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CU Nursing Alumni Karen Padrick and husband Kevin

Love and Legacy: How a blind date led to a major gift to CU

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Written by Dana Brandorff on November 17, 2020

Not long before his accidental death in an airplane crash, Karen Padrick’s husband (Kevin) came to her and asked if she wanted to give a significant donation to the University of Colorado School of Nursing. It took Padrick by surprise. “I didn’t have to think long, but it hadn’t really occurred to me,” she said. Kevin had already designated money to the University of Santa Clara where he received his undergraduate and graduate degrees. Business was good and for some reason, he decided they had more to give. “We could afford to spread the wealth around,” Padrick said. He to his alma mater, and she to hers – CU Nursing. “That was just the type of person Kevin was. Generous. Thoughtful. A bit impulsive,” recalled Padrick.

Love is Blind

The couple met on a mass blind date in 1974 when Karen was in CU’s nursing program, and Kevin was at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. The two were paired together when they attended a football game with 19 fellow cadets and 19 women from Karen’s sorority. Kevin knew he found the girl of his dreams. From that moment, they were inseparable, and what a life they led. He – a lawyer, businessman, and avid pilot. She – a nurse, informatics specialist, assistant professor, and flight navigator. The two jet setters even built a hangar beneath their house for Kevin’s plane! As Karen’s father jokingly said, “I’m the only person I know to have my own private nurse, cook, and pilot.”

Ties to Colorado

Karen is a Colorado girl with long ties to CU. Her sister, brother, father, and mother all graduated from the University of Colorado with a variety of degrees – pharmacy, engineering, and business respectively. Her father – Julius Otsuki -- even was the facilities engineer at Fitzsimons Army Base (the precursor to CU Anschutz Medical Campus where the College of Nursing resides). Karen’s siblings still live in Colorado.

After they married in 1976, they moved to Palo Alto, California, where Karen worked at the Veteran’s Administration (VA) in an Ear, Nose & Throat surgical unit. Kevin was earning his master’s and law degrees from Santa Clara at the time. They then moved to Portland, Oregon, where Karen completed her master’s in nursing, followed by a PhD from Oregon Health Sciences University, and a few years teaching at the university. She then accepted a position with the VA as an information specialist for the nursing service, playing intermediary between the chief nurse and IT where she computerized nursing care plans. “My role was to customize the computer systems to fit each nursing unit’s needs,” said Padrick.

Adventurous Spirits

In the meantime, Kevin joined the law firm of Miller, Nash, Graham and Dunn, where he established the insolvency department and at the time became the firm’s youngest partner. After Kevin was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis – a condition that made it impossible to sit for long periods – the two decided to move to Silverton, Colorado to pursue a dream of building a helicopter ski lodge. For five years, they built up the business, hired and started a construction company, operated the RV Park, and became the garbage collectors for the town. They even were the town’s attorney and school nurse. “Kevin would see a need and try to fill it,” said Padrick. Unfortunately, the original vision of a helicopter ski lodge did not pan out, and they returned to Oregon, where Karen helped open a medical clinic and volunteered, and Kevin founded numerous successful companies, which allowed them to gift to their alma maters.

“It seems fitting to leave this legacy,” said Padrick. “In a way, it commemorates how our love story began -- at a university.”

Topics: Alumni