Widely considered among cable television’s founding fathers, entrepreneur Bill Daniels is honored today in the name of the Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver. Daniels became one of the leading businessmen and most distinguished philanthropists in the Rocky Mountain region. Since his death in 2000, the Daniels Fund he created has used the resources of his estate to support universities, nonprofits, and underserved students not only in Colorado but also in Utah, Wyoming, and New Mexico.
Bill Daniels was born in 1920 in Greeley, Colorado. His family moved to Nebraska, Iowa, and New Mexico during his childhood, and as a young man he enrolled in the New Mexico Military Institute. His youthful interest in boxing—he reigned undefeated as a Golden Gloves welterweight champion—continued into his later years, when he sponsored several professional boxers.
During the Second World War, Daniels received a decoration for bravery as a navy fighter pilot. He later served in the Korean War. Stateside, Daniels devoted his efforts to a fledgling insurance business and discovered the phenomenon of television while on a business trip to Denver. Realizing that small towns such as Caspar, Wyoming, where he then maintained a headquarters, lacked access to TV programming, he founded that area’s first cable company in the early 1950s. The Caspar station became the first of the hundreds he would go on to own and operate nationwide. His love of sports drove him to establish sports-focused programming, a precursor of ESPN.
But it was Daniels’ philanthropy that will be his most lasting legacy. He donated his multimillion-dollar mansion, “Cableland,” to serve as the official residence of the mayor of Denver. In the 1980s, he established Young Americans Bank, which remains the only banking institution chartered solely for children and teens. He worked closely with the University of Denver to incorporate an extensive program of ethics and social justice into the existing business curriculum. Today, the Daniels Fund holds a place among the largest philanthropic organizations in the Rocky Mountain states.