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 Tuesday, March 24, 2009 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter


A&S feature: Glory in arts and sciences
by Clint Talbot, publications coordinator, College of Arts & Sciences

The College of Arts and Sciences has recently launched an e-publication, "Colorado Arts & Sciences Magazine." Feature stories, news and publications, as well as donor information and recognition of outstanding faculty and achievements are included. Edited by Clint Talbot, publications coordinator for Arts & Sciences, the magazine offers a unique glimpse into the college’s many disciplines.

Following is an excerpt from a recent feature story, written by Talbot. A link to the entire story on the A&S magazine website is included at the bottom.

When Mary Rippon stepped off the train in the desolate, dusty Boulder of 1878, the university’s first president posed an apprehensive question to its second faculty member: “How does it look to you?”

“Glorious,” she said, incongruously.

At its founding, the University of Colorado comprised one solitary structure, Old Main. Rocky grassland surrounded the edifice, and Boulder’s brawny winds buffeted the building, shattering its windows. Politicians said Boulder was the wrong place for the university.

Undaunted, Rippon taught French and German. Her colleagues taught chemistry, metallurgy, mathematics, Latin and Greek.

These academic pioneers composed the core of the university, conveying the complementary disciplines of arts and sciences. Debate about the value of such education raged then and lingers now, but there was and is ample evidence of its worth.

The university emulated established institutions in the civilized East, but its inception mirrored the frontier. Workers completed Old Main in 1876, just before Colorado officially became the 38th state.

That was only 18 years after the “Pikes Peak or Bust” gold rush and 15 years after Colorado became a U.S. territory. As historian Ernest Andrade Jr. observes, the earliest Anglo-American settlers in Colorado would have been surprised to learn that within two decades, Colorado would be a state with a public system of primary, secondary and higher education.

“Even though early Colorado was a rough place, most of those who lived there had no desire to see it remain so,” Andrade writes. “Higher education, in particular, was seen as a major civilizing influence.”

CU’s 1881 catalog heralded its desire to civilize the frontier with “ample facilities for liberal education in literature, science and the arts.” Tuition was free. Both men and women could enroll.

The College of Liberal Arts was established in 1892. It became the College of Arts and Sciences in 1921. It is the oldest and largest college at the University of Colorado. Its mission is still central to the university’s.

George Norlin, the “kindly professor of Greek” who served as the university’s fifth president, emphasized this in a 1929 speech to the Colorado Education Association.

CU and other universities were then expanding their professional schools, historian Philip I. Mitterling notes. But Norlin worried that universities might go too far, producing too many specialists — “mere bolts and rivets in a vastly complicated machine.”

Norlin said education should “keep civilization alive.” And that viability required “a curriculum of training in the fundamentals of a common, cultivated life.”

Click on this link to read the complete story and explore Arts & Sciences Magazine.

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