Colorado Mountain College is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and on March 21 in Leadville, community members, current students, alumni, and past and current employees are invited to participate in a free celebration at CMC’s Leadville campus: “50 Years of Historical Treasures.”
There’s something for everyone at the day’s events: fun races, campus tours, an art exhibit and demonstrations showcasing the history of Colorado Mountain College Leadville, one of CMC’s first two campuses. Because the college offered its first classes in 1967, 1960s attire is encouraged for guests, spectators, racers and participants throughout the day.
“We are having this celebration to honor those who made this college possible, and to thank them, and all of our community members who’ve supported us over the years,” said Rachel Pokrandt, vice president of Colorado Mountain College Leadville and Chaffee County. “We are all here today because of you.”
The day’s highlight will be a reception, historical displays and an informational program from 4 to 7 p.m. in the Climax Molybdenum Leadership Center.
But the fun starts much earlier. Participants are invited to take
part in one or several 50-hectometer (5k) races behind the Climax Center, starting with skate ski at 1:30 p.m., then fat bike at 2:15 p.m. and snowshoe at 3 p.m. Athletes of all ages and abilities are invited to join in these free races; any voluntary donations from participants will benefit the CMC Leadville Running Club. Racers will want to stick around until 6 p.m., when campus Vice President Pokrandt will dole out both race and “grooviest 1967 costume” awards.
From 3 to 4 p.m., students will give free campus tours. During this same time, in the New Discovery Building members of the community can enjoy a 50th anniversary art exhibit from Ursula Gilgulin, who has taught art at CMC for 44 years.
From 4 to 5 p.m., all are invited to a reception featuring demonstrations, photos, publications and college artifacts. During the reception everyone can enjoy a dance floor with circa ’67 tunes spun by DJ Ben Flores, hors d’oeuvres and beverages, celebrating a half-century of learning in Leadville.
College leaders, faculty members, alumni and students will host a 50th anniversary program from 5 to 6:15 p.m. as they discuss CMC Leadville’s history, memories and future, and acknowledge the support over the years from such entities as the Climax Molybdenum Company. A dessert reception featuring 50th anniversary cake will cap off the evening from 6:15 to 7 p.m.
The celebration, sponsored by People’s Bank, will be held at the Climax Molybdenum Leadership Center, Colorado Mountain College Leadville, at 901 S. Highway 24. Visit CMCBecauseOfYou.org or call 719-486-4206 for more information; RSVPs are encouraged.
Colorado Mountain College is celebrating its 50th anniversary throughout 2017, thanks to presenting sponsors Alpine Bank, Jim and Connie Calaway, Holy Cross Energy (a Touchstone Energy Cooperative), Morgridge Family Foundation and Sodexo.
CMC Leadville history: An ‘innovative new college’ in Leadville
Leadville first was considered as the future home of a college campus in 1964, when members of the local chamber of commerce formed an education committee, including members Don Stephens, Robert Zaits, Dr. Nels Sullivan, James Higday, Williams French, Pat Harvey and Jack East.
Meanwhile, about 100 miles west across the Continental Divide in Glenwood Springs, a similar chamber of commerce committee had the same idea.
Both discovered that in order to form a junior college district, property had to be valued, for taxation purposes, at $60 million minimum, and 400 high school students had to graduate annually. While neither of those communities could meet those requirements alone, together – and combined with the three contiguous counties between them – they did.
In November 1965, voters from Lake, Eagle, Summit, Garfield and Pitkin counties approved the formation of the district as well as a 3-mill tax to support it. And so the East Campus (Leadville) and West Campus (Spring Valley near Glenwood) of Colorado Mountain College were born.
Finding a site
From the college’s earliest days, Pat Harvey was a supporter. At 38, after stints as an Army officer and FBI agent, he headed engineering systems at the Climax Molybdenum mine. He saw that a junior college could provide training for mine workers.
A Lake County citizens’ advisory committee – which included Hugh Smith, Ed Kelly, Eleanor Staab, Dr. John Kehoe and Peter Cosgriff, and education committee members Higday and Sullivan (then-superintendent of schools) – began the search for
a campus site.
After several locations were offered, the Lake County commissioners, Leadville Land and Water Company and the Leadville Sanitation District offered approximately 100 acres at the old city dump.
A groundbreaking ceremony for the campus was held on April 23, 1967, and classes began Oct. 2 of that year.
Anchored in community
CMC Leadville’s first faculty hire, Neva Daniel, had deep local roots. One of her ancestors, John Routt, struck it rich in Leadville with his two mines, the Morning Star and the Evening Star. He went on to enjoy an illustrious political career, serving as Denver mayor and Colorado’s first and seventh governor.
“I had heard about an innovative new college being started with two campuses – one in Leadville and one in Glenwood Springs,” wrote Daniel in a memoir. “I thought it would be exciting to be a part of a new college that was yet to be built.”
Anyone who’d like to share, or read, more stories of the people who’ve created and shaped Colorado Mountain College is invited to go to CMCBecauseOfYou.org.