The Promise of Colorado State: Remarks to the 1870 Dinner
November 15, 2008
Interim President Anthony A. Frank
Thank you and let me add my welcome to our 2008 1870 Dinner.
This is my 9th 1870 dinner as a member of the Colorado State University Cabinet, and these are truly special evenings — evenings when we gather to say ‘thanks’ to the many people without whose hard work and dedication Colorado State would not be the university it is today:
- Our governing board — people who take time out of extraordinarily successful careers and donate their time and their talents to helping guide and oversee our University.
- Previous institutional leadership – and we would be remiss here if we didn’t recognize the remarkable progress Colorado State has made under its last two presidents. I had the honor of serving in both of their Cabinets, and CSU took greats strides under President Al Yates, and we took more positive steps forward under President Larry Penley. They deserve our thanks.
- Our administration — a team of people who work tirelessly on behalf of the university.
- The faculty — the heart and soul of any university — andwe are blessed with an amazingly talented and hardworking faculty that I feel privileged to serve.
- The staff of this University — including the people who made the Lory Student Center look so amazing this evening and countless others working behind the scenes across the breadth of Colorado State — people dedicated to making CSU better with each day they are here.
- Our students — a group of talented, passionate young people who push all of us daily to improve, to be worthy of the dedication they bring to their studies.
- And — especially — to our donors, without whose generosity, vision, and commitment many remarkable opportunities would be missed.
I thought if we were to recognize transformational contributions this evening, we should start with historical ones. This nation’s history began with one of the greatest human experiments: to see if individuals could self-govern.
But, to my mind, a far less acknowledged but almost as radical experiment was started in America less than 100 years into the experiment of democracy: public education.
Yes, this experiment included a great commitment to primary education, but what really set it apart from anything that had been attempted anywhere else in the world was the idea that a college education was available to anyone, regardless of economic status, with the ability to attain that degree.
Now many people contributed to this experiment, Morrill and Lincoln famously among them. And standing in a teetering economy with the echoes of war barely faded from their ears, they made the following suppositions:
- That democracy would only succeed with educated citizens.
- That a successful economy spread out across the vast physical space of America and one adaptable to future changes needed an educated workforce at all levels.
- That the very fabric of society would be strengthened by inclusion of teachers, doctors, lawyers, engineers, and other professionals in all of our communities.
- And that the best way to attain this was for everyone to contribute to helping finance the cost of these educations, because what is returned to us by these soon-to-be graduates will be far more than what we have invested.
This is an experiment that has worked beyond anyone’s wildest expectations and as we gather tonight, nearly 140 years later at an event named for the year in which the United States government launched Land Grant universities to make real that promise of local access to a world-class education, nations such as China and India are making unparalleled investments in a system designed directly on ours.
We have much to be proud of.
Consider for a moment the world of 1870 and the world of 2008. What is the greatest change that has occurred in those 138 years? Medicine? Transportation? Communication? Physics?
Whatever that greatest change was — Land Grant universities and their graduates played pivotal roles in making that change possible.
But we did not accomplish this alone.
You, our donors, and your predecessors who also saw the promise of Colorado State University, have helped us build buildings in which discoveries occurred and in which worlds were unlocked — you transformed our campus.
You endowed chairs to assure that students coming to Fort Collins would interact with some of the best minds in their fields – you transformed our faculty.
You started innovative programs whose promise has transformed our world.
And you continued the experiment of Morrill and Lincoln and so many others — an experiment that stares into the face of our challenges and answers it with trust.
Trust in the next generation.
Trust in their ideas, their passion and their hope.
Trust in them despite the fact that they do not always think, talk or even look as we do. With each scholarship you endow and each investment in this university you make, you help us turn to that next generation and say…
“We need your help. We’ve done our best. We’ve gotten some things right. But we have problems we can’t solve alone. We need your energy and your commitment. We need your help. Come on in and be a part of the next set of solutions.”
We face serious challenges today in our world, but I doubt more so than those of 1870 when viewed through the real-time lens of that day. And as I walk across the campus of Colorado State University, and as I consider how your generosity has helped us transcend problems, and as I look at the energy of the thousands of students who empty out onto the Lory Student Center plaza as classes change over, I can’t help but have a spirit of optimism for our future.
We would not — we could not — have that sense of optimism without you — our donors. And so I end, on behalf of the faculty, staff and students of Colorado State University and the society we exist to serve, by simply offering to each of you our sincere, heartfelt thanks.