Business Monday: Colorado Business Hall of Fame enshrines Walter Paepcke
The “Paepcke” name is nearly synonymous with ski-era Aspen, and last week it became enshrined in the Colorado Business Hall of Fame.
The hall posthumously recognized Chicago industrialist Walter Paepcke at its 30th annual induction ceremony Thursday.
Paepcke’s contributions to Aspen’s economic growth were immense. He founded the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies (now called the Aspen Institute) in 1949. He and his wife, Elizabeth, also founded the Aspen Music Festival and School in 1949, and Walter founded the now-defunct International Design Conference in 1951.
If that weren’t enough, Paepcke, who died in 1960 at the age of 63, founded Aspen Skiing Corp. in 1946.
“Because of Walter Paepcke, there’s a ski area here now, even though he didn’t ski,” remarked Klaus Obermeyer, another Aspen resident and Business Hall of Fame laureate, in a tribute video that was shown at the ceremony.
The Business Hall of Fame will honor Paepcke on its Wall of Fame at the University of Denver, said Liz Johnson of Junior Achievement Colorado, which along with Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce coordinates the induction ceremony.
Paepcke’s enshrinement comes when his Aspen legacy still reverberates in local politics and arts.
Under his watch with the Skicorp, the Lift 1 chairlift debuted Dec. 14, 1946. Then the world’s longest chairlift, now it is Aspen’s most debated chairlift. A municipal election in March includes a ballot question seeking voter approval for a new chairlift, ski museum, two lodges, underground parking and public park space on the western portal of Aspen Mountain.
Paepcke also hired Herbert Bayer, the Bauhaus designer who came to Aspen in late 1945 and revitalized its architectural landscape through the restoration of the Wheeler Opera House, the Hotel Jerome and the Isis Theater. He designed the original Sundeck on Aspen Mountain and conceived the 40-acre Aspen Institute campus, and made posters and marketing materials for Aspen.
Aspen is celebrating the Bauhaus centennial with multiple events and presentations through August.
Paepcke also bought the Biggs-Kurtz ranch northwest of Aspen in the late 1940s, prompting The Aspen Times in 1948 to report: “Mr. Paepcke stated that the purchase of this property was solely to protect the preliminary negotiations now in the mill for the establishment of an Aspen Airport.”
Michael Miracle, director of engagement at Skico, noted in the video that the airport would welcome its first airplane in November 1948, “and access to this place was really a key way to get people here and get them to engage in the Aspen Idea.”
Currently, airport and Pitkin County officials are holding public outreach discussions, plans and meetings about relocating and widening the airport’s runway and building a new 60,000- to 80,000-square-foot terminal. Like all things Aspen, the expansion plans are meeting both resistance and embrace.
Paepcke, who crafted the Aspen Idea “Mind, Body and Spirit” mantra, also was a member of the first class of the Aspen Hall of Fame in 1987, which included his wife, Elizabeth, Friedl Pfeifer (Paepcke’s partner in opening the Skicorp), Andre Roch, Ted Ryan and Bayer.
Paepcke Park was dedicated to his memory Aug. 19, 1960.
“(The Paepcke couple) had a higher goal for Aspen, and as it’s matured and grown, it’s been those guiding principles which have really steered it into a very unique and special place,” said Fonda Patterson, who ran the former Boomerang Lodge with her husband, Charles, in the tribute video.
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