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University of Wyoming Foundation

Donor Stories

A Special Place Built on Relationships

Jane and Mike SullivanThe University of Wyoming is the collaborative effort of so many-the president and the state legislature, donors and alumni, faculty and students. It has been and continues to be built upon the relationships of its many contributors.

A prime example is the new Sullivan Family Student Center within the College of Education. The college needed a place where students could gather, and an opportunity presented itself to further enhance the Education Annex, which had been remodeled in recent years to accommodate technologically enhanced classrooms.

Micky and Jeanne Klein of Austin, Texas, stepped up in support of the idea, and their gift-doubled by the Legislature's state matching program-enabled the creation of the center. The Kleins wanted to name the center in honor of their good friends, Mike and Jane Sullivan, who have contributed so much to Wyoming and its university. The award-winning New York architectural firm Lewis.Tsurumaki. Lewis Architects was contracted to design the space, and it was constructed in 2010 by the Wyoming contractor Elk Ridge Builders & Design of Laramie.

"We are proud to have the Sullivan Family Center reflect that legacy and to have the center contribute to the quality of the educational experience at the university," says U.S. Ambassador and Wyoming Governor Mike Sullivan. "Jane and I are grateful to Mickey and Jeanne Klein for their friendship, generosity to the university, and the honor bestowed on the Sullivan family."

Indeed, the Sullivan family, for whom the center is named, has contributed so much to this collaborative process of university building, as well as the well-being of our state. The Sullivan family immigrated to the U.S. from Ireland in the midnineteenth century. Its Wyoming patriarch, Joseph Robert "J.R." Sullivan, was a lawyer and served on the UW Board of Trustees from 1945-59. He served as secretary for the majority of that time, and the board's minutes are peppered with his motions and seconds. J.R. also served in the state legislature.

"My grandfather, father, and uncle served on the Board of Trustees, and my parents (who met at the university), Jane and myself (we also met at the university), two of our three children, and my brother each received degrees from the university," says Sullivan. "The lives of our family and friends have always been interlaced with the University of Wyoming."

J.R. and his wife Amy had three sons and a daughter: Joseph Bernard (J.B.), John Francis, Bernard James (B.J.), and Pat. J.B served on the UW Board of Trustees from 1965-72, and John served from 1959-63. J.B. and John were both attorneys, and John was also a representative to the state legislature. Bernard became a doctor, serving as a general physician in Laramie. He delivered over 6,000 babies. Pat was a journalist and a popular figure at the university and in Laramie where she lived.

Included among J.R.'s many grandchildren is Mike, who served not only as Wyoming's Governor but also as U.S. Ambassador to Ireland under Presidents Clinton and Bush. He also served ex-officio on the UW Board of Trustees and is former chairman and current member of the Environment and Natural Resources Board and a member of the Law School Advisory Board. He received an honorary doctorate of laws in 2008. Mike's wife Jane Metzler received a combined business and education degree and, with Mike, served on the ASUW Senate while at UW.

There is Dan, a political consultant who served in the state senate for two terms. He also served or serves on the Associated Parents of UW Board, the UW Art Museum National Board, the A&S Board of Visitors, the Campus Advisory Board, and the Friends of AHC. There is also Tim, who serves as Albany County Commissioner, and Peter Queal, who teaches music at UW. Many of the Sullivan children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren received their degrees from the University of Wyoming and, in fact, in 1999 the whole Sullivan family was named Wyoming Family of the Year by Associated Parents of UW, a well-deserved honor.

It's families like the Sullivans who make the difference in the ongoing creation of the University of Wyoming, whose members collaborate, do their part, and serve in positions both humble and exalted. They have shown themselves to be not only public leaders but also the ones who dig in and figure out solutions to the challenges that Wyoming faces.

Jane and Mike Sullivan (photo courtesy Victor Patterson)

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