Giving

Changing Lives: Chuck Colgan

A Life of Service

You can sum up the life and career of Charles J. “Chuck” Colgan, the longest-serving state senator in Virginia’s history, in a single word: service. Senator Colgan’s service to his community, his state, and his constituents is legendary.

Colgan, who retired this year at the age of 89 after four decades in the state senate representing Prince William County, Manassas, and Manassas Park, was a champion for the needs of his constituents and for higher education in Virginia.

A notably modest and soft-spoken leader, Colgan’s vision and support have spurred the rapid growth of George Mason University. From his influential perch on the Senate Finance Committee, Colgan helped direct appropriations totaling more than $1.2 billion for higher education in the commonwealth, including more than $600 million for Mason.

Buildings like the Hylton Performing Arts Center on the Science and Technology Campus are part of his legacy. But to break ground, you must first find common ground. That might be Colgan’s greatest strength, as evidenced by the bipartisan acclaim he received at a retirement tribute held in his honor last September at the Hylton Center.

Now, as this “servant leader” finds more time to spend with his eight children, 24 grandchildren, and 20 great-grandchildren, the honors pour in. A new public high school in Prince William County will bear his name. And in March, the university’s Board of Visitors voted to rename the first academic building on the Science and Technology Campus as Senator Charles J. Colgan Hall.

His legacy at Mason will continue in other ways, too, including through the Senator Charles J. Colgan Community Arts Benefit Fund, as well as a named endowment that will provide college scholarships for area citizens. (Both funds have received substantial support from Didlake, Inc., headquartered in Manassas, which aims to create life-enriching opportunities for people with disabilities).

As University President Ángel Cabrera offered at the tribute gala: “On behalf not just of the George Mason community, but of the entire higher education community in Virginia, from the bottom of my heart, Senator Colgan, thank you for everything you have done.”

Reprinted from Spirit magazine, Summer 2016 / RR