July 1, 2020 would have been the 100th birthday of legendary cable television entrepreneur and philanthropist, Bill Daniels. 2020 also marks the 20th anniversary of the Daniels Fund, which Bill established to make life better for the people of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming, four states to which he had a personal connection.
“Bill led an extraordinary life and touched so many people,” said Hank Brown, Interim President & CEO of the Daniels Fund. “This day is a great opportunity to reflect not only on his amazing life, but also how he continues to inspire people to help others.”
Bill Daniels was born in Greeley, Colorado in 1920 during the Great Depression. He was raised in Hobbs, New Mexico and went to New Mexico Military Institute. Bill entered the U.S. Navy in 1941 and became a decorated fighter pilot in World War II and the Korean War. After returning from the Navy, he saw television for the first time. When he learned that television wasn’t available in many small towns, he began building his first cable television system in Casper, Wyoming, which launched in 1954. Bill would go on to become a major force in the cable television industry, known as an ethical and visionary entrepreneur. He owned the American Basketball Association Utah Stars — Utah’s first professional sports team — launched one of the first regional sports programming networks, and became part-owner of the Los Angeles Lakers.
As successful as Bill Daniels was in business, he just as well known for his ethics, generosity, and compassion to those in need. Throughout his life, he made large philanthropic gifts, such as large donations to the University of Denver to incorporate ethics into its business school curriculum, and launching Young Americans Bank, Bill’s bank for kids, to help them learn financial literacy. On a more personal level, Bill was often moved to leave anonymous envelopes of cash in mailboxes for people he read about in the newspaper that were down on their luck.
He spent the last few years of his life planning the Daniels Fund, and when he passed away on March 7, 2000, his $1.1 billion estate transferred to the foundation, which began making grants and scholarships that year. Bill identified funding areas that were important to him based on his personal experiences including Aging, Amateur Sports, Disabilities, Drug & Alcohol Addiction, Early Childhood Education, Ethics, Homeless & Disadvantaged, K-12 Education, and Youth Development, and scholarships for deserving students.
From its inception in 2000 through the end of 2019, the Daniels Fund distributed $877.2 million in grants and scholarships. That includes support of 2,814 nonprofit organizations with $654.8 million in grants. During that time, the Daniels Fund has also paid $204.6 million in scholarships for 4,149 Daniels Scholars, and an additional $17.8 million in scholarship grants for non-traditional students through the Boundless Opportunity Scholarship Program.
“Bill once said if you spent your life helping others and were remembered as an honest person, you would leave this world with a clear conscience and a smile on your face,” said Brown. “I would like to think that Bill would be smiling today to see the meaningful legacy he left in his community.”
The Daniels Fund has created a special web page celebrating Bill Daniels’ 100th birthday and the impact of the Daniels Fund in its first 20 years, available here. The page contains an interactive timeline of Bill’s life and stories from people impacted by Bill and his legacy. A full biography of Bill Daniels is available here.