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David Delaplane and Carrie Besnette Hauser

David Delaplane, known as the father of Colorado Mountain College, and CMC President Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser stand in front of Delaplane’s historic plaque at the college’s central services building in downtown Glenwood Springs. Delaplane is credited with being a major force behind establishing CMC fifty years ago.

Colorado Mountain College is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, in honor of its growth from a two-campus college to its nearly dozen locations today. To thank all community members, current students, and former students and employees, the college is hosting a series of free events at its campus locations this year, and will carry on the celebration at other major community events, as well.

How did it all start? In the mid-’60s, seeing a lack of opportunity for post-secondary learning in Colorado’s central mountains, a determined group of Coloradans sought approval for a college district. The little yet ambitious college emerged from a somewhat anxious alliance of ranchers and property owners who donated land, while chamber of commerce and business leaders hit the road to gather support from taxpayers.

In the western part of the college’s proposed footprint, a visionary Glenwood Springs chamber of commerce director, David Delaplane, started calling members of the chamber’s “Education Committee” – which at that point had only existed as a list of names in an otherwise-empty folder.

In the eastern part of the proposed college’s footprint, the Leadville Chamber of Commerce perked up its ears upon hearing about a possible college, and major employer Climax Molybdenum agreed to join if there would be an East Campus in Leadville.

A handful of dedicated people then corralled voters in Garfield, Lake, Summit, Pitkin and Eagle counties to vote two-to-one in favor of starting the college.

So on Oct. 2, 1967, Colorado Mountain College first welcomed students into classes at its East Campus in Leadville and at its West Campus at Spring Valley, outside of Glenwood Springs.

Changing communities for the better

With the East and West campuses’ modular classroom buildings and residential halls steadily filling with students, Colorado Mountain College began reaching into other communities. Within five years, classes had also begun in Aspen, Rifle and Salida, and in Eagle and Summit counties. And Yampa Valley College, a small, residential liberal arts college that the visionary Lucile Bogue started in Steamboat Springs in 1962, joined Colorado Mountain College in 1981, extending CMC’s reach north.

Over the years, Colorado Mountain College classes met in rooms in the basements and spare rooms of hotels, churches and public buildings. Gradually, as demand from students and local employers increased, the college has established a physical presence in 11 communities across the Western Slope, serving an area the size of Maryland, as well as online.

“To honor those beginnings, and to thank everyone who has helped to create a truly one-of-a-kind institution, we are celebrating this year,” said Kristin Colon, CEO of the CMC Foundation and vice president of advancement for the college. “Not only are we hosting community events throughout our footprint, we are collecting and sharing stories of those who brought Colorado Mountain College to life.

“We want to hear the stories of those people who experienced CMC through economic booms and busts, and who forged it into the regional icon it is today,” she said. “These stories are about the visionary community leaders and taxpayers who nurtured their college, and the students who used CMC to change their lives and hometowns for the better.”

Anyone who would like to share, or read, stories of the people who have created and shaped Colorado Mountain College is invited to go to www.CMCBecauseOfYou.org. Presenting sponsors for this year’s events are Alpine Bank, Jim and Connie Calaway, Holy Cross Energy (a Touchstone Energy Cooperative), Morgridge Family Foundation and Sodexo.

Colorado Mountain College 50th anniversary on-campus events – 2017

Colorado Mountain College will be celebrating throughout its communities all year, honoring the broad public support it has received over five decades. These free on-campus celebrations will be a series of opportunities for the college to thank those who have made it all possible. “Our success, and the success of our students,” said CMC President Carrie Besnette Hauser, “is because of you.”

March 21: 50 Years of Historical Treasures, Colorado Mountain College Leadville

April 7: Reminisce: 50 Years of Art at CMC, Colorado Mountain College Aspen

April 21: Fine Art Show, Colorado Mountain College Rifle

April 28: Uncle Jimmy’s Pig Roast and Carnival, CMC Spring Valley at Glenwood Springs

June 13: Celebration with Jazz, Colorado Mountain College Buena Vista

Aug. 25: Welcome Back to School and Reunion, Colorado Mountain College Breckenridge and Dillon

Sept. 8: Dance with Us Through the Decades, Colorado Mountain College Vail Valley at Edwards

On Feb. 11, Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs held an on-campus reception and fireworks-watching event for the community as part of that town’s annual Winter Carnival.

In addition, the college is taking part in major community celebrations throughout its footprint all year, and is planning some special surprises, as well. For more information and to RSVP to campus events, please go to www.CMCBecauseOfYou.org/campus-celebrations/.