On Friday, May 31, the Colorado Ballroom of the Cheyenne Mountain Resort was packed as more than 400 community and business leaders, a group that includes many UCCS alumni, gathered to honor the career accomplishments of real estate developer Jim Berger with the Lifetime Entrepreneurship Award. The annual event, hosted by the UCCS College of Business Alumni Association, reinforces the vital partnerships between the city and the university by recognizing pivotal leaders.
The 11th annual awards luncheon included several emotional moments that brought the assembled crowd to its feet. The city’s core neighborhoods and commercial zones are evidence of Jim’s vision of a vibrant community and his perseverance to stay the course over a career that spanned many challenging periods in the city’s history. One of the companies that Jim helped found, Col-Terra Investments, celebrates 50 years in business in 2019.
In addition to celebrating Jim Berger, this year’s event introduced a new award, the Next Generation Entrepreneur Award, honoring the CEO of Exponential Impact (XI) technology accelerator, Hannah Parsons. Hannah is widely admired for her previous roles as co-founder of Epicentral Co-Working, and as chief economic development officer for the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC.
The honorees’ inspirational stories were shared during the program with moving videos featuring many of the city’s leading business and civic figures testifying to the enormous influence of both leaders.
Among the speakers captured on video, Eric Ryan, of Stockman, Kast, Ryan and Company, spoke persuasively about the enormous impact Jim has had, perhaps previously unknown to some due to his humble and generous style. Jim’s son Mike Berger of Weichert Realty, and Winn Berger shared stories of Jim’s commitment to family and faith.
Jim’s role in helping acquire land to expand UCCS has been pivotal in its growth and is only one of the many reasons the university’s Berger Hall is named in his honor. Chancellor Emerita Pam Shockley-Zalabak spoke in the video about a certain Thanksgiving dinner that was interrupted numerous times by real estate negotiations. The positive outcome was thanks to the perseverance that has made Jim such a transformative businessman in the city.
In addition to the countless hours of professional services Jim has donated, he has also given financially to student scholarships. In particular, the Berger Scholarship helps to support those students whose prior education includes “the school of hard knocks.” Officially a CU Boulder alumnus, as part of his remarks honoring Berger, Chancellor Venkat Reddy described Jim as a graduate of the ‘University of Hardknocks’ to recognize how hard Jim how hard worked to get where he is.
One of the real estate acquisitions Jim helped negotiate is now the Cybersecurity building on N. Nevada Ave., a focus of one of the many new and exciting initiatives across the university. Reddy noted the synergy between the honorees embodied in that location: the building that Jim helped the university purchase is also the home of XI, the enterprise Hannah leads.
Reddy and Eric Olson, interim dean of the College of Business both spoke to the dynamism across the university that the NCC project represents. The assembled crowd responded strongly to the energy around the strong business climate established by leaders like Jim Berger as well as our city’s the bright future being brought to life by new leaders like Hannah.
“As we conclude the 11th year of this event I am excited to see how strong our relationship with the Colorado Springs business community has grown, Olson said. “We are most fortunate to have community partners like Jim and Hannah and it has been our honor to recognize their contributions. Partnerships such as these are absolutely critical to our ability to fulfill our vision of building successful futures.”