While a quiet retirement after 30 years in higher education might seem like a good way to go, former CSU President Albert Yates said his life has been anything but quiet since leaving the university nearly three years ago.
"I think the biggest surprise is I am as busy as I've ever been," Yates said. "I'm not sitting around on my hands."
After 13 years as CSU's president, Yates stepped down to pursue other endeavors, including spending more time with his wife and two daughters, now 9 and 16.
"I'm certainly more engaged in the lives of my wife and daughters," Yates said. "That's been one of the real bright spots since leaving. Of all the things I'm involved in that is the most important."
Yates has had his hands in a number of different projects and is a board member for several corporations.
"I find a lot of the experience I have transfers to the corporate sector," he said. "There's a lot to be done and I am indeed enjoying it."
In the 2004 elections, Yates was on the committee to help pass Amendment 35, which raised the tobacco tax in Colorado to help pay for health care. He has also worked a lot with Pat Stryker of the Bohemian Foundation, a foundation focused on improving the Fort Collins community. The Bohemian Foundation donated $20.1 million to CSU in May 2002 for the University Center for the Arts as well as improvements to Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium.
"My path is not as anticipated," Yates said. "I'm not doing the writing or reading I was hoping to do, but I'm doing interesting and important things."
As a member of the Colorado Forum, Yates is also trying to help make changes to the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, which has contributed to a loss of state funding for Colorado higher education.
"We try to do what we can to assist the state institutions," Yates said. "I think state institutions, especially higher education institutions, will see hard times."
Seeing state funding on the decline has led Yates to think that there may be more problems with money in the future. While helping from afar, he hopes that CSU and the other universities will survive with minimum damage.
"Much of what you read about higher education is not positive," Yates said. "I hope that Colorado State will weather the storm. I wish the board well. But my affection has always been the students so I hope the students are doing well."
Some students think Yates' affection for the university and the community would have led him to handle recent events differently than current President Larry Penley.
"I think Yates would have handled some of the controversies, like Sam Spady, a little differently," said Christopher Webster, a senior business finance student. "I think he would have handled it better with public relations and from being involved in the community. Penley didn't have a lot of time to build that."
Cord Brundage, special assistant to the president of Associated Students of CSU, said since Penley's arrival there has been more student involvement with the president than during Yates' time.
"President Penley likes talking to students," Brundage said. "I enjoy the involvement with President Penley more, but I don't know I've seen it manifested (in a lot of changes)."
Brundage said he has heard stories about Yates being more involved with students during his first few years at CSU, even eating in the dining halls on campus, and is curious if Penley's involvement with students will continue the way it is now.
"It'll be interesting to see if in President Penley's tenure we'll see if there is more or less student involvement," Brundage said.
Despite degrees of involvement, higher education requires interaction with college students. Yates has done just that, and his focus has recently changed.
He spent much of his career working in higher education, and now he has been working a lot more with kindergarten through 12th-grade education and high school reform in public schools.
"I continue to be involved in a variety of ways," Yates said. "Even though higher education is still a priority, I find I'm more concerned with K-12 now."
Keeping all these commitments has been a change, but there are a few things that remain the same. Yates and his family still live in Fort Collins, though his commitments keep him on the road.
"I'm probably in Denver three times a week. That still hasn't changed," Yates said.
One thing that has changed is Yates' involvement with CSU. After being a powerful figure on campus, his involvement with the university now is mainly being "a cheerleader on the sidelines."
"My direct involvement is not very much at all," he said. "I made the decision to not get involved. I'm not close enough or engaged enough to offer an opinion. I can only express the hope that the school is doing well."
Though he is absent on campus, he still has a few connections to people who work at the university.
"I go to quite a few events where I see university people but nothing at the university," Yates said. "I don't miss the job; I do miss the people. I don't miss the extraordinary responsibility."
While new students may not recall Yates' time at CSU, there is one thing on campus that will serve as a reminder to his imprint on the university. The new building connecting the Anatomy/Zoology and Chemistry buildings on the south side of campus was named Yates Hall shortly after Yates announced his plans to leave.
"All I can say is that I'm humbled," Yates said about the experience. "As I think about it, it reminds me of 13 years of working with faculty and students and expressing that we made a difference. I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to serve the university. It was a great time for CSU and I'm proud to have been a part of it."