Welsh merchant Elihu Yale gave money that helped build the university with his name, a school that had a proud and unblemished history until 1968. That was the year it gave an actual degree in history to a young man (see: 43rd president of the United States) from a rich Texas family, a kid whose senior thesis "The 1700s: How the Steam Engine Guidanced the Industrious Revelation" is still widely discussed at the school.
Airports are named for people, too. Pisa, Italy's Galileo Galilei Airport honors the man known as the "Father of Modern Science," along with the lesser-known titles of "uncle of geography" and "stepfather of really tough crossword puzzles." The golf-crazy town of Latrobe, Pa., home of the most famous of all golfers, has the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport ("Our Baggage Handlers Will Find Your Golf Clubs, But You'll Have to Find Your Own Balls").
All of which brings us to Boulder, home to the main campus of the University of Colorado ("Proudly Entering Our 132nd Year of Trying to Cut All Ties to Ward Churchill").
As the Boulder campus continues to grow (last year it opened its state-of-the-art Center for Cloud Shape Interpretation), it recently set some sort of milestone in higher education when it unveiled and I'm not kidding about this the Brad Feld Men's Room.
The restroom in the school's ATLAS technology building is named for a young Boulder entrepreneur and venture capitalist. He gave the school $25,000 for the right to name the bathroom after himself because, he says, he gets some of his best thoughts when he drops his trousers and sits on the toilet. (Typical examples: "What was that splash?" and "Where the heck is my cell phone?")
"Sitting on a toilet provides you with a few quiet moments," Feld says. "Some of my best ideas come when I'm in the bathroom. It's peaceful."
The exception would be when Idaho Sen. Larry Craig is gently rubbing your ankle with his toe while singing Sinatra's "Fly Me to the Moon."
Feld is a managing director of the Foundry Group and Mobius Venture Capital. He also is on the board of the National Center for Women and Information Technology, headquartered in the sprawling technology building on the CU campus. He is a regular visitor to the restroom that now bears both his name and a plaque that reads, "The best ideas often come at inconvenient times. Don't ever close your mind to them."
(Note: Feld chose that expression from a long list submitted by friends and associates, narrowly beating out two equally philosophical musings: "Damn! Someone Open a Window!" and "Whew! Did Something Die in Here?")
It wasn't the first time Feld tried to donate $25,000 for restroom-naming rights. He first ran the proposal past his alma mater, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (Feld graduated from MIT in 1987, he and his classmates capping the ceremony in the storied tradition of the famed science institute: throwing their vinyl pocket protectors high into the air and then burning their thumbs while trying to light cigars.)
"MIT said they'd considered my offer but the answer was no," Feld says. "I couldn't believe it. They didn't want my $25,000."
CU sure did. And the ATLAS building has seven other restrooms. There are indications that the Brad Feld Men's Room might not be the end of this fundraising campaign.
A week ago, for example, Bill Ritter was a featured speaker on the CU campus as part of the "Focus the Nation" environmental awareness event. Sources said he later met quietly with school officials. And I sure don't want to jump the gun on any big announcement from the university.
But the Gov. Ritter Shitter sure has a nice ring to it.
Listen to Rich Tosches on Thursdays at 8 a.m. on MY99.9. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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