Commitment to Learning, Commitment to Community

Commitment is the word that comes to mind when thinking about Donn and Linda Hopkins. Whether it’s a commitment to the community through police work and economic development, or a commitment to help others through local non-profit boards, this longtime CSU couple have been rightly named community ambassadors. 

Linda (’73, history) became familiar with CSU in 1963 when her father, Richard Stevens, took a job at CSU as reference librarian. Donn (’82, political science) moved to Fort Collins from Wyoming in 1974 for a police officer position and began taking classes at CSU while working. The two met at Fort Collins City Hall, where Linda’s workspace was the thoroughfare to the copier room.  

Donn and Linda struck up a conversation during those copier room interactions, and these single parents with a strong sense of adventure went on two dates before heading to Europe to visit Donn’s family. “Travel is a good test of a relationship,” says Linda.    

“After that trip, we figured we could make it, and here we are 42+ years later,” says Donn. 

Donn and Linda Hopkins at a CSU Football Game
Donn and Linda Hopkins at Canvas Stadium

Their families joined in 1980, and their careers moved forward.  

Donn was named CSU’s second Chief of Police in 1986, helping campus navigate the literal waters of the 1997 flood and the trauma of 9/11, serving in the role until 2003. 

“[During the flood] We had 30 buildings offline and it was only a few weeks before the semester started,” Donn said. The recovery took two years. “We had sunrise and sunset meetings of our disaster recovery teams talking about who were the contractors, what was the task of the day, what was finished and what was to be done the next day. It was a dynamic time,” he recalls. 

September 11th provided another intense time of navigating the unknown: “I was at the kitchen table watching it happen,” says Donn. “And by 9 am we convened an emergency management team for campus. We had 30 people in the room from all divisions – residence life, student affairs, faculty reps – asking the questions, ‘Where are our people? Are they okay?’ We met daily for a week to make sure we knew where people were and until we had confirmation that everyone was safe.” 

Through her employment with the City, Linda was exposed to a variety of community needs and interests: she worked in planning and community development, and she became the economic development liaison between the City and the Chamber of Commerce and worked with the Private Industry Council and the County’s employment services to make sure that employers could find capable employees. “It was a fun job,” she says. After leaving the city, Linda joined The Group and became a developer and real estate agent, demonstrating career success in a variety of ways, including Realtor of the Year and Citizen of the Year.

Community Connection, Community Perspective 

Despite the Hopkins’ busy schedule with work and raising a family, they both made time to continue their learning and to contribute to local organizations. Donn was selected to attend the FBI Academy in 1990, and both Donn and Linda were selected to participate in the Chamber of Commerce program Leadership Fort Collins (now called Leadership Northern Colorado) in its inaugural year. 

“We developed confidence in doing things in our community – and some of the people in that group are still our best friends,” says Linda. 

Donn and Linda Hopkins posing with family on the CSU campus near the student center
Donn and Linda Hopkins posing with family on the CSU campus near the student center

This confidence in being community leaders carried over into other avenues when Donn served as president of the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police, president of the Museum of Discovery, and president of the Community Foundation. Linda was active as a realtor and community ambassador for a variety of boards, including the Poudre River Library Trust and member of a board that raised money to fund a building that combined the Women’s Center, United Way, Disabled Resource Center and a day care center.  

“You meet a lot of interesting people when volunteering – different industries and perspectives, different resources and different connections,” says Linda. “You are ambassadors to tell the story [of that organization] and get people interested in engaging.” For her commitment to volunteering, Linda was named Philanthropist of the Year by WomenGive and Woman of Distinction by BizWest. 

Connection Back to Campus 

The particular experiences of being on a college campus and working with a wide variety of people on campus and in the city, provided Donn an important perspective. “With my experience on campus and in the liberal arts, my world got so much bigger. It opened my mind and my senses to the globe and to people,” says Donn.  

“The liberal arts – the students, experiences, classes – gives you a greater world view,” says Linda, who is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, the country’s oldest honor society for liberal arts and sciences.  

Donn adds, “It establishes an attitude of curiosity (a college education is supposed to do that). Liberal arts does that in a broad sense – it makes you curious about the world.” 

Donn and Linda Hopkins posing with family
Donn and Linda Hopkins with children and granddaughter who plays sousaphone in the CSU marching band

For the past 15 years, the Hopkins have been members of Great Conversations, a donor group that has special access to topical conversations with College of Liberal Arts faculty.  

Because of their lifelong commitment to learning and to community, the Hopkins’ are being awarded the College of Liberal Arts Distinguished Alumni Award. “It means a tremendous amount to us,” they said. “It signifies that the work we do does make an impact.” 

“I’m glad we’re receiving the award together – we’ve done a lot of great things together,” says Donn. 

The Hopkins have three sons and a daughter-in-law who are all CSU alumni, and one granddaughter who is a current student of neuroscience and who plays the sousaphone in the marching band.