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In Memory of John Madden, Jr.: Visionary Businessman, Collector of Art, and Philanthropist

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Sarah Satterwhite

Senior Editor, Strategic Content and Storytelling

Announcement  •
John Madden sitting in a chair in the art gallery that he donated to.

The University of Denver celebrates the life and legacy of John Madden Jr. upon his recent passing. Madden’s generosity to the University over the years has accelerated students’ learning and pursuit of meaningful passions, both in art and in entrepreneurship.

A longtime real estate developer in Denver, Madden started constructing office buildings in Greenwood Village in the 1970s. He eventually built Greenwood Plaza into one of the country’s premiere office park communities, one that is accented with large sculptures from his extensive art collection and features unique materials including Italian travertine marble. The Madden Museum of Art, also located in Greenwood Village, features notable works of art and serves as a learning space for DU students.

Donated in 2016 to DU’s University Art Collection, the Madden Collection has created new opportunities for exhibitions, curatorial training, publications, research and cross-disciplinary collaborations. Having an entire art collection in a museum allows students to learn as they curate and care for artwork. Madden’s gift stands both as a legacy of his passion for art and as a longstanding resource for teaching and learning. Madden’s gift also supported graduate students in the School of Art & Art History, providing them with funds to pursue a master’s degree as well as get valuable hands-on experience in the field of museum studies and art history. 

“John Madden’s generosity to the College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences has been immense,” says Rhonda M. Gonzales, dean of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. “He realized his vision for a world-class art collection to the benefit of the Denver community, and particularly our DU students.  His love of art and support of students will live on through the Madden Collection, and we are thankful for his family’s support over the years.”

Another of Madden’s innovative gifts to the University established the Madden Challenge in the Daniels College of Business, which provides seed money for visionary entrepreneurship students to bring their ideas into reality. A quarterly competition in which student entrepreneurs pitch their business ventures to successful entrepreneurs and investors, the Madden Challenge has contributed $145,000 to 420 students over more than a decade of competition.

“John’s support immediately transformed the way students engage with entrepreneurship at DU,” said Vivek Choudhury, dean of the Daniels College of Business. “The Madden Challenge has become the signature experience of our undergraduate programs. It challenges students to present their best cases for businesses that will make a difference in the world. What’s more, it has served as a launchpad for the innovative entrepreneurship programming we offer to our entire campus community.”

The legacy of John Madden will long echo in the teaching and learning of the University of Denver and in the lives of alumni whose DU journeys bear the impact of his generosity.

The current show at the Madden Museum features works by the artist Daniel Sprick as well as pieces from the Madden Collection and was curated by DU art students. The show runs from November 2, 2023 – April 15, 2024.  For more information: