Anyone who met Marv Kay has a story — of his kindness and generosity, his passion and dedication, his humor and sharp wit.
As his former players Joe McConnell and Brian Glade said: “There’s only one Marv Kay, and he was unmatched.”
Kay, an icon of Golden and Colorado School of Mines, died April 19 at age 84. He was preceded in death by his wife, Diane, who died March 15. The two were married for 55 years.
Kay is survived by his children, Chandra Polk and Kendra Sund, both of Golden; three grandchildren; a great-grandson; and four siblings.
The family was holding a private memorial this month, but there will be a public memorial in the coming weeks. As of April 24, the date and time hadn’t been announced yet, but officials confirmed it’d be held at the Mines football stadium that bears his name.
“He’s the greatest Oredigger ever,” Athletic Director David Hansburg said. “ … Rarely do we see people like Coach Kay who have committed their entire life to one school and the surrounding community.”
Kay was heavily involved with the Mines football program as a player, coach, athletic director and fan. His last interview with The Transcript was in December, as the Mines football team was traveling to the NCAA Division II National Championship game, when he expressed how he was proud of the Orediggers' accomplishments.
On top of everything he did for Mines, Kay was also an icon for the Golden community. He served on City Council, including eight years as mayor, and helped shape several local organizations and the city itself through his commitment and leadership.
"Marv Kay was Golden," the City of Golden stated on its Facebook page. " ... He helped build our great community into the vibrant place it is today. He will be missed, and his legacy lives on."
'The greatest Oredigger'
Kay was born in 1939 in Golden, while his father was a junior at Mines.
After Kay’s dad graduated, the family moved to the Western Slope, where Kay grew up. He graduated high school in Grand Junction in 1956 and returned to Golden for college.
While studying at Mines, Kay lettered in football and wrestling, was heavily involved with fraternity Sigma Phi Epsilon, and was named Mr. Engineer during the annual E-Days celebration. He graduated with a mining engineering degree in 1963.
In 1966, after serving in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Kay landed his first job with Mines as an assistant coach in football and swimming. He was named Mines' head football coach in 1969.
Over the next 26 years, he won a then-school-record 84 games, was the RMAC Coach of the Year in 1975 and 1979, and coached 13 All-Americans and 50 All-Conference players. After his coaching days, he served as Mines athletic director from 1994-2004.
In addition to his career in athletics, Kay was also a professor and fundraiser for the university. He also served as the inspiration for Marvin the Miner, one of the Orediggers' mascots.
In 2015, the university named its football stadium in his honor, and in 2019, he was inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame.
Along with all his extensive work at and for Mines, Kay was very involved in the Golden community — its civic organizations and local government.
He served on Golden City Council from 1986 to 1998, including as mayor from 1988 to 1996.
During his time on City Council, Kay was instrumental in approving the city's capital improvement sales tax. This helped fund improvements to Washington Avenue, expanding the water treatment plant, building numerous recreation amenities, and establishing the Golden Community Center.
Kay also helped start Leadership Golden, served as the Golden Chamber of Commerce president, and served the Golden Civic Foundation for more than 30 years.
Four years ago, the State of Colorado proclaimed April 11, 2019, as Marv Kay Day. People around Golden, the Mines campus and beyond celebrated Kay's legacy of hard work, dedication and civil service that day.
‘His legacy lives on’
Since his death, many Goldenites, Orediggers and others have been sharing their "Marv Kay stories," as Mines President Paul C. Johnson described them, recalling how kind, welcoming and caring Kay was.
He was the Mines athletes' greatest supporter, mentoring many during their time at the university. He always stopped to say hello, have a nice chat and occasional joke with people too, they recalled.
His former players described how much they owed to Kay. He gave them a chance to study and play at Mines; he helped line up summer jobs for them that shaped their careers; and he showed up for them when they most needed him.
Brian Glade, who graduated Mines in 1979, recalled how Kay attended Glade’s father’s funeral, even 10 years after Glade had graduated.
Joe McConnell, also Class of ‘79, said Kay recognized him at an alumni event, even though they hadn’t seen each other in 15-20 years.
“He remembered everybody,” McConnell continued.
Fellow Mines football alumni Bill Zisch and Stu Bennett had similar stories, describing how Kay’s altruistic spirit set an example for those he led as a coach and athletic director.
Two former Mines coaches also said Kay was instrumental in their careers, with former women’s basketball coach Paula Krueger stating, “He was an amazing human and leader. His heart was always in the right place. Even after my time at Mines came to an end, he still checked in. ... I will remember him with (love).”
Bennett also highlighted Kay’s dedication, not just to the Golden and Mines communities, but to his family. He said Kay was there for his wife, Diane, in their final days together, committing himself to her care.
Overall, Golden and Mines leaders hoped Kay’s life would inspire others to serve and lead their community — changing people’s lives through kindness and dedication, just as Kay did.
As Heather Schneider, the Golden Civic Foundation’s executive director, stated: “If you talk to someone around town, whether it be a longtime resident or Mines student or alumni, you’ll likely hear … ‘I love that guy. He made a big impact on my life.’”