Published: Nov. 11, 2019

CU Boulder Chancellor Philip DiStefano and other leaders gathered on Monday in the Glenn Miller Ballroom to honor Colorado military veterans—including alumni and hundreds of current student veterans—during the campus’s annual Veterans Day ceremony.

University Memorial Center: Colorado’s official ‘living memorial’
The University Memorial Center (UMC) was completed and held its first Veterans Day dedication ceremony in 1953. Its Veterans Memorial Lounge exhibits artifacts from several USS Colorado ships throughout history. The first bell on display is from the original USS Colorado, a stream frigate with three masts that was commissioned in 1858 during the Civil War. The same bell was recovered and reissued for the second USS Colorado ACR-7 ship in 1905. The second bell is from the USS Colorado BB-45 ship, which was in service between 1923 and 1947. The third bell, a replica of the original bell, serves today on the USS Colorado (SSN 788), the fourth USS Colorado and a Virginia-class submarine. The USS Colorado Alumni Association, with the support of the USS Colorado Commissioning Committee, gave the bell to the UMC in November 2016.


In 1947, CU Boulder’s enrollment was 8,747 students—including 4,607 World War II veterans. Many relied on the GI Bill to pursue their academic dreams and rebuild their lives after the war. That year, 80% of enrolled students petitioned in support of a $12 fee to help finance the construction of a new student union that would also serve as a veterans memorial. Gov. William Lee Knous issued a proclamation later that year to say, “The memorial center at the University of Colorado shall be the official state memorial to those who served and to those who died in these great wars to preserve our democratic freedom.”


On Nov. 11, 2013, Gov. John Hickenlooper re-dedicated the UMC as Colorado’s official living memorial to honor the service and sacrifice of the Centennial State’s military veterans.

“I encourage you to take a moment to consider the debt of gratitude we owe our veterans. Without their service and dedication to our nation, our freedom and liberties would not be as secure as they are today,” Chancellor DiStefano said while delivering opening statements at the University Memorial Center (UMC), which serves as the state’s official veterans memorial.

“With so much attention focused on things that divide us, it’s far too easy to overlook something that should unify us—our gratitude for the sacrifices of those still serving, and those who have served selflessly in our armed forces,” the chancellor said.

DiStefano said CU has made significant investments in support of more than 1,000 student veterans, their families and dependents.

One of those investments is the campus’s Office of Veteran and Military Affairs. Since 2013, the office’s full-time staff has increased to eight, which includes a veteran-focused academic adviser and professional math and physics tutors.

“The leadership and life experience that our student veterans bring to the classroom and our campus community is a significant contributing factor in CU Boulder’s current and future success,” DiStefano said. “One of the highlights of my job is to support this outstanding group of young Americans at CU Boulder.”

During his keynote address, Rear Admiral Marcus Hitchcock, director of strategy, plans and policy at the U.S. Space Command, reminded the audience that Veterans Day is the one day in November that the nation embraces “the gentle heroes of our nation’s wars,” including those serving today across the globe.

He asked all to honor those who chose to “pay the highest price, what Abraham Lincoln called the ‘last full measure of devotion’—to defend America.” 

“Our nation’s veterans often quietly serve without the hope for or expectation of gratitude,” Hitchcock said. “For generations, Americans have answered the call to serve in our armed forces. The brave patriots who have worn the uniform of the United States selflessly place the concerns of the nation above their own.”

A U.S. Naval Academy graduate and naval aviator, Hitchcock served during Desert Storm and Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom and received the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Bronze Star. 

This year, the university etched the names of two more Colorado veterans to the glass wall in the Veterans Memorial Lounge at the UMC: Sgt. First Class Will D. Lindsay, of Cortez, Colorado, and Gunnery Sgt. Scott A. Koppenhafer, of Mancos, Colorado, who both died this year while serving their country. 

As in past years, the campus color guard’s presentation of the flags lent a note of solemnity and hushed reverence to the event, led by Sgt. First Class Kevin Marquardt. This year’s co-hosts were UMC Board Chair Brandee Lantz, and Veteran Student Association President Josh Sloat. 

Also in attendance were CU Regents Lesley Smith and Heidi Ganahl, Veteran and Military Affairs Director Stew Elliot, and Assistant Vice Chancellor Akirah Bradley.