Byron Chrisman and his wife, Carlene
Byron Chrisman and his wife, Carlene ()

Alumnus Byron Chrisman and his wife, Carlene, have pledged $10 million to the University of Colorado Law School as part of their estate. When realized upon their deaths, the donation will be the largest ever made to the Boulder law school.

Byron Chrisman graduated from Colorado Law in 1966 and went on to co-found what is now Boulder’s largest law firm: Chrisman Bynum & Johnson. He turned to commercial real estate development later in his career, and the companies he formed hold more than 700,000 square feet of commercial space. Chrisman retired from law practice in 1997.

The bulk of the Chrismans’ gift will support two endowed professorships—dubbed the Byron and Carlene Chrisman Chairs in Free Enterprise—intended to help the school attract top scholars with “a deep appreciation for and commitment to capitalism and free enterprise.” The remaining $400,000 will finance scholarships in honor of four former faculty members.

“I think law school teaches people how to think better than anything else I know,” Chrisman said on Wednesday. “My goal is not to see just capitalism and free enterprise taught as the only way, but rather that all ideas will be fully taught: the good, the bad and the ugly.”

“One of the big reasons for giving money to Colorado Law is the value, and the domino effect, of education,” Carlene Chrisman said. “Students who learn at Colorado Law then go off into the world, and educate and influence many others.”

Byron Chrisman took an unusual path to law school. He quit school after the eighth grade to milk cows and pick cotton, later earning his GED and serving in the U.S. Army. His first attempt to get into Colorado Law was unsuccessful due to his low score on the Law School Admission Test, so he took a job with the Internal Revenue Service. He met Edward King, a former dean of the law school, who offered him admission if he retook the LSAT, which Chrisman did.

“[Chrisman] is committed to ‘paying it forward’ and sharing his entrepreneurial spirit with future Colorado Law students,” said Dean Phil Weiser.

Contact Karen Sloan at ksloan@alm.com.