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First vice president for Diversity at Colorado State University, Mary Ontiveros dies at 70

Ontiveros was a CSU Ram for 51 years. She began at CSU as student and held numerous roles as a faculty member until her retirement in 2020.

FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Founding vice president for diversity at Colorado State University (CSU), Mary Ontiveros, has died at age 70, according to a CSU press release.

According to the release, she died on Saturday surrounded by her family.

Ontiveros was a CSU Ram for more than five decades before she retired last year. She began at CSU as a student in the year 1969 and graduated in 1973 as a first-generation student with a Bachelor's degree in psychology.

She was a CSU alumni for 45 years and served in a variety of leadership positions with the school, from working in the School of Education to becoming executive director of admissions.

Most notably, in 2010 she served as the school's first vice president for diversity helping grow CSU's Office of Inclusive Excellence. She was in this role until she retired. 

“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,” Ontiveros said herself in an interview in 2020, according to the release. 

The Coloradoan reports she helped get scholarship programs started for first-generation and minority students and was a founder of the Multicultural Staff and Faculty Network.

According to the university, Ontiveros grew up in Pueblo in the 1950s and ’60s. She was born to Mexican-American parents and she and her siblings experienced life with limited means. 

Although neither of her parents were able to finish high school, they were able to "provide for their family and passed on valuable life lessons including the importance of a hard work ethic, pursuing an education and unconditional love," CSU reported. 

Community members reflected on her legacy making it clear that her impact will be felt on campus for years and decades.

"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," university President Joyce McConnell said in a press release.

“It is impossible to overstate Mary’s impact on our campus over almost half a century," Tony Frank, chancellor of the CSU System, said in the release. "As our first vice president for diversity, as the longtime head of Admissions, and even in her early years as a leader in student government, she always sought to leave this campus better than she found it."

“How do you say goodbye to someone who has been such a part of my journey at Colorado State?," Blanche Hughes, vice president for student affairs, said. "My heart is broken as I say farewell to my friend, colleague, and an amazing mentor. What is really more amazing is that Mary was an incredible friend, colleague, and mentor to so many others over her many years at Colorado State!"

If you wish to honor Ontiveros' 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 professional development in the area of Latinx Leadership Development. The CSU office of the president will match gifts to this program up to $25,000 for the next two weeks in her memory. 

Her services will be held at 11 a.m. Monday, Feb. 28.

Credit: Joe A. Mendoza/CSU Photography -
Mary Ontiveros, Vice President for Diversity at Colorado State University, September 19, 2020.

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