Founder tours Summit County campuses as Colorado Mountain College celebrates 50 years |

Founder tours Summit County campuses as Colorado Mountain College celebrates 50 years

Swoop, Colorado Mountain College's new mascot, participates in a Zumba class Friday at the CMC campus in Dillon. The college is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and CMC officials set up a full day of events in Dillon and Breckenridge on Friday.
Eli Pace / |

Colorado mountain College Timeline

Nov. 2, 1965 — Voters approve college district by a 2:1 margin

1966 — District Office opens in Glenwood Springs

Oct. 2, 1967 — CMC welcomes its first students to residential classes

1968 — First classes in Aspen and Eagle County

1971 — Classes begin in Chaffee County

1972 — First classes in Summit, Glenwood Springs and Rifle

1976 — Quigly Library opens

1981 — Steamboat Springs becomes CMC’s third residential campus, and Glenwood Center opens

1996 — Lappala Center in Carbondale opens

1998 — Calaway Academic Center opens

2000 — Dillon Center opens

2001 — Morgridge Academic Center opens

2004 — Edwards campus opens

2005 — Foster Academic Center in Buena Vista opens

2009 — Breckenridge Center opens

2010 — Climax Molybdenum Leadership Center opens in Leadville

Source: Colorado Mountain College

Colorado Mountain College is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and a Friday shindig that first stopped by the Dillon campus and later Breckenridge came with a special guest who was “blown away” to see how far the college has come.

The guest of honor wasn’t college president Carrie Besnette Hauser, vice president and dean of the Summit County campuses Dave Askeland or even Swoop, CMC’s new eagle mascot who flew onto the scene earlier this year for the milestone celebration.

They all attended Friday’s party and, with the exception of Swoop, who’s largely limited to over-animated gestures as his only form of communication, spoke briefly about the college.

Rather, the guest of honor Friday was the college’s founder, David Delaplane, who will celebrate his 90th birthday on Sept. 2.

Recalling how CMC got started, Delaplane was raising his family in Glenwood Springs, having just accepted a job at the chamber of commerce there. New to the role, he was going through some old files, he said, when he found a mostly empty folder labeled “Education Committee.”

The folder, Delaplane continued, contained only a list of names, but with that list, he tracked the original group of people who would create Colorado Mountain College.

At the time, forming a state-supported college meant securing a large enough tax base to fund it and having enough graduating high school seniors to fill it. Delaplane still remembers the requirements set forth by the Colorado Department of Education, too.

“And they said, ‘Well, you got to have a $60 million tax base, and you have to have 400 graduating high school seniors,’” the college founder recalled of his conversations with state education officials more than a half century ago.

“‘If you can get contiguous counties that meet that requirement, then you can start asking (the counties) to vote for this district.’”

It’s interesting how Summit came into the fold, Delaplane said, as the addition was entirely a move to meet the minimum requirements, and early on, Summit County didn’t want to be a part of it.

Getting Pitkin, Garfield, Eagle and Lake counties on board wasn’t too hard, Delaplane said, but together they still didn’t have enough graduating high school seniors to meet the minimum requirement.

“The only reason Summit was in there is they made up the difference in the 400 seniors,” Delaplane said, adding that when it finally did come to a vote, Summit County was the only one opposed to it.

“They said ‘we’re not going to vote to pay taxes to have a college in Leadville,’ and they voted against it,” he said. “But the other four did, so (Summit County) had to come in. That’s the way democracy works.”

Fast-forward 50 years, however, and there are now two CMC campuses in Summit.

Over the years, the college has expanded to include 11 different locations scattered across the Rocky Mountains.

The college has enrolled more than half a million students and currently offers five bachelor’s degree programs, 54 associate degree programs and 77 different certifications.

To celebrate the milestone, CMC set up a day’s worth of events, bringing Zumba classes, a few official remarks and cutting a cake in Dillon before heading over to Breckenridge, where the day continued with another healthy lineup of events, including a sample platter of classes where people could see what it’s like to be a student for a day.

They also offered tours of the buildings and college facilities. Taking his first steps in the Dillon campus, Delaplane was awestruck to see how far things have come.

“It’s wonderful, just wonderful,” he said. “I had never been in this building before” but during the tour he saw it has the technology to connect to all the other 11 CMC campuses that are now in the district.

“It’s just unbelievable,” the founder said.

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