The Gift

Hoteliers Navin and Rita Dimond invest in the transformative power of education.

By Janalee Card Chmel

Publish Date: June 20, 2014

Navin and Rita Dimond. Photo: Stevie Crecelius

Navin Dimond feels an affinity with many students at Metropolitan State University of Denver and understands the challenges they face.

“I’m the product of immigrant parents who arrived in the UK with minimal language skills and minimal skills, period,” he says. “My parents did everything from work in factories to driving buses and, as a child, I didn’t really know much more than that. Nobody went to college. Nobody had a college degree.”

Today, Dimond owns Stonebridge Companies, which he founded in 1991, and has developed more than 75 hotels and 7,500 guest rooms across the United States.

Recently, he and his wife, Rita, made the largest gift in the University’s history—$1.5 million to establish the Rita and Navin Dimond Hotel Management Program within the Hospitality, Tourism and Events Department.

“I’m a believer that every human being has the intellectual capacity to thrive; it’s just a question of whether they are put into the right environment to flourish,” says Dimond, a member of the MSU Denver Foundation board. “In my case, I was fortunate that I was put into an environment where I flourished.”

As a child, Dimond was not a good student. One day his father looked at his grades and said simply, “Go find yourself a boarding school.”

“That was the turning point in my life,” says Dimond. “I was in this circle with family and friends, and all I could see were the choices that they made and the responsibilities that they had. When I started boarding school, all of a sudden that completely changed. I was interacting with a completely different set of people.

“That was the catalyst. It took me out of where I was and helped me to see more, and be what I am today.”

That is exactly what the Dimonds hope their gift will do for MSU Denver students.

A significant portion of the endowed gift will create the Dimond Fellowship Program, which will fund 10 student-fellows each year. During their senior year, these students will have the opportunity to work directly on management issues with the general manager and executive team at the on-campus SpringHill Suites Denver Downtown hotel. They’ll also be individually mentored by industry professionals, including Rita and Navin. Annually, one outstanding fellow will also be awarded a $5,000 prize for his or her efforts during the program.

The Dimonds started Stonebridge together. Initially, the couple worked for banks, cleaning and managing properties during the savings and loan crisis. “We cleaned nasty stuff,” remembers Dimond. “But it didn’t matter. We didn’t care. We had a client and we would do anything the client needed.”

Mark Sidell, president of Gart Properties and Dimond’s friend since 1982, says, “It is an honor to celebrate the success of Navin and Rita, who not only rose from humble beginnings to exceptional heights, but more importantly have maintained their sense of humility and passion for helping others less fortunate to realize their goals as well.”

Sidell adds, “My friendship with the Dimonds has been one of life’s great gifts.”

At the heart of the Dimonds’ gift to MSU Denver is a belief that education can lift people out of challenging circumstances and help them to see beyond their limited environments.

“I should not be where I am today,” says Dimond. “All the odds were against me. I’m fortunate to be where I am today. If I can impact one person’s life, I believe it will have a multiplier effect on the siblings and the cousins and the buddy down the street. That’s how you make the world a better place.

“And I hope that we can inspire others to do the same and to do it for MSU Denver.”