2014 Citizen of the West: Frederic C. Hamilton

The Colorado Statesman

Almost 1,000 well-heeled — and cowboy boot-heeled — guests gathered at the National Western Stock Show event center paddock on Jan. 13 to help honor Frederic C. Hamilton as the 2014 Citizen of the West. The annual award recognizes those who embody the spirit and determination of the Western pioneer and perpetuate the West’s agricultural heritage and ideals. Hamilton, a pioneer in the oil and gas business, philanthropist and advocate for the arts, was a perfect fit times three.

Proceeds from the meaningful event support 74 scholarships awarded annually by the National Western Scholarship Trust, a significant boost for the deserving students, some who were in attendance to witness the generosity of their benefactors.

And since good deeds aren’t cased in partisan politics, there were Democrats as well as Republicans on hand to anchor the evening.

Marilyn Coors, 2014 Citizen of the West Frederic Hamilton and his wife Jane, and Pete Coors pose for a commemorative photo with miniature oil derricks serving as a backdrop at the National Western Stock Show on Jan. 13.

The brothers Robinson — dairymen Dick and Eddie — were a perfect example of the bipartisan spirit which enveloped the occasion. Both Citizens of the West in 2009, Dick is a Republican, Eddie a Democrat, but they both give back to the community regardless of political persuasion.

Bruce Benson, president of the University of Colorado, is given a friendly greeting by three admiring rodeo queens: Miss Rodeo Colorado Rhianna Russell; Miss Wyoming Desiree Bridges; and Miss Rodeo America Paige Nicholson.

Former U.S. Senator Alan Simpson from Wyoming — himself a Citizen of the West from 1990 — romped around the paddock area where guests were assembled for pre-dinner cocktails and conversation. He seemed to know almost everyone and was spotted early on in deep conversations with such power brokers such as Larry Mizel, Norm Brownstein, fellow U.S. Sen. Hank Brown, Bruce and Marcy Benson, and of course Hamilton, the figurehead of a large family of four children and 10 grandkids.

Larry Mizel congratulates Jane Hamilton as her husband, Citizen of the West honoree Frederic Hamilton, smiles.

But that wasn’t the end of the political procession. Beer magnate Pete Coors, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate a few years ago, served as master of ceremonies for the dinner; Denver Mayor Michael Hancock was on hand to read a document proclaiming Jan. 13 as Frederic Hamilton Day; likewise for Gov. John Hickenlooper, who said earlier that, “Fred Hamilton is exactly the type of person for whom this award was created. He personifies so much of what is great about the West, particularly as a pioneer in the energy industry and benefactor for the arts.”

Brad Freeman, left, and Charlie Gallagher, right, playfully get ready to kiss the ring of Citizen of the West honoree Frederic Hamilton, whose wife Jane, at right, enjoys the fun and frivolity.

And when it came time for introductions at the soldout affair, it was none other than former Secretary of State James Baker III and the Hon. Simpson who delivered the inspirational tributes.

Marilyn Coors and dinner guest Cindy Galvin of Chicago ham it up in front of a poster of honoree Frederic C. Hamilton. Galvin wore a fitted mink singlet under her serape to chase away the chill.

Hamilton’s career began in Texas, where he learned the oil business from the ground up as a roughneck and roustabout. With his brother, Ferris, he founded Hamilton Brothers Drilling Company with a $5,000 loan from their mother.

The company that in later years was known as Hamilton Brothers Oil Company and Hamilton Oil Corporation achieved some notable milestones. In the early 1960s, Hamilton Brothers discovered the Edson Field, the third-largest gas field ever found in Canada. The company also designed, built and used the first drilling rig transportable by helicopter, as well as the first floating production system in the world. In the early 1970s, it was the first company to find and produce oil in the North Sea off Britain. It later drilled the first wells in the Barents Sea off Russia and the East China Sea.

These days, Hamilton’s activities include significant investments in the oil and gas industry, venture capital and private equity, and mortgage lending. He is also widely known for his philanthropic and arts activities.

“Fred Hamilton is one of the few and unique individuals who live the true values of the West, who roll up their sleeves, make personal sacrifice, and make things happen to benefit our community and our quality of life,” noted emcee Coors, the 2011 Citizen of the West.

Hamilton’s name is synonymous with the Denver Art Museum, which he has supported for 30 years and been chairman of for 20 years. In fact, on the same day as he was honored as this year’s Citizen of the West, it was announced that Hamilton plans to donate 22 Impressionist paintings, which he acquired over the past forty years, to the Denver Art Museum. The works are by Monet, Cezanne and van Gogh and could be worth as much as $100 million. They will be displayed in the Frederic C. Hamilton Building, the Daniel Liebeskind-designed addition to the museum which Hamilton helped endow by leading the museum’s first campaign and raising more than $100 million.

At the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Hamilton endowed a chair in Endocrinology and has provided significant support for research programs in macular degeneration and skin cancer. He also has been a major donor to Children’s Hospital Colorado and has endowed three chairs in research and clinical scholars at New York Presbyterian Cornell Hospital.

Hamilton has been involved in corporate and cultural governance boards throughout his career. He is a member of the Trustees Council of the National Gallery of Art, and alumni member of the Smithsonian Institution Board of Directors, and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Denver Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America. He was chairman of the Tejas Gas Corporation and was a director of a variety of organizations, including BHP Petroleum, Celanese Corporation, First National Bancorporation, ITT and United Banks of Colorado. Hamilton sits on the National Petroleum Council and is a director of the American Petroleum Institute.

See the Jan. 17 print edition for pull photo coverage.

Citizen of the West arrangements committee member Marcy Benson gets a well-deserved hug from longtime friend Alan Simpson, the former U.S. Senator from Wyoming.
Jane and Frederic Hamilton, this year’s Citizen of the West, with former U.S. Sen. Hank Brown, the 2008 Citizen of the West.
Photos by Jody Hope Strogoff/
The Colorado Statesman