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Remey Family Creates The William Spencer Memorial Scholarship at CMU

Philanthropists Don and Nancy Remey expand their investment in CMU creating scholarship series for first-generation students

Bill Spencer was not only one of CMU’s most influential international business alumni, but his career was also emblematic of a quintessential corporate success story. Emerging from his family’s can-do midwestern roots, Spencer lived through two world wars, the Great Depression and personal tragedy to become a symbol of transformational business innovation in American banking.

The legacy of Spencer began in western Colorado where he grew up, and his education began at CMU. The local connection between Spencer, the Grand Valley and the university inspired Don and Nancy Remey to memorialize Spencer in the form of a scholarship. The new scholarship is Don’s tribute to Spencer who was his friend, mentor, business partner and father figure for almost 20 years.

The Remeys have been part-time residents in the Vail Valley since 1986 and became involved with CMU through a scholarship program called Guardian Scholars. The program has grown from seven students in 2013 to 45 today and most of these students attend CMU. Don collaborates with Ron Davis, the founder of Guardian Scholars, in a number of programs focused on helping first-generation families improve their lives through education. Davis recently became a CMU Trustee and established a new scholarship program for the Davis School of Business.

Born in 1917 in Whitewater, Colorado, just outside Grand Junction, Spencer grew up on a cattle ranch traveling daily to a one room schoolhouse by mule. The Spencers came from the nation’s midwestern region to Colorado in the late 19th century where the family made their home in the Kannah Creek area located on the slopes of the mule.jpgGrand Mesa. No local high school existed in the area, so Spencer's aunt who resided in California welcomed him with open arms as he moved west to attend school where he excelled both in academics and athletics. He returned to western Colorado where he enrolled in Grand Junction State Junior College.

“Historical newspaper reports from the Criterion demonstrate Mr. Spencer back then was a lot like many of the students who attend CMU today,” said CMU President Tim Foster. “The Criterion archives describe Mr. Spencer as a young man who enjoyed outdoor recreation including fishing and hunting. While many things change, one of the fundamental draws of our campus continues to include the amazing outdoor setting where CMU sits.”

Spencer graduated with an associate degree and continued his education at Colorado College. Despite the onset of World War II, he persevered and earned a master's degree from Columbia University. This accomplishment launched a successful business career in banking that paved the way for Spencer to become one of the most successful alumnus in CMU history.

Like many aspiring young people in the 20th century America, Spencer made his way to New York where he acquired a job on Wall Street making a career in banking. Not long after he enlisted in the New York National Guard’s 101st Cavalry, he sustained a life threating injury that prohibited him from playing a role in the war, but gave him cause for self-reflection and a commitment to serve others — a value he would retain for the remainder of his life. This was a commitment he made good on through his future successes in business and philanthropy.

As the war ended, Spencer met Kay Marie Cope, who had also moved east to New York from Missoula, Montana. The two married and continued building a life together in New York. Spencer excelled in banking and in 1951 joined Citibank as an assistant vice president. He went on to become one of the most well-known bankers in the energy business, and, at the age of 43, was promoted to executive vice president.

While the Spencer’s loved children, they were not able to have a family of their own. This reality also inspired their love for the children of others and future philanthropy.

During his tenure at Citibank, Spencer founded one of the first venture capital funds in the nation where he served as chair. This fund went on to successfully take initial equity positions in businesses like Federal Express (FedEx). This era represented the pinnacle of his career becoming the president and CEO of Citicorp. Under his tenure this company would become one of the world’s most influential banking organizations.

“Bill transformed the culture of banking in the United States and in the world,” said Remey. “He moved the business away from an exclusive club to a pluralistic business that offered more services to more people around the world.”

This success translated to establishing himself as a philanthropist whose focus included education, healthcare and preserving nature.  

Creating the scholarship within the CMU Foundation is a way of returning a part of Spencer’s legacy to the place where it began. This symbolism was described by Remey.

“Bill Spencer helped transform American banking through his business building and innovation,” said Remey. “He made the world better with his philanthropy and supported his friends and loved ones. Creating a scholarship within the institution that provided education to this great man is a fitting tribute that I am proud to be a part of.”

The first recipient of the Bill Spencer Memorial Scholarship was announced in 2020 as Guardian Scholar Dominika Piech. Piech is a first-generation student who was valedictorian of her class and is planning to become a pediatric nurse.

“While I will never have the honor of meeting the late Mr. Spencer, I am experiencing his legacy of generosity represented in the gift of the Remeys provided to me in this educational support and scholarship,” said Piech.

CMU supporters interested in contributing to The William Spencer Memorial Scholarship are encouraged to contact the CMU Foundation.


Written by David Ludlam