Feb 102010

Today we celebrate the 140th anniversary of the founding of Colorado State University — and we hope all members of the campus community will join in the Founders Day festivities.

At 1:15 p.m. in the Cherokee Park Ballroom of the Lory Student Center, we will host a special ceremony to present the first-ever Founders Day Medal to members of the Monfort family, for their generations of service to CSU. At 1:40 p.m., join Cam the Ram and the CSU pep band for birthday cake on the Student Center Plaza.

There will also be a reception honoring CSU at the State Capitol, where the Legislature will pass a special resolution in recognition of the state’s land-grant university.

CSU’s history began as a personal crusade for a Vermont congressman back in the middle of the 19th century. At the time, the U.S. was a nation in trouble, gripped by economic struggles, class divisions, political and religious turmoil and the growing divide among the states over slavery. With no shortage of leadership challenges facing Congress, a new U.S.

Representative from Vermont, Justin Morrill, proposed a radical idea: Government land-grants to support public education for the working classes.

A farmer and the son of a blacksmith, who was forced to quit school at age 15, Morrill believed the best way to confront the complex challenges facing this still-new nation was to have a steady supply of educated women and men who could rise up to meet them. He saw that the old, European model, in which education was largely the province of the upper classes, wouldn’t work for long in a democratic society.

It was a revolutionary concept at the time — and it was an idea that found a staunch advocate in President Abraham Lincoln, who signed the Morrill Act into law.

Now, 140 years later, CSU is one of the nation’s leading research universities, with more than 180,000 alumni. CSU and its graduates are economic drivers who account for more than $4.1 billion annually in statewide household income in Colorado. Private-sector start-up businesses that have grown directly out of CSU research today employ more than 2,500 Coloradans, most notably in the fields of clean and renewable energy and infectious disease.

Our university is, in other words, the realization of Morrill’s vision of American colleges that would address society’s needs while providing high-quality education to people from all walks of life. And as a campus, we remain committed to the idea that education can open doors and transform lives, and that all people capable of earning a CSU degree ought to have that opportunity.

After all, CSU’s most enduring legacy is its graduates, who have used their education to advance our world — as teachers, doctors, scientists, political leaders, artists, businesspeople, lawyers, parents and community volunteers. It’s sustained by all those who understand that lasting economic prosperity is fueled by a strong system of public higher education.

Please join us this Founders Day to celebrate CSU’s history, future, and the enduring power of our land-grant mission.

Dr. Tony Frank is the President of CSU. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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