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CMC president to stay on till ’08

Robert Spuhler is finding he likes the job of being Colorado Mountain College’s president.

CMC’s board is finding it likes the job he is doing as president.

As a result, the board and Spuhler are working on a new contract that would extend his presidency until mid-2008.



Spuhler, CMC’s seventh president, was a CMC vice president from 1993-2002. He then served as interim president following the retirement of Cynthia Heelan before being hired as her replacement. His contract expires at the end of this year.

Spuhler said it was a short contract by design. The board was trying to move away from longer-term deals with presidents, after agreeing to pay Heelan $35,000 a year for 10 years in an arrangement in which she left before her contract’s end.



A shorter contract was preferable to Spuhler as well.

“To be very candid, I was trying to prove myself,” he said. “I could have also not liked it. I’ve never been a president and I could have just found it wasn’t enjoyable or I wasn’t being effective.”

That turned out not to be the case.

“I think he’s really enjoying his job,” CMC board chair Doris Dewton said. “I think at this point he’s excited enough about what’s going on that he really wants to continue, and we’re really pleased with what he’s doing.”

Spuhler’s contract details are still being finalized. He initially was hired at $164,000 per year. Dewton said she expects the board to give final approval to his new contract at its Sept. 12 meeting in Leadville.

Spuhler had contemplated retirement from CMC, but he said that was when he was vice president.

“I thought I had done about all I could do here as a vice president,” he said.

But Spuhler still had hoped to remain in education. It turns out he’s been able to do so while remaining at the college.

“It’s really exciting to be in education, despite all the financial issues going on in Colorado,” Spuhler said. “I find it very invigorating.”

Dewton said keeping Spuhler on as president will bring some needed stability to the school.

Spuhler is involved in several building projects, including a new campus in Rifle. He said he’s also involved in a number of other projects he’d like to see through to completion.

The college also is focusing on being a learning college, which means making its facilities centers of learning and making decisions based on what’s best for learning.

“It’s an overall philosophy that I like,” Spuhler said.

Dewton said Spuhler communicates well with CMC staff and board members.

“I think he’s occasionally a little brusque and honest, but that never hurts,” she added.

In Colorado’s tough financial environment, Spuhler also helps keep the college in the minds of state lawmakers, “so they don’t accidentally put the knife to us while they’re trying to do some other things,” she said.

Dewton said Spuhler has worked with the board to create a reserve to weather financial storms. Unlike most other colleges in Colorado, CMC has been able to absorb state funding cuts better because it also has a local property tax district to support it, Spuhler said.

“Instead of having to make cuts as so many of our sister institutions have had, we’ve been able to hang in there and not give out any pink slips,” he said. “We have a lot more flexibility because of the fact that we’re a local district college.”

Spuhler holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of New Mexico, master’s degrees from Pepperdine University and Central Michigan State University, and a doctoral degree from the University of Southern California at Los Angeles.

Spuhler oversees a community college district with 25,000 part-time and full-time students, and locations in nine western Colorado counties.


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