The Colorado Mesa University business school was given a new name for a generous donor on Friday.

CMU unveiled the Davis School of Business after Ronald Davis, a philanthropist and former CEO of Perrier until 1992, who donated $1 million to the university. The celebration included a performance by the CMU band, food and a dinner for VIPs.

“This is a school that‘s focused on first generation students, and I was the first generation in my family to go to college,” Davis said. “It’s not about the naming of the school. I hope that I can be involved with the business school and work with the professors and come in and talk to students and tell them my story.”

The money will be used for the students, not the building. The donation will be redistributed to students through scholarships, Davis said. One such example is the Cody Lyster Memorial Scholarship, named in honor of the CMU student who died of COVID-19 in the spring.

In 1998, Davis established the Guardian Scholars Program — a scholarship for underserved and first generation students — at his alma mater, California State University, Fullerton, in Orange County. He brought the program to the University of Colorado-Boulder and, in the early 2000s, to Colorado Mesa University.

Davis and CMU President Tim Foster first met nearly two decades ago. The two became friends and Davis brought the Guardian Scholars to the Grand Valley.

“At CU, I felt they were much more concerned about the money and the bureaucracy than they were about the students,” Davis said. “After three years there, I was introduced to Tim about 17 years ago. He talked about his vision and what he wanted to do.”

In 2019, Gov. Jared Polis appointed Davis to serve on the CMU Board of Trustees.

Davis approached Foster about how he could help the university more, which led to the donation.

“He wanted to help the students. He didn’t come up to me asking to put his name on the building,” Foster said. “Donors like him aren’t cultivated, they just show up. He stepped up saying, ‘I would like to do this.’ And we told him, ‘For that size of gift, we’ll name the business school after you.’”

At the ceremony Friday, Davis walked out of the building soon to bear his name into a crowd of dozens. He was met with cheers and a jazzy ensemble from the CMU Rowdy Brass Band. The crowd formed a half circle around him and some keynote speakers to celebrate his philanthropy.

One of the speakers was already familiar with his generosity.

Jasmine Sisneros, a business student, is a recipient of the Guardian Scholarship and about to graduate from CMU in December.

“His help means that I can graduate debt-free and have a job opportunity when I graduate. His help gave me opportunities, networking and the ability to go into school with a sound mind,” Sisneros said. “Mr. Davis is a kind, straightforward and generous man to anyone who he knows is in need of support.”

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