Sep 282008
Authors: Madeline Novey

Clarification: The Student Alumni Connection coordinated the painting of the “A.” Participating groups included, but are not limited to: the Ag Council, Greek Life, and CSU’s track and field and football teams.

In a record time of five hours, more than 100 people hiked the hill east of Horsetooth Reservoir, overlooking Hughes Stadium, broke out the paint sprayers and put a fresh coat of paint on an 85-year-old tradition Saturday – the annual painting of the Aggie “A.”

The oldest ongoing tradition at CSU, which was first started in December of 1923, has always taken an average of nine hours to complete.

This year, the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity — which formerly organized the painting — limited by small membership numbers was unable to coordinate the project and called for a new organization to step up and take the reigns.

More after video:

The College of Agricultural Science, eager to renew its participation after at least a decade of inactivity, said they would “very much like to be a part of the tradition,” said Marshall Frasier, adviser to the Agriculture Council and professor in the college.

“With SAE not being in a position to do it this year, we were able to step up,” Frasier said.

Members of the AC pushed the idea of involvement since the beginning of the school year and eventually decided to renew membership in the tradition.

“We were trying to get back to the traditions of our college, and I saw this as a way to get back to our roots,” said Randy McEndree, vice president of the AC. “We had been talking about it since the start of school, trying to see if we could be involved. In the end, we made a calling, and people came out for it.”

Coordinators were surprised by the quick success and credited the large turnout and hard work of the large group of volunteers.

“(The Student Alumni Connection) was shocked when we got up to the ‘A’ for our shift at 1 p.m.,” said Allison Cepello, adviser of the Student Alumni Connection and coordinator of student programs for alumni relations. “There were just a lot of people out here helping and working really hard throughout the day.”

When the university was the Colorado Agricultural and Mechanical College, the 450-foot tall by 210-foot wide tribute to the Aggie mascot was first erected by university students and a collection of military volunteers on Dec. 12, 1923, according to the “Forever Green Book.” Inspiration for the project came from a collegiate trend — painting the school mascot’s letter on a hill nearby the campus — that emerged after WWI.

Because the university didn’t own the land at the time, the college and governing board negotiated a lease of the land from R.G Maxwell for one dollar.

In the past, the painting took a more primitive form with buckets and paintbrushes. This year, volunteers used six electric paint sprayers powered by generators; donated by RCS Rental and Best Rental of Fort Collins.

CSU alumnus John Sophier donated the paint, and redshirt freshman carried it up to the location Friday afternoon.

“Before, we would just kind of throw the paint on the rocks and hope it ran down,” said Bill Woods, long-time coordinator of the tradition.

He first painted the “A” as a freshman at CSU in 1954 as a member of SAE. After his retirement from the military and his return to Fort Collins in 1981, Woods found that care of the monument had become unorganized and sporadic over time.

Woods, then the adviser of SAE, went to the Athletic department to coordinate the project and make it a point to paint the “A” annually.

With the help of the redshirt freshmen football players and an average of 80 to 90 SAE members, the “A” was consistently whitewashed.

Student participants from the college were quick to support the council’s decision and commitment to the project.

“After all, this school was founded on agriculture, and I think people often forget that,” said Trevor Walter, a sophomore agricultural business and animal science major.

SAE and the College of Agricultural Science were joined by a multitude of volunteer groups that includes:

/ the CSU track team

/ the Student Alumni Connection

/ Alpha Gamma Rho and Kappa Sigma fraternities

/ students at large and

/ the CSU Women’s Water Polo team

At the end of the day, after the remaining buckets of paint were splashed across the monumental tribute to the old university mascot, volunteers cleaned the scene and hiked down to the road, covered from head to toe in CSU pride.

Staff writer Madeline Novey can be reached at

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