For any parent, losing a child is unimaginable.
The family of Carson Spencer, who passed away in 2004 shortly before his 35th birthday, took their moments of grief and turned them into a way to preserve their loved one’s legacy and inspire young aspirational people. That is when the Carson J. Spencer Foundation was formed, with the mission of providing college scholarships to promising young entrepreneurs.
“Carson and I had often talked about doing this, taking some of his financial success and rewarding promising young people who were headed into entrepreneurship, but it hadn’t come to pass yet,” Carson’s father, Bob Spencer, explains.
When he passed away, Carson was at the peak of his career. He co-founded Beacon Risk Strategies, a successful employee benefit insurance company. Prior to this, he worked for Sun Life of Canada, where he was the youngest manager in the company and set a standard for sales success. He was known as a creative visionary and charismatic leader who cared about others.
“Not only was he a gifted businessman and salesperson, he was a great mentor to others. He made others successful, which made him successful,” his father notes.
Bob initially approached colleges and universities in 2006 to help recruit scholarship applicants, but they didn’t have a way to identify students who had the entrepreneurial spirit the Foundation sought. It was at that point Bob contacted JA-Rocky Mountain CEO, Robin Wise.
“I was aware of JA all of my life. What I didn’t know was what an exceptionally dynamic chapter JA has here in Denver and what a charismatic leader Robin is,” he says.
Coincidentally, JA was in the process of building its scholarship program. In Spring of 2007 a scholarship committee, which included Bob, was formed. JA received nearly 100 scholarship applications.
“One of the students who interviewed that first year was Trent Lovell. He comes in and he’s not boastful or cocky, but he’s quite sure of himself and his track record spoke for him. But he was quite like my son,” Bob remembers. “My son’s business partner was sitting in the interview, and we both looked at each other and had the same thought, it was that magical.”
While the Carson J. Spencer Foundation ultimately shifted its focus to mental health awareness, the Spencer family has continued providing JA scholarships in memory of Carson. In 2017, a new Carson J. Spencer Scholarship was set up with JA so that each Spring, one high school senior is named the Carson J. Spencer scholar and is awarded a $5,000 college scholarship. This scholarship is awarded annually to carry forward Carson’s legacy.
For more information on JA’s Inspiration Scholarship program, visit https://www.jacolorado.org/inspiration-scholarship/.
To make a gift to JA’s Inspiration Scholarship fund, or to establish a JA scholarship in honor or in memory of a loved one, please contact Kristi Shaffer at KShaffer@jacolorado.org.