CEO who loves CO
By Lisa Nicklanovich; photo courtesy of Stewart Vanderwilt
“I’ve always had a strong connection to Colorado,” said Stewart Vanderwilt, Colorado Public Radio (CPR) president and CEO. Vanderwilt stepped into the role in 2018 after a national search to replace the founding CEO who was retiring. Vanderwilt joined CPR after more than three decades of experience leading other public radio organizations in Indiana and Texas. “It’s been fantastic,” Vanderwilt said of his new role.
A community resident for the last two years, Vanderwilt grew up in Alberta, Canada with a ski hill in his backyard. While in high school, he visited family friends in the Denver area over two summers and worked in construction in and around Denver. Vanderwilt took all the money he made and while still in high school, enrolled in Campion Academy in Loveland, a boarding high school. Every Sunday of the ski season, Vanderwilt and his ski buddies would take a bus to Winter Park and ski Mary Jane Mountain. “It was the time of my life,” Vanderwilt said.
Vanderwilt earned his college degree in business at Ball State University in Indiana. “I started as a political science major and started working at the college radio station and found something I really liked. I took a year off and worked full time in radio to see if it was something that could lead to a career. I decided it was what I wanted to pursue, so I changed my focus to business,” Vanderwilt explained.
Vanderwilt met his wife, Stephanie, in her family’s jewelry store in Muncie, Indiana. “I tried to get her to sponsor the symphony on the radio, and she sold me a watch,” Vanderwilt quipped. The watch was expensive, $175, and he had to go in weekly to make payments. Stephanie, a custom jewelry designer, is a third-generation jeweler, following in her family’s footsteps.
The Vanderwilts chose Castle Pines for its beauty and proximity to CPR’s headquarters in Centennial. The couple found “the perfect place,” a house that they chose around the needs of Vanderwilt’s mother-in-law and her dog. Vanderwilt said, “She passed away in June, but we were so blessed and pleased to be able to have her with us, and the house we were able to find here made that possible. This will always be a special place for us.”
When asked why radio is important, Vanderwilt said, “There are two elements that are especially powerful about radio at this moment. One is our reliance on delivering science and fact-based information, which I think is critical to our public health and the strength of our democracy. Second, at a time where people’s lives have gotten smaller, it provides companionship and connection.”
Vanderwilt added, “The medium is so intimate that when people are listening to the sound of a human voice speaking to them in a very personal way, it makes a connection. In public radio, how we use that connection is what is so important.”
Vanderwilt shared, “What we like about Colorado – and I think it really intersects with my role at CPR and what CPR stands for – is an open-mindedness. Ultimately, we want to live in a world that is more understanding and empathetic, and we feel Colorado has a lot of those attributes and CPR contributes to these attributes. The more we can be those two things – understanding and empathetic –‑ the better our community will be.” For more information, visit www.cpr.org. Vanderwilt can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.