CSU’s title turns 50

Apr 302007
Authors: James Holt

Fifty years ago today, this university was coined “Colorado State University.” In honor of this occasion, the Collegian takes a look back on the school’s evolution from a tiny agricultural college with only five students to a state university, boasting more than 25,000 students.

“Regardless of what this place has been called, the core concept of the place has been the same since the day it was founded,” said Thomas Field, professor of animal sciences and president of the Alumni Association. “And that is access to higher education regardless of your station coupled with the application of knowledge to the real problems faced by society.”

Colorado Gov. Edward McCook signed a territorial bill in 1870, authorizing the creation of an agricultural college in Fort Collins. McCook’s authorization built on a piece of federal legislation called the Morrill Act, signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862, which provided grants of public land to establish colleges.

In September 1879, President Elijah Edwards welcomed the first five students of Colorado Agricultural College, the percursor to what would eventually become CSU. The first offered courses were arithmetic, English, U.S. history, natural philosophy, horticulture and farm economy.

Since that time it has been the school’s mission “to serve society through teaching, research and outreach,” according to the CSU Web site.

Only 12 years later, in 1891, The Rocky Mountain Collegian was established to serve as a news source for students and the community, create a platform for discourse and provide skill development opportunity for staff.

The school grew, and after a 1935 student petition, the governing-board changed the school’s name to Colorado State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, or Colorado A&M.

During World War II, about one-third of the school’s teaching and research staff deployed to serve the war effort. Colorado A&M President Roy Green brought military training programs to campus in an effort to retain students and faculty.

In the ’50s Coloraod A&M President Bill Morgan began a campaign to have the school’s name changed again, contending that students should receive their degrees from a university rather than from “a school with a name connoting a narrow technical college.”

The Colorado General Assembly approved the name Colorado State University on May 1, 1957.

Through the years, CSU has withstood its share of on-campus disasters.

As part of a student strike, peace activists held a war moratorium concert on May 7, 1970, in the College Avenue gymnasium to protest the U.S. invasion of Cambodia and the student deaths at Kent State University.

During the concert, arsonists set fire to the Old Main building /- CSU’s oldest building /- and completely destroyed the 92-year-old landmark.

On July 28, 1997, a flood took the lives of five Fort Collins residents and damaged much of the school. The flood damaged half of the books in Morgan Library and sent four feet of water through the student center.

Through it all, CSU has continued to grow as an institution, incorporating new fields of study and expanding to accommodate the needs of a growing academic community.

“It’s important that we remember what the school used to be,” said Jon Floyd, a freshman marketing major. “It shows how we’ve progressed.”

Staff writer James Holt can be reached at news@collegian.com.


– 1862: U.S. President Lincoln signs Morrill Act providing land grants for colleges.

– Feb. 11, 1870: Gov. Edward McCook signs bill for the creation of the Colorado Agricultural College.

– 1876: Colorado becomes a state.

– July 27, 1878: Old Main building cornerstone set.

– Sept. 1, 1879: Colorado Agricultural College opens with five students.

– Fall 1883: President Ingersoll oversees the opening of a mechanic shop – signs of engineering instruction.

– 1891: The Rocky Mountain Collegian is established.

– 1935: CAC becomes the Colorado State College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts (Colorado A&M) due to a student petition.

– May 1, 1957: Colorado A&M becomes Colorado State University.

– May 7, 1970: Old Main is burnt down during student war protests.

– July 28, 1997: The Thompson flood damages a majority of Morgan Library and part of the Lory Student Center.

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