Civil rights on campus
Lisa Marshall’s (Jour, PolSci’94) article [“A change is gonna come” on pages 26-30 in the September Coloradan] is insightful and provides a useful picture of the race relations history at CU-Boulder.
Having graduated in 1966 as a sociology major weaned on Howard Higman (Art’31, MSoc’42) and in full memory of Nov. 22, 1963, when I heard of JFK’s death while eating lunch at Baker Hall, I can relate to the feelings of isolation and exclusion a black student could feel at that time.
As a black student from Denver I did have the camaraderie of my fellow varsity basketball players as well as those students with whom I spent time in my senior year as we conducted our honors studies. I moved to Michigan State University in fall 1966 for graduate studies and found that campus to be much more accepting of black students than CU. MSU even had a black starting quarterback on its football team.
Of course, the civil rights movement galvanized students on both campuses. At CU and MSU I hope things are better for black students than when I attended both these fine public universities.
Philip S. Hart (Soc’66)
The very interesting article in the September Coloradan [“A change is gonna come”] by Lisa Marshall (Jour, PolSci’94) poses the question: “Was CU ahead or behind the times during the civil rights movement?” As someone who lived through part of it, my answer is it was neither but rather a part of its time — sometimes lagging and sometimes making limited progress. Marshall discusses some of the progress, for example, in recruiting black players for the CU football squad. She also mentions Homecoming queen Mary Mothershed Pryor (Soc’64) with whom I participated in Freshman Camp.
However, the progress was neither uniform nor — in my view — consistent with the urgency of redressing centuries of discrimination and repression. I wrote an article for the Colorado Daily in 1967 titled “Colorado’s Lily-White Law School.” It cites some dismal law school recruiting statistics, including two black students out of 307 enrolled students.
I know the law school has made significant efforts in the past several decades to remedy this dismal record. However, my recent visits suggest to me more focused efforts are needed to enroll and graduate minority students.
The situation significantly influenced my own career. After graduation, I joined the U.S. Department of Justice to enforce the nation’s civil rights laws. I am grateful to the Coloradan for illuminating this chapter in CU history, although it is the kind of mixed picture that alumni associations tend to avoid as giving a less than flattering view of the university. Keep up the good work.
Carlton Stoiber (A&S’64, Law’69)
The article in the September 2010 issue about the civil rights movement at CU [“A change is gonna come”] brought back some strong memories.
Racism had played a role in the Greek system for years. The article does not mention the “major furor” that took place during 1953-56 when the social fraternities and sororities still had discriminatory clauses despite Associated Students of the University of Colorado resolutions against such clauses. The regents became involved, and eventually, after a huge hearing in Macky Auditorium, passed a resolution prohibiting discrimination by any CU organization. My husband, Roger H. Davidson (Spch’58), covered the regents for the Colorado Daily during 1955-56.
I remember marching in the protest against Woolworths in 1960. People asked us what we had against the local store, and of course we had no real grievance with them, but we were marching against the chain’s treatment of blacks in the South. Little did we know that this was just the beginning of a powerful movement.
About a decade later my husband and I had become co-chairs of the local chapter of the NAACP in Hanover, N.H.
Nancy Dixon Davidson (PolSci’60)
Santa Barbara, Calif.
Here is one small episode in the decades-long efforts to establish equal rights for minority students at CU. History professor Earl Swisher once told me how he was chairing a student-faculty committee in the early 1950s to make plans for the construction of the initial phase of the University Memorial Center.
They planned to include a barbershop in the building, but this led the local barbers to complain that a barbershop in the UMC would be unfair competition because the student center was on state property and did not pay taxes. Earl told the local barbers that black students had to go to Denver because they could not get haircuts in Boulder. As long as this was the case, the new UMC building was going to have a barbershop. This caused the Boulder shops to drop their ban on giving haircuts to black students. As a result, the committee dropped its plans for a barbershop in the UMC. A Boulder barrier had been breached.
Albert A. Bartlett, professor emeritus
Remembering professor Nilon
Thank you for Lisa Marshall’s (Jour, PolSci’94) interesting article in the September issue [“A change is gonna come”]. Mildred Nilon, the wife of professor Charles Nilon to whom you referred, was my boss in my very first job as a student assistant in Norlin Library from 1966 to 1970. Now that my working career is more or less over, I look back on that period under her tutelage as my best work experience.
Larry Chadbourne (A&S’70)
[Editor’s note: Thank you to several of you, including Mrs. Nilon, who called to let us know we incorrectly identified the photo on page 30 as professor Charles Nilon, as well as the date he started teaching. He began his CU career as an instructor in 1956 and was appointed assistant professor on July 1, 1957.]
I was so excited to read the piece in the fall Coloradan titled “A change is gonna come” and particularly pleased to read about professor Charles Nilon. I arrived at CU in the fall 1965 as a sophomore. I signed up for one of his courses and for the next three years I took every course that I possibly could from him.
He was the most wonderful man and teacher. I was happy to read that in later years he had achieved so much and I was there when he started down his extraordinary path to success.
Mary Amerman Weir (A&S’68)
The world by road
As a Vietnam vet and CU grad, I was amused by the cavalier attitude of Steve Bouey (PolSci’99, MPubAd’01) and Steve Shoppman (Fin’00) getting in some “quality time” with that group of central African rebels [“The world by road,” September Coloradan]. I couldn’t help but note that one rebel had his right thumb on the trigger and that the AK-47’s safety was off.
And then there’s the other photo of our intrepid duo navigating a minefield. A mind is a terrible thing to waste, not to mention both of your feet. What’s next for Dumb and Dumber, extreme hiking along the North Korean or Iranian border? I forgot — that’s already been done.
Richard Peterson (Anth’71)
Struggling with the college equation
I enjoyed the article, “Struggling with the college equation” [September Coloradan]very much as it brought back memories of January 1958 when I enrolled for a master’s program at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. I had no scholarship or financial aid, just $400, which I borrowed from relatives in Bombay, India, and which was to be repaid with interest upon graduation.
[Valerie Otero’s] story brought tears to my eyes. I am grateful to this great country and many of the guardian angels who showed up at several crossroads in my life.
Suresh Gulati (PhDMechEngr’66)
Long live The Sink
I wanted to offer my best on your recent Coloradan. I very much enjoyed it with the exception of a listing in the obituaries of my first love at CU in 1961. We have not been in touch since 1962, but it touched my heart.
The other thing I noticed was the picture showing The Sink on page 64 of the September 2010 issue. It is listed as from the 1950 yearbook and unless I am not getting something, it actually was 1961 or 1962. The fellow sitting up on the bench is Pat Kinsella (Mktg’65). I believe I am sitting across from him.
Stephen P. Smith (Mktg’66)
[Editor’s note: The Sink photo in our archives was dated “1950s,” so thanks for clarifying this. ]
Campus gun ban
I’m writing in response to the quote attributed to Kristine Gutierrez in “Campus gun ban draws fire” [on page 18 in the September Coloradan]. Ms. Gutierrez comments, “I feel that the constitution and liberty don’t matter when you’re dead . . . It’s not about having rights, it’s about safety.”
I am guessing that Ms. Gutierrez and, unfortunately, many responsible for making this policy have little knowledge of the basic concepts of responsible lawful handgun use, self defense in general and active shooter situations. The old adage, “If guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns” is exactly true. Most mass killings by one or two deranged individuals have occurred in so-called “gun free” zones — Columbine and Virginia Tech — where law-abiding (i.e. non-gun-carrying) citizens present were unable to do anything that might have ended the attacks sooner.
Joseph San Filippo (ElEngr’75)
Las Cruces, N.M.