First students reflect on finale of CMC’s 50th anniversary
The historical significance of those first classes at Colorado Mountain College wasn’t forefront in the minds of that inaugural group of students. The first class was held 50 years ago today.
What CMC was for people like Cathy (Abegg) Jensen, Marianne (Quigley) Ackerman and Joan (Chuc) Telinde was a place to get a post-secondary education in their hometown of Glenwood Springs.
“Thinking back to the first days of classes in CMC’s inaugural year, I remember mostly making new friends and trying to figure out how the new Audio-Tutorial programs for study were going to work out,” said Jensen, who became the college’s very first graduate.
The “classes” were like none she’d ever had before. Jensen recalled meeting with her instructors once a week at the newly established Spring Valley campus to preview the week’s work. She would then complete assignments at her own pace before the next meeting.
Instructors were available if a student needed extra help or more direction, she said, but often it was up to groups of students working together to figure it out.
“It was college education through teamwork with your friends,” Jensen said. “It was a wonderful new experience in higher education, and being near Glenwood Springs made it all the better.”
Her future husband, John Jensen, started at CMC a year later. An accomplished graphic designer who had a stint working for Walt Disney Studios, he also created CMC’s 50th anniversary logo.
For Telinde, a Carbondale native, CMC was her ticket back home after attending Mesa State in Grand Junction for her first year of college.
She said she enjoyed the smaller classes and the self-paced learning. After earning an associate degree in business, she landed a job with the college and later worked for many years with the Roaring Fork School District.
“It was such an exciting time to be part of a college that was starting,” Telinde said. “You knew everybody on the campus, and the staff was pretty hands on.
“It was also a great place to learn how to ski and play golf and other outdoor activities,” she said. “All of that made it a fun place to be.”
Likewise, Ackerman couldn’t beat the opportunity to get a college education literally a mile from the ranch where she grew up. Her parents, Dan and Ellen Quigley and uncle, Jim Quigley, were part of the group of land owners who donated land for CMC’s Spring Valley campus.
“There were lots of local kids there, and I really liked the new tutorial system they used,” Ackerman said. “It was home, it was fun, and they had a business program, which is what I wanted.”
Now a real estate agent in Glenwood with The Property Shop, Ackerman also worked for several years at CMC in the admissions office helping to “raise the baby,” as she puts it.
“We all worked and socialized together, and we took continuing education classes,” said Ackerman, who also took her real estate classes through CMC.
“We were there when it was a baby, and saw it grow to a teenager, and now it’s an adult,” she said of the college that now has a presence in seven counties. Those are Garfield, Pitkin, Eagle, Summit, Routt, Lake and Chaffee.
Perhaps the most famous early student at CMC was Robin Sutherland, a Juilliard-trained pianist who for many years has been the principal pianist for the San Francisco Symphony.
Though he wasn’t there that first year, the Greeley native and Colorado Rocky Mountain School alumnus had returned to the Roaring Fork Valley after his renowned Juilliard teacher was unable to continue.
He wasn’t sure what to do, and some of his CRMS connections encouraged him to give CMC a try. Sutherland not only studied at CMC, he eventually taught music at the college for a few years before joining the symphony in 1973.
To celebrate its official 50th anniversary, CMC employees will participate in a virtual open house where a new video produced by the Isaacson School of New Media will be shown.
A Colorado Senate Joint Resolution adopted earlier this year declared Oct. 2 as CMC Day. In March of this year, Gov. Hickenlooper presented the college’s “founding father,” David Delaplane, with a special flag that was flown over the state capitol.
Since then, there have been some 30 public events honoring the 50th anniversary, including the on-campus events and several community events. Delaplane and CMC President Carrie Hauser were grand marshals for the Strawberry Days parade, as well as Leadville’s Boom Days parade, and Steamboat Springs’ parades for Winter Carnival and Independence Day.
The college also launched new scholarship programs this year, and had special guest speakers at all nine graduation ceremonies to honor our students.