Timothy & Bernadette Marquez

cop-people-marquezTimothy Marquez didn’t look back on his college days fondly. The son of public school teachers in Denver, he was focused and hard-working (which included a 30-hour-a-week job), but his four years at the Colorado School of Mines? “I hated it,” he said in 2011.

But after a career in the gas and oil business, he founded Venoco in 1992. The Denver-based business is now worth nearly $2 billion. He also discovered an appreciation for his college experience. “It just dawned on me finally that I owe a lot of my success to the school,” he said after a $10 million matching gift to build a new building for the petroleum engineering department at his alma mater. “I’ve gone from no affinity for the school to having a real affinity for the school.”

His affinity for school isn’t limited to his college. He and his wife, Bernadette, donated 2.5 million shares of Venoco — worth an estimated $42.5 million — to the Denver Foundation to use as a challenge grant in establishing the Denver Scholarship Foundation, with the mission to provide need-based college tuition assistance for Denver Public High School graduates.

“Tim and Bernadette don’t believe in incremental changes,” said Denver Superintendent of Schools Tom Boasberg. “They believe in really major leaps forward. Anyone can say we need a huge increase in college matriculation, but they are also putting up an unheard of amount of money to make that vision a reality.”

The Marquez family has experience with other Promise or Promise-type programs. They have benefactors of the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara (where they own a home) and Bernadette is a native of Kalamazoo, Mich., where The Kalamazoo Promise launched the city-wide Promise movement in 2005.