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$20 million gift to museum from Donald L. Sturm and family
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$20 million gift to museum from Donald L. Sturm and family

The Denver Museum of Nature and Science will use a $20 million dollar gift from the Sturm Family Foundation to redesign its historic theater, lobby, and plaza.

The gift is the largest private donation in the museum’s history. The museum said the gift will allow it to create “greater opportunities for interaction, engagement and connection among visitors, Museum partners, local businesses and nonprofit organizations.”

The renovation will primarily focus on the museum’s east wing, which borders Colorado Boulevard. The museum describes the project as a “campus-style venue and gathering place” that creates more outdoor spaces for visitors.

Updates to the museum’s theater and lobby have already been finished. They included a new projection system, enhanced accessibility features, and the installation of a stage for lecture events.

Construction for the second phase of renovations will begin later this year. Renovations will include a new eastern entrance, which is projected to open in 2025.

“These state-of-the-art indoor and outdoor spaces will open the Museum to new activities and science demonstrations, provide enhanced film experiences and educational opportunities for camp-goers and school groups and invite curious park-goers to enjoy a meal on the east plaza,” the museum said in a release.

The east wing renovation isn’t the only change coming to the Museum of Nature and Science. In May 2023, the museum permanently closed its North American Indian Cultures exhibit, citing its reinforcement of “harmful stereotypes and white, dominant culture.”

The museum plans to rework the exhibit in collaboration with Indigenous community members, but the timeline for that has not been announced.

Originally from New York, Donald L. Sturm and his family currently own ANB Bank with branches in Colorado, Wyoming, and Kansas and numerous real estate assets in Colorado.

Sturm worked as a trial attorney for four years before joining Peter Kiewit Sons’ Inc. as tax counsel in 1963. In 1970, he was elected vice president and was appointed chief financial officer shortly after that. In 1975, Sturm was elected to the board of directors of Peter Kiewit Son’s, Inc.

He directed notable acquisitions, including Mapco, Inc. and The Continental Group. In 1986, Sturm was named vice chairman of Peter Kiewit Son’s, Inc. Sturm left Peter Kiewit Son’s, Inc. in December 1991 to pursue his financial interests.

Sturm also was a member of the group that bought Continental Airlines out of bankruptcy in April 1993. The airline was restructured and is now part of United Airlines. He served on the airline’s Board of Directors from April 1993 to September 2003.

Sturm and his wife Susan have participated in philanthropic activities by providing funds and oversight for charter schools to benefit economically disadvantaged children, primarily through the Sturm Family Foundation. The foundation also supports affordable housing, the University of Denver, Mayo Clinic, National Jewish Health, and numerous other charities. Sturm is a former trustee of the University of Denver, now recognized as an Honorary Life Trustee, and two facilities on the campus bear the family name. He is also on an Advisory Committee of Johns Hopkins Hospital Brady Institute.

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