February 21, 2022

Dear CSU Community,

It is with deep sorrow that I share with you all today that Mary Ontiveros, the founding Vice President for Diversity at Colorado State University, died this past weekend surrounded by her family. Our hearts are with those who are grieving.  As a community, we are both bereft and deeply fortunate to have known Mary and benefited from her passion, her compassion, her wisdom, and her unparalleled commitment to CSU.

Mary Ontiveros came to CSU as a freshman student in the fall of 1969 and graduated with a BA in psychology. Between her time as a CSU student and her 45 years as a CSU employee, Mary was a Ram for 51 years. Beginning in 1974, she served in a variety of leadership positions at the university, including as executive director of admissions, associate vice president in the Division of Enrollment and Access, and as a faculty member in the School of Education. Mary was named CSU’s first vice president for diversity in 2010 by then-President Tony Frank and built the office from the ground up during her 10 years in the role.

As she herself said an interview in 2020, “There are some pretty significant things that happened historically, and I’m just glad that I was at CSU, because the one common denominator that I think helped me get through everything are the people. It’s really the people that make a difference.”

Mary Ontiveros herself was unquestionably one of the people who made a difference; to offer just one powerful example, she was instrumental in leading the development and university wide adoption of our Principles of Community. And Mary had this kind of transformative impact not just at CSU but for literally thousands of students who are now alumni making a difference in their own ways.

So we will celebrate Mary in the days and weeks to come, on SOURCE, in events, and through personal tributes. And I am so glad that when Mary retired in December 2020, we had the opportunity to celebrate her publicly. I invite you all to watch the wonderful ceremony in which our ASCSU honored her that fall.

If you wish to honor Mary’s incredible legacy at CSU through your own generosity, you can do so by making a donation to the Ontiveros Latinx Fellowship program, which is available to undergraduate students to help fund education, research, and/or professional development in the area of Latinx Leadership Development. My office will match gifts to this program up to $25,000 for the next two weeks, in Mary’s memory.

With gratitude for Mary Ontiveros—and for all of you,

Joyce McConnell