Making an

2020 Citizen of the Year

For her many contributions to this community and beyond, Donna Giordano has been named the 2020 Vail Valley Citizen of the Year, one of the highest honors in the community, awarded since 1981 to a deserving citizen who has provided broad support, vision, and leadership to the betterment of the community.

Vail Valley Citizen of the Year
Donna Giordano

Donna Giordano

Donna Giordano was named the 2020 Vail Valley Citizen of the Year. Photo by Rex Keep, courtesy Vail Valley Foundation.

Previous Honorees

1981 Peter Abuisi
1982 E.B. Chester
1983 Jack Crosby
1984 President Gerald R. Ford
1985 Harry Frampton
1986 Helen Fritch
1987 George Gillett
1988 Merv Lapin
1989 Sheika & Pepi Gramshammer
1990 Paul Johnston
(Gerald R. Ford)
1991 Kent Rose
(Phil & Jane Smiley)
1992 Rod Slifer
(John Galvin)
1993 Dr. Richard Steadman (Winton & Carolyn Blount)
1994 John Garnsey
(Bob Brotman)
1995 John Horan-Kates
(Brian Nolan)
1996 Vi & Byron Brown
(John Boll)
1997 Gil Giordano
(Alison Knapp)
1998 Barbara Treat
(Craig Tuber)
1999 Judy Alexander
2000 Pete Seibert
(Peter May)
2001 Mary Louise Shaw
(Vince Cook)
2002 Gerald Gallegos
(Michael Balk)
2003 Cathy & Howard Stone
(Suzy & Jim Donohue)
2004 Oscar Tang
(Susan & Harry Frampton)
2005 Diana Donovan
2006 Chupa Nelson
2007 Erik & Kathy Borgen
2008 Jack Eck
2009 Beth Slifer
2010 Martha Head
2013 Ann Smead
2014 Amy & Steve Coyer
2015 Pat & Pete Frechette
2016 Mary Sue & Mike Shannon
2017 Jay Precourt
2019 Betsy and George Wiegers
2020 Donna Giordano

*In 2018 the award dates shifted to reflect the new dates of the Black Diamond Ball, where the Award is presented each year.
** From 1990–2005 the Beaver Creek Citizen of the Year Award was awarded as an integrated aspect of the Vail Valley Citizen of the Year Award. Recipient indicated by parentheses.

Written into the culture of the Vail Valley,

engraved in its history, embedded in its future are the countless contributions Donna Giordano has made in virtually every aspect of life here.

For her many contributions to this community and beyond, Donna Giordano has been named the 2020 Vail Valley Citizen of the Year, one of the highest honors in the community, awarded since 1981 to deserving citizens who have provided broad support, vision, and leadership to the betterment of the community.

“I feel very blessed and grateful to receive this recognition,” Giordano said. “However it is really all of you in this community who are such an inspiration – there are so many wonderful people and organizations in these beautiful mountains, and I simply love being a part of it with all of you.”

“Donna is a kind friend and a wonderful person, she has an amazing charm and ability to make anyone feel welcome in any circumstance,” said Ann Smead, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Vail Valley Foundation, which administers the award each year. “She has supported so many nonprofits of our valley, and many in other communities, not just with financial support but by truly becoming involved. And of course she is the most fun person I’ve ever come to know.”

Giordano’s philanthropic outreach is matched by her volunteerism, and both have been immense. She was a lynchpin to the first decades of the Vail Dance Festival, helping it grow into an international celebration of the artform. Along the way, the Vail Dance Festival’s primary home, the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, benefited from her patronage and participation in every way, from support of capital improvements to underwriting of performances and, of course, to her consistent and significant support of the Hot Summer Nights free concert series.

“The Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater is one of the special places on earth, and I feel strongly that everyone should be able to enjoy it,” Giordano said. “I love the free concerts and seeing everyone out there enjoying themselves in that wonderful facility.”
Giordano isn’t one to simply provide support from afar. Look into the aisles for the fashionable blonde, dancing her heart out at a Ford Amphitheater concert – that’s Donna.

“She is totally engaged in everything she does,” Smead said. “She takes part in it and embraces her time in our community…and she does it with impeccable style.”

Indeed, Giordano’s loving personality and exceptional sense of fashion have gained her iconic status in the valley. Her joie de vivre is contagious, her wardrobe is alight with glamor and color, and her parties are part of Vail lore. She even has a specialty cocktail named after her at one of her favorite local establishments.

A shining example of Giordano’s giving-with-style can be seen at Fire Station No. 2, where a sparkling red resin floor, donated by Giordano, is one of countless ways she has supported emergency services personnel throughout the years.

“Donna Giordano is a treasure,” said Mark Novak, Vail Fire Chief. “She’s the embodiment of what makes this community so special.”

“Not only do we have, in Donna, a truly phenomenal supporter of all that we do, but we have a great friend. She instantly lights up the day of any of our officers and emergency services personnel who encounter her,” said Dwight Henninger, Vail Police Chief.

Giordano’s support for fire and police organizations in the Vail Valley has been unflagging, and yet it is only one aspect of a vast body of philanthropic work.

Giordano has been a key contributor to the arts, athletics, and education programming of the Vail Valley Foundation, where she joined the Board of Directors in 2001 as one of the first, and brightest, female voices of that Board. She was a celebrity dancer at the 2016 Star Dancing Gala, raising funds for the Vail Valley Foundation’s YouthPower365, and she was on the Black Diamond Ball organizing committee for many years, including as co-Chair from 2012-2014 and Chair in 2015.

She has also served on the Board of Directors of Bravo! Vail, and provided a wide array of support for Vail Health, the Steadman Philippon Research Institute, Roundup River Ranch, Walking Mountains, and hosting an annual “Thank You Party” for emergency services personnel.

Beyond the Vail Valley, Giordano was exceptionally active and served on the Board of Directors of the Washington D.C.-area Ronald McDonald House. She served on the Board of Directors of the Blue Ridge School, and also provided significant support to Craig Hospital and the Cedars-Mount Sinai Hospital.

In addition to all this, and of particular note, is her support of the Vail Veterans Program.

Giordano began coming to the Vail Valley in 1981 and moved here permanently in 2001 soon after the passing of her husband, Gilbert Giordano. Both ‘Gil’ and Donna were active in the Vail Valley community and beyond, and Gil received the Vail Valley Citizen of the Year award in 1997.

“Gil and I always believed that you give back to where you are,” Giordano remembers.

Giordano has also been successful in her professional pursuits. Born in Minnesota, where she was imbued with the classic Midwestern work ethic, Giordano can look back on a string of successful professional accomplishments – including a career in the legal field, a blossoming flower shop (which benefited from Giordano’s innate marketing skills), commercial real estate investments, and the creation of a successful chain of franchise restaurants together with her family.

Donna has recently moved to Denver, but still visits Vail often, where she can be seen dancing in the aisles of the Ford Amphitheater and lifting spirits wherever she goes. She has two children, Dawn Force and Jason Giordano, and two grandchildren Sierra and Brittney.

“Donna is one of the bright lights of our community and we are so fortunate to have her in our lives,” said Mike Imhof, President of the Vail Valley Foundation. “It’s not just what she has done, but who she is, and the combination of all that she is creates an impact that will resonate in all of our lives for a long time to come.”

Giordano joins a venerable list of previous recipients of the award.

Donna with friend Ann Smead at the VVF's Xfinity Birds of Prey.
Donna with friend and Olympic medalist Steve Lundquist.
Photo by Holly Cole