Honors Program Milestones

The College of Arts and Sciences Honors Program has provided enhanced education opportunities for academically prepared, highly motivated undergraduate students for over 90 years.

Special Moments in Our History

1920s: The University of Colorado recognizes students who earn exceptionally high grades with a cum laude or magna cum laude designation.

1926: A committee within the College of Arts and Sciences considers how to encourage student achievement beyond simply getting good grades. This committee’s recommendations result in the creation of the Honors Program.

Norlin Library in summer.

Norlin Library, the home of the Honors Program

1931: The Honors Program in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Colorado officially begins. Juniors and seniors in the upper 30% of their class are able to earn up to 12 hours of credit for Honors Program coursework. Fifty-two students enroll in honors courses during this year.

1932: Fifteen students graduate with Latin honors after passing two exams: a qualifying exam at the beginning of their senior year followed by a comprehensive exam in either their major or in general studies. If students passed both exams, they were then awarded an honors designation based on the recommendation of a body of faculty known as the Honors Council.

1933: The Honors Program receives its first official funding: $178 for library expenses. The program expands to include sophomores in the top 20% of their freshman class. Participating students are now able to receive up to 18 hours of credit for Honors Program work.

1937: The Honors Program curriculum is categorized into three core areas: Natural Science, Social Science and Humanities, all of which we still recognize.

1942: 34 students graduate with Latin honors.

1945: The senior honors thesis emerges as a central feature of Latin honors. The CU catalog now states for the first time stated that Latin honors are granted "upon the basis of special honors work and not simply upon the basis of grades obtained in class."

1957: The Honors Program receives national recognition when the Rockefeller Foundation grants the program $28,000 to conduct a three-year study and host a national conference. "The Superior Student in the State University conference is such a success that in 1958 the Carnegie Corporation funds a national agency based in Boulder, the Inter-University Committee on the Superior Student, the precursor to today’s National Collegiate Honors Council.

1962-1967: The Honors Program becomes known as a model program nationwide because of its requirements of informal discussions, a special readings program, and independent study.

1978: 102 students graduate with Latin honors.

1981: All students attempting to graduate with Latin honors must now write a senior thesis.

1990: The Kittredge Honors Program (now the Honors Residential Academic Program) opens with a population of about 100 students.

1998: 200 students graduate with Latin honors.

Anthropologist and former Honors Director Dennis Van Gerven holding a human skull.

Dennis Van Gerven, Director of the Honors Program 1995-2005

2010: The Honors Residential Academic Program grows to 290 students.

2012: 300 students graduate with Latin honors.

2013: The Honors Residential Academic Program moves to Smith Hall.

2014: The Honors Program opens the Undergraduate Honors Theses repository on CU Scholar, now home to thousands of successfully defended honors theses.