About Naropa50 Years of Naropa

Celebrating 50 Years
of Naropa

Welcome from President Charles G. Lief, JD

It is a joy to welcome you all to celebrate Naropa’s 50th anniversary in 2024. I was most fortunate to have participated in the opening Summer Institute in 1974. I was particularly moved by the loud and clear proclamation of our founder, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, that our challenge was to reignite the pilot light and create a new form of higher education, one that integrates the contemplative practices of mindfulness and compassion with the liberal and creative arts.

The pioneering faculty and staff took up the challenge and welcomed the first cohort of students. Since then, generations of teachers and students, supported by a dedicated administrative team, have not only shared the founding energy but confidently evolved, changed, and challenged our community to be both relevant for our times and cutting edge in our outlook and our offerings.

Chuck Lief quote

My family has gone all in for Naropa. My wife Judy was our first Dean (President in today’s language), our daughters are Naropa alumnx, and I was blessed to have been asked in 2012 to serve as President. And we are not alone. “Community” is not a casual descriptor of who we are as a living body of scholars, students, philanthropists, alumnx, and support staff.

You are warmly invited to connect to Naropa at 50 in any and all ways that move you. Our team is planning a vast array of opportunities. We will nostalgically remember and appreciate the past and, without limit, envision the future we will create together.


Then & Now Photo Project

Then and now photos on Wulsin windows

Welcome to a celebration of Naropa University’s rich history and vibrant future! We are thrilled to unveil the installation of our Then-and-Now photo project, a fitting tribute as we approach our 50th year milestone. This project adorns the Wulsin building on our Arapahoe campus, offering a visual journey of  the past and present.

The lower section showcases black and white photographs of the pioneering faculty and luminaries who helped build the foundation for Naropa. In contrast, the upper section features vibrant color photos capturing contemporary moments that reflect Naropa’s enduring mission.

Kobun Chino Otogawa Roshi
Kobun Chino Otogawa Roshi was a Japanese Zen Buddhist teacher who made significant contributions to the dissemination of Zen Buddhism in the West. He was known for his teachings on meditation, mindfulness, and the integration of spiritual practice into everyday life. He encouraged individuals to find wisdom and presence in all things. Learn more
Amiri Baraka
Amiri Baraka taught at Naropa’s Jack Kerouac School during the late 1970s and early 1980s teaching summer writing programs and workshops. His presence brought a unique perspective to the school’s curriculum, emphasizing social justice, political activism, and African American cultural experiences in his teaching. Learn more
Barbara Dilley 
Barbara Dilley, a luminary of the dance world, has profoundly shaped the trajectory of Naropa University. Born in 1938 near Lake Michigan, her journey in dance began with Audree Estey and Helen Priest Rogers, leading her to Merce Cunningham’s company and a transformative era with the Grand Union improvisational ensemble. Learn more
Gregory Corso
Gregory Corso was a renowned poet and a key figure in the Beat Generation, a literary movement that explored alternative forms of self-expression, spirituality, and countercultural ideas. His poetry is characterized by its spontaneity, emotional intensity, and direct language as he explored themes of love, alienation, and social rebellion. Learn more
Anne Waldman
Anne Waldman is co-founder of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa, Distinguished Professor of Poetics, and director of Naropa’s Summer Writing Program—and that barely scrapes the surface of her contribution to the University. Learn more
Allen Ginsberg 
Allen Ginsberg was a groundbreaking poet, writer, central figure of the Beat Generation, and co-founder of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa alongside Anne Waldman and Diane diPrima. He was an outspoken advocate for civil rights, anti-war efforts, LGBTQ+ rights, and other social justice causes. Learn more
Barbara Bash
Barbara Bash is an accomplished calligrapher and performance artist who arrived to Naropa University’s faculty team in its early days. She served as a bridge for contemplative and artistic environments with her unique approach that combined Eastern and Western traditions. Learn more
Chogyam Trungpa
Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche was the visionary founder of Naropa University. Born in Tibet, he was recognized as a tulku (reincarnated teacher) at a young age and received extensive training in Tibetan monastic traditions. Learn more
Bobbie Louise Hawkins
Bobbie Louise Hawkins was an accomplished writer, poet and storyteller and Naropa faculty of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics from 1978-2010. She was known for her dynamic teaching style and her commitment to nurturing the creative growth of her students. Learn more
Juan Pablo Fernández Garcí
Juan Pablo Fernández Garcí is an international undergraduate student from Mexico, whose artistic passion and spiritual exploration have found a nurturing home at Naropa University. Learn more
Natalie Hsu
Natalie Hsu, a dedicated senior at Naropa University, has found her calling at the intersection of art and education. With a major in art therapy and a minor in elementary education, Natalie’s journey at Naropa is a testament to her unwavering commitment to holistic and transformative learning. Learn more
Ramon Parish
Ramon Parish, an esteemed core assistant professor in Naropa’s Interdisciplinary Studies department, brings a wealth of interdisciplinary experience to his role. His unique approach encompasses ritual and ceremony as tools for community development, intercultural understanding, ecological awareness, and personal transformation. Learn more
Connor Heikkila
Connor Heikkila, a recent graduate of Naropa University, was fueled by a yearning for genuine learning and a desire to aid others through art. Connor’s initial disengagement with conventional education pushed them to seek an alternative, which prompted them to explore unconventional avenues and ultimately guided them to Naropa University. Learn more
Regina Smith
Regina Smith, a dynamic and spirited educator, stands as a driving force within the Naropa University community. As the Vice President of Mission, Culture, and Inclusive Community, her dedication is steadfastly inspired by poetic vision while firmly grounded in heart-and-body-centered clarity and compassion. Learn more
Nataraja Kallio
Nataraja Kallio stands as a luminary within Naropa University’s academic tapestry, having steadfastly served as the lead faculty and Chair of the BA Yoga Studies program since 2005. His profound influence extends beyond the classroom, as he played a pivotal role in designing the innovative MA Yoga Studies program recently launched by the institution. Learn more
Fern Deininger & Michael Bauer
Alumnx Fern Deininger stands as a testament to the transformative power of contemplative education. During her time at Naropa, she was deeply engaged in the student community, serving as Co-Chair of the Student Union of Naropa and Manager of Naropa’s Bike Shack. Learn more
Paula Gasparini-Santos 
Paula Gasparini-Santos shines as an exceptional and heart-centered alumnx of Naropa University, leaving an indelible mark on both her personal journey and the communities she touches. Paula's journey is one of multicultural exploration, as she is an immigrant artist born in Vitória, Brazil, who has embraced life across numerous cities and countries. Learn more
Sedona Moreno-Castelan, Evey Healy, and Austin Lockey
Naropa University alumnx Sedona Moreno-Castelan, Evey Healy, and Austin Lockey, former leaders of Naropa’s Acro-Yoga & Circus club, embody the institution’s transformative mission through their vibrant endeavors. United by the common thread of mindfulness and connection, these individuals bring their unique backgrounds and passions to the stage, both within Naropa’s nurturing community and beyond. Learn more
Bataan Faigao
Bataan Faigao, was a beloved Naropa University professor and published poet who directed the Naropa’s Traditional Eastern Arts program. Bataan along with his wife, Jane Faigao, were instrumental in founding Traditional Eastern Arts program, and over the course of his thirty-year tenure, he inspired and taught countless students the arts of T’ai-chi Ch’uan Learn more

A Visual Journey of Then & Now

Envisioning the Next 50 Years

As you walk around our beautiful campuses, know that nearly every building, classroom, or contemplative space resulted from the generosity and vision of our alumnx and friends. We rely on your support to help us maintain the outstanding and innovative education we offer.

As we approach our fiftieth year, Naropa University continues to be a place where students have been inspired to make the world a better place. It is where our students learn, live, and gather, where we practice mindfulness and compassion, and the hub of our creativity, innovation, artistic expression and social engagement.

This is just the beginning! Naropa’s first fifty years were focused on preparing the ground for the even greater things to come. Your donations to the 50th Anniversary Campaign support the future of our university and investments in student success.

Your gift helps create the conditions for thesparks of wisdom to fly in all directions.” 

Pamela Krasney Giving Circle

At Naropa’s opening in 1974, the founder, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche who was Pamela’s spiritual teacher, called it a 500 year project. Many heard that as exaggeration, Pamela was in the small circle who knew it was reality. In the spirit of her commitment, and in celebration of Naropa’s 50th Anniversary, we invite you to do the same by joining the Pamela Krasney Giving Circle in her honor.  Our goal is to raise the much-needed funds that will ensure that Naropa thrives for the next 50 years and beyond. 

Additional Resources

Here are some of the ways you can engage with Naropa and help celebrate fifty years of contemplative education and the role of mindfulness and compassion to build a more sane, vibrant, and generous world.

1. Join One of the 50th Anniversary Committees and Share Your Wisdom

Donors and other friends, please email Sharla Owens. Naropa alumnx, please email Kelly Watt.

2. Attend One of the Numerous Celebrations to Mark the Occasion

3. Make a Gift to the 50th Anniversary Fund

Email Sharla Owens

Schedule a Chat with Sharla Owens


50th Fundraising Gala (Fall 2024)

Members: Sharla Owens (lead), Kendra Sandoval, Jessica DelCastillo (project manager), Martha Husick, Rachel Solum

50th Kickoff Events with Summer Writing Program (2024 & 2025)

Members: Jeffrey Pethybridge (lead), Stephan Taylor (project manager), Alanna Marks, Caroline Swanson (Swanee), Regina Smith

Conference: Joanna Macy Center for Resilience & Regeneration

Members: Michael Bauer (lead), Stephen Polk, Peter Grossenbacher, Regina Smith, Cory Potash, Joseph Grobelny (project manager)

Academic Program–specific Alumnx Reunions

Members: Kelly Watt (lead), Kendra Sandoval, Jessica DelCastillo

50 Students/50 Years Project

Members: Jeremy Moore (lead), Alanna Marks, Lexi Watkins, Zeek Miller (project manager), Karen Wills (project manager)

Years of Service Celebration Honoring Faculty & Staff (Fall 2024 with Gala)

Members: Bob Brown (lead), Jessica DelCastillo (project manager), Stephan Taylor

Student Design Competition/Collaboration for 50th Swag (Summer/Fall 2023)

Members: Tonni Tis (lead), Stephan Taylor, Marcos Perez

Commemorative Coffee Table Book (completed by Fall 2024)

Members: Cassie Smith (lead), Ben Williams, Danielle Poitras, Marcos Perez

Afrofuturism Event

Members: Regina Smith (lead), Jeffrey Pethybridge, Monera Mason, PJ Gunter

Interactive Programming around Founding Vision of Contemplative Education

Members: Carolyn Gimian, Irini Rockwell, Zeek Miller (project manager), Karen Wills (project manager)

Family/Community 50th Celebration Event/Cookout

Members: Tonni Tis (lead), Bob Brown, Stephan Taylor (project manager), Jialin Chu, Kelly Watt, Cory Potash, Rachel Solum

Highlighting Important Faculty and Their Contributions

Members: Cassie Smith, PJ Gunter

Special Concerts, Events, Conferences, Symposiums

Members: PJ Gunter (lead), Carolyn Gimian, Kendra Sandoval, Lexi Watkins, Jialin Chu, Martha Rome, Cory Potash, Rachael Gula, Zeek Miller (project manager), Karen Wills (project manager)

Poetry Competition and/or 24-hour Poetry Marathon

Members: Jeffrey Pethybridge, Jialin Chu , Stephan Taylor (project manager)

Designating Boulder as a Literary City

Members: Caroline Swanson (lead), Alanna Marks

Video Project: “I am here because…” “To me Naropa is…”

Members: Bob Brown (lead), Lexi Watkins 

Native American Film Festival

Members: Seann Goodman (lead), Regina Smith

Bhutanese Connection Day

Members: Jane Carpenter (lead), Dr. Anne Parker, Tashi Browder, Rinchen Love, Janneli Chapin

Art Installations and/or Beautification Project along 21st & Arapahoe

Members: Cory Potash, Rachael Gula

  • Summer Writing Program // June 9–29, 2024
  • Interfaith Dialogue with Judith Simmer Brown and Netanel Miles-Yépez // August 28, 2024 // 2:00–3:30 PM
  • Maker Day // September 2, 2024 // 1:00–6:00 PM
  • Family Reunion // September 7, 2024 // 12:00-4:00 PM
  • CACE: Practicing Right Speech Workshop // September 11, 2024 
  • 50th Anniversary Gala // September 21, 2024
  • 24-Hour Sitting Meditation // October 1, 2024

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Naropa Campuses Closed on Friday, March 15, 2024

Due to adverse weather conditions, all Naropa campuses will be closed Friday, March 15, 2024.  All classes that require a physical presence on campus will be canceled. All online and low-residency programs are to meet as scheduled.

Based on the current weather forecast, the Healing with the Ancestors Talk & Breeze of Simplicity program scheduled for Friday evening, Saturday, and Sunday will be held as planned.

Staff that do not work remotely or are scheduled to work on campus, can work remotely. Staff that routinely work remotely are expected to continue to do so.

As a reminder, notifications will be sent by e-mail and the LiveSafe app.  

Regardless of Naropa University’s decision, if you ever believe the weather conditions are unsafe, please contact your supervisor and professors.  Naropa University trusts you to make thoughtful and wise decisions based on the conditions and situation in which you find yourself in.