Walter Scott, Jr. had never been to Fort Collins, and certainly had never set foot on the campus of what was then known as Colorado A&M when he arrived in 1949. But his arrival proved to be transformational for Scott and, ultimately, his alma mater.
Scott, a 1953 civil engineering graduate, died Sept. 25 at the age of 90. He will long be remembered for his storied career in the construction industry and his philanthropic impact on Colorado State University. Scott’s breathtaking commitment of $64.2 million provided the lead gift for the Suzanne & Walter Scott Bioengineering Building. His generosity will ensure that CSU is able to attract top students and faculty for generations. To recognize his role as the university’s leading benefactor, the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering was dedicated in 2016.
Scott chose CSU because he originally planned to study range management and because he knew a CSU student, Gene Miller (Class of 1951). Scott would often visit Miller at his home in Lexington, Nebraska, because their mothers were close friends and college sorority sisters.
Scott’s interest in range management was due to a summer job on a ranch in Oregon. In his freshman year, Miller counseled him to consider civil engineering, noting that it would be a difficult course of study but one leading to a broader set of opportunities. It was a pivotal decision that led to Scott becoming CEO of international construction giant Peter Kiewit Sons’, Inc.
Scott joined Miller at Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, where he served as song leader. He spent a year working for the campus newspaper, The Collegian, and studied in the ROTC program. Except for two years of service as a USAF 2nd Lieutenant, his entire career was with Kiewit.
In a 2016 interview from his home in California, Miller marveled at the far-reaching impact of his recommendation. He noted that Scott had a reputation for missing campus activities to study but acknowledged that while he studied hard, he also knew how to have fun.
Scott’s high school sweetheart, Carolyn Falk (BA English ’53) initially enrolled at the University of Denver but later joined him at CSU. Scott’s longtime friend, Warren Buffett, had also pursued Falk in high school, in years later telling Forbes Magazine, “The better man won. She married Walter.”
The Scotts were married just prior to their senior year in the summer of 1952. They lived in a tiny apartment while completing their degree requirements. They had four children: Karen, Sandra, Amy and David. Carolyn died of cancer in 1983. Scott married Suzanne Singer in 1987, bringing two more children into the family; Suzanne died in 2013.