From The Denver Post (Roy Romer):
As a state senator in the mid-1960s, a bipartisan group of us in the legislature wanted to provide opportunity to a new kind of student — those who put in long hours working and trying to make a better life for themselves, while longing for an opportunity to go to college. We sought to provide a place where they could get a quality education at an affordable price, in an accessible location. These were people from myriad backgrounds — middle income and poor families, minorities, women, married students and returning veterans — all who needed a second chance.
One of the hardest political battles of my career was the bill to create Metropolitan State College (now University), alongside Rep. Palmer Burch, Rep. Allan Dines, Rep. Mark Hogan, Rep. Frank Kemp, Sen. Joe Shoemaker and others. In a General Assembly dominated by rural interests, a downtown college was a hard sell. It was a hard-fought, seven-year fight to establish Colorado’s first state-funded institution in the metro Denver area.
On an early fall day in 1965, students began lining up in front of the Forum Building at 14th and Cherokee streets, intent on registering for classes at a new kind of school, one where they would be accepted for who they were and could grow into who they were meant to become. The school’s new leaders were expecting around 500 students that day, but by midnight had signed up 1,189.
Fifty years later, MSU Denver remains true to its roots. Founded on the idea that it serve as a modified open-enrollment institution that accepts students from all walks of life, it focuses on the hope of a brighter future, not on the socioeconomic factors that might prevent pursuit of a higher education…
The university has 2,200 faculty and staff supporting more than 21,000 students. MSU Denver has grown, but retains the same spirit, the same dedication and the same noble purpose that moves all who are a part of it.
As Colorado’s urban university, MSU Denver collaborates with the community on innovative programs that fulfill its need for an educated workforce and our students’ need to prepare for interesting and rewarding careers. The university was ranked 23rd among regional colleges in the West, and fifth among public institutions for 2014.
MSU Denver’s success at transforming lives, and the citizens of Denver, lies in its strong ties to the community and to its business leaders and public officials who always have been the heart and soul behind the success of the university. Its impact on Colorado can be seen as its students graduate and enter the workforce as professionals well prepared for careers with giant industries like aerospace, tourism, health care and manufacturing. MSU Denver now has 80,000 alumni, many of whom have reached pinnacles of success that might not have been imagined 50 years ago: brigadier generals, high level administrators in executive branch organizations, policymakers, pilots, mayors, engineers and health care professionals.
More than any other state college or university, MSU Denver mirrors Colorado’s population, with ethnic minorities representing 34 percent of the student body, 21 percent Latino. Furthermore, MSU Denver is already well known for educating Colorado students for Colorado’s workforce. More than 96 percent of the university’s students are Colorado residents, and 75 percent of MSU Denver graduates stay in the state.
As MSU Denver continues to collaborate with leading businesses along the Front Range, it has become well known for preparing the next generation of “scrappy” students to achieve success that before may have eluded them.
On the eve of MSU Denver’s 50th anniversary, I am proud to be a founding father of this fine university rooted in the Denver community and committed to giving both the traditional and nontraditional student ample opportunity to succeed — as any father would be.
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