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University of Colorado Alumni Association papers

Identifier: COU:2070

Scope and Contents

These records document the activities, clubs, meetings, programs, awards, reunions, and local chapters of the Alumni Association. The collection is organized into is organized into four parts, two accessions, with a third and fourth part that document audio/visual materials. I. First Accession refers to the first shipment of materials sent by the Alumni Association to the Archives. Topics within the first accession are organized alphabetically. They range from Alumni clubs (1964-1988), sports, meetings/conferences of board and director members, finances, awards, the local chapters associated with the Alumni Association and reunions (Class of 1900-1990). II. Second Accession which arrived at the Archives consists of class reunions (class of 1910-1990s), Alumni programs, organizations, significant events at CU from 1967-1974, to the University of Colorado Foundation 1987-1990, are contained in boxes 59 through 67. III. Negatives from Colorado Alumnus documents photographic negatives from the Colorado Alumnus dating from the 1950s to 1986. IV. Oral Interview Tapes from Colorado Alumnus contains oral histories from various prominent figures at the University recorded on tapes from 1970 to 1978 by Ron James.


  • Creation: 1901 - 1991

Biographical / Historical

At its first session in 1861, the Territorial Legislature of Colorado passed an act providing for a university in Boulder. The University was formally founded in 1876. The University opened on September 5, 1877, with 44 students, a president and one instructor.

On June 4, 1882, on the afternoon following CU’s first commencement, the six members of the graduating class met to create the Alumni Association. These first alumni recognized the need for an ongoing involvement with the University and laid out their objectives in writing:

The purpose of this organization shall be to aid and assist in promoting the interest of the University of Colorado…and to cultivate sociability and good fellowship among the members of the organization.

Henry Drumm was elected the first President, and for a number of years, the organization held only one annual meeting with a featured speaker. In 1889 Henry O. Andrews became the first active secretary, a position that later evolved into directorship. In 1901 the first chapter, or club, formed in Teller County. The Denver Club formed that year as well. As the organization developed the first alumni day was held to bring graduates back to campus in 1908, an event that became ‘homecoming’ in 1914, serving as the homecoming of the football team, parents, and alumni. The Alumni Association grew in membership requiring the organization of chapters. During this formative period women were welcomed as members, alumni programs were created and publications were started such as the Alumnus in 1911.

By 1912, there were clubs in Chicago, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Indianapolis, Schenectady, New York City and Washington, D.C., plus chapters in at least 16 Colorado towns. By 1921, clubs had grown to 26 in number. In the same year Professor Ralph Crossman became the first secretary/director paid by University funds, placing the Alumni Association in a much closer relationship with the University itself. In 1930, the highest honor for distinguished alumni, the George Norlin Award was instituted, named after CU’s fifth president. At the same time, the Alumni Foundation, under which all Association fundraising was to be organized, was formed. The foundation was the precursor of the CU Foundation, Inc.

The Alumni Association gained a staff as diverse as its alumni. In 1926 Louise Norvell was named acting secretary, being the first woman to hold that position. Ken Penfold was named director in 1949. This began the long association of the Penfold family with the Alumni Association. In his decade as director, the Association introduced parents programs, alumni seminars, leadership conferences and other innovations. Then in 1959, William E. “Bud” Davis became the new director upon Penfold’s resignation. Davis started the alumni travel program and continued Penfold’s activist philosophy by making numerous speaking appearances at various chapters. Margaret “Peggy” Tague followed Davis as the next director in 1962 when he resigned to become the head football coach. Later that year, C. Dean Graves became the director. The creation of the Directors Club was one of his great contributions, however his most significant achievement was shepherding the Association though the social and political turmoil of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Graves was later named director of development in 1980. In 1973 Gil Cruter, an early black track athlete in the 1930s, became the first black Association president. In the same year that Graves became the director of development, Stuart Takeuchi was named acting director of the Association. Later, Rich Emerson was named director. Emerson reduced the board to 45 (later 38) members in interest of efficiency. Philip J. Super came along as director in 1988. Super began administration based on consolidation of existing programs, reassessment of budget and finance processes, expansion of chapters and constituent programs and active involvement of alumni.

Another function, which the Alumni Association has adopted in its first hundred years, was that of campus historical preservation. In this role the Association both assisted in successfully halting and funneling alumni concerns regarding the demolition of historic structures. In one such case the Alumni Association helped to save Old Main and its cracked bell in 1926. In the 1970s, the Alumni Association channeled the alumni outcry over the planned destruction of Denison, Woodbury and Cottage #1, and along with Historic Boulder, students and faculty saved the buildings. If the 1970s featured the saving of buildings from destruction, the 1980s witnessed the renovation of Macky Auditorium, Old Main, Cottage #2, and Hale Science. Newly established by the Alumni Association, the CU Heritage Center (1985) provided considerable assistance and historic support for the renovations, a role the center continues to play. The Center serves as a museum of University history and memorabilia.

The first publication of the Alumni Association was the Colorado Alumnus (1910–1997). The publication combined faculty views and short histories along with alumni year group news. During the 1980s the University attempted to improve public relations in a variety of areas. One way in which the University pursued this goal was to publish Summit, the aims of which were the better informing of faculty and friends of the University of the accomplishments and projects of University faculty. In 1997 the Alumni Association published Colorado (Coloradan) which took the place of the Colorado Alumnus, Summit, and Legacy. After the first few issues Colorado shifted its name to that of the defunct yearbook.

Beginning in 1935, the Alumni Recognition Award was created, and presented to Todd C. Storer on Homecoming day in November of that same year. It was established to recognize the outstanding achievements of graduates of the University. Among the recipients are Ralph Carr, Eugene Millikin, Byron White, Scott Carpenter, William Jovanovich, Gordon Allott, and Dave Bolen. In 1953, the Robert L. Stearns Award was initiated. This award was presented by the Associated Alumni to members of the University of Colorado faculty and staff for exceptional service or achievement. Among those who have received the award since 1953 are Colin B. Goodykoontz, Benjamin Galland, Clare Small, Walter O. Roberts, Mary Ethel Ball, Clifford Houston, Muriel Sibell Wolle, J.D.A. Ogilvy, and Howard Higman. In 1986, after awarding medals to alumni and faculty for decades, the Association itself was awarded the gold medal from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education as one of the top alumni programs in the nation

Currently, the Alumni Association of the University of Colorado at Boulder serves more than 24,000 dues-paying members and more than 130,000 alumni worldwide. Under the guidance of the board and a professional support staff, the Association administers many programs involving thousands of volunteers who are alumni, parents and friends of CU-Boulder.

More than a century after its founding, the Association's statement of purpose is an expanded and matured version of the 1882 statement: The purpose of the Association is to connect alumni, students, friends, and all members of the University community to the University through activities and programs that stimulate interest, loyalty, and support for CU. Devotion to the pursuit of knowledge, service, integrity, diversity, and giving are amongst our highest esteemed values.

On July 1, 1996, the Alumni Association became a department of the CU Foundation. The Association concentrates on key areas of growth as it broadens its member support, consolidates programs and examines priorities. With a strong coalition of directors, volunteers and staff members, the Association plans to move through its second century with as much enthusiasm and direction as the infant Association of 1882.


36 linear feet

Language of Materials



Papers and records (1901-1991) documenting the organization and activities of the various alumni organizations of the University of Colorado. Founded in 1882 as an independent organization of alumni, the Alumni Association gains funding and direct university supervision in 1921. Between 1912 and 1951 the association established 51 chapters. During its first 114 years, the Alumni Association blended university fundraising with social public relations and historical functions. In 1996 the Alumni Association became a department of the CU Foundation, the private fundraising corporation of the University of Colorado. Collection contains minutes, activity files, class reunion materials, audio-visual material, and fundraising records.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of The Alumni Association, 1989 to 1996.

Processed by: Cassandra Volpe; Reorganized by: Jennifer Sightler; Natalie Sichko
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries, Rare and Distinctive Collections Repository

1720 Pleasant Street
184 UCB
Boulder Colorado 80503 United States