … one that is faithful to the Gospel in every way.”

ENDOW helps refute the misconception that leadership in the Catholic Church is only for men. Archbishop Chaput said the Church will be stronger with more women leaders.

“We have to overcome the feeling that so many Catholic women today have that the Church isn’t interested in them or in their leadership,” he said. “ENDOW will provide the resources to make them aware that they are loved and welcomed – and at the heart of the Church.”

Teresa Tomeo, a member of the Detroit NE Chapter of Legatus, is a writer and nationally syndicated talk show host. She was a delegate to the Vatican’s international congress for women last February and the keynote speaker at ENDOW’s 2007 annual conference. She thinks the perception of inequality in the Church persists because women don’t know the truth.

“Women are poorly catechized and unaware of all the opportunities in the Church,” Tomeo said.

Women’s perspective would change, she contends, if they knew what the Church actually teaches, instead of getting their information from the biased secular media.

“Whether they realize it or not, the secular media is indoctrinating them into an anti-Catholic approach to life,” she said.

“Radical feminism takes the position that the priesthood is no more than a career, rather than a calling, and so it represents the last glass ceiling that women can break through,” Tomeo explained. “Education is the key to correcting this misperception, and ENDOW can make a huge difference in the lives of women.”

Youth focus

Although the study guides are at the heart of ENDOW’s ministry, the organization also holds an annual conference and luncheons with speakers who address topics of interest to Catholic women.

The ministry has also developed an outreach to young women and girls, according to Brigid Sweeney, who heads up ENDOW’s youth development. Classes for middle and high school girls are in the early stages, and the programs are expanding quickly.

“Kids are bombarded by the media, the music, the shows they watch, the books they read,” she said. “Everything is telling them: ‘Your value is in your physical appearance and what you can do.’ But we know their value comes from their dignity, in being created in the image and likeness of God. Our goal is to deconstruct the lies and to help them see the truth.”

Paul A. Barra is a freelance journalist based in Reidville, South Carolina.


Learn more

Joanie Todd, a member of the Denver Chapter of Legatus, speaks about “the feminine genius” at Legatus chapter events nationwide. Learn more about authentic feminism and the work ENDOW is doing. For more information, visit endowonline.com or write Todd at: toddswim@comcast.net.