FORT COLLINS — Ed Warner’s rags-to-riches story of natural-gas exploration has brought $30 million worth of benefits to his alma matter, Colorado State University.
Warner’s most recent donation of $25.7 million, combined with his $4.3 million donation in 2001, equals the largest private gift ever made to the university, President Larry Penley announced Wednesday.
The university has named the Warner College of Natural Resources in his honor. The gift positions the college to become an international leader in environmental sciences, Penley said.
With the $26 million, the college will create a new conservation institute, which will teach students and community members how to manage and preserve natural resources.
Warner said he hopes the conservation center will bring together scholars, environmentalists, governments and private landowners to work toward common goals of sustaining natural resources while encouraging economic growth.
Warner’s previous $4.3 million gift allowed the university to hire two additional geology professors and to further its geological research, according to university officials.
Warner, who lives in Denver, graduated from CSU in 1968 with a bachelor’s degree in geology and earned a master’s in geology in 1971 at the University of California at Los Angeles.
After he and his wife spent several years “poor as church mice, without two nickels to rub together,” Warner’s company discovered Jonah Field, a huge natural-gas field near Pinedale, Wyo.
The field is expected to produce 8.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
Warner said his good fortune made him want to give back to the university for educating and inspiring him.
A self-described high school underachiever, Warner credited his professors with pushing him to get his degree and to go to graduate school.
“Professors did not just teach me geology,” he said. “They taught me how to study. They taught me how to do research.”