Laura Thomas

Instructor, Senior Teaching Appointment

Referring to the 1960s as a tumultuous decade has becoming a cliché, but like all such expressions, it earned its overuse by ringing true. Calling a decade marked by war in southeast Asia, political assassinations at home, and violent responses to the civil rights and antiwar movements “tumultuous” seems an understatement. Our verdant campus nestled on the border of the foothills and Great Plains was by no means isolated from these troubled times, and this column will not ignore them in future entries.

Colorado’s newly-named state university had its own share of internal challenges as the Sixties dawned. Fault lines appeared in the university edifice as it grew to contain its many purposes and constituents. As James Hansen reports in Democracy’s College in the Centennial State, the competing interests of the science and technical fields versus the humanistic fields, between teaching and research, between athletics and everything else tested President William Morgan’s leadership throughout the decade.

Against a backdrop of rapid growth in size, stature, and student enrollment at CSU, the English Department was a scene of change, playing many roles in the unfolding drama of the 60s. Here are a few quick dips to get us warmed up for deeper dive in the next few weeks.

  • An important effort to bridge the gap between the A&M emphasis on practical and technical education and more humanistic and intellectually diverse learning was led by the department’s own Willard Eddy. Eddy began offering philosophy courses in the 1950s, but made a lasting mark with his central role in developing the university Honors Program throughout the ‘60s. North Central reports in 1960 and 1963 called the program “a notable exception to the prevailing neglect of the liberal arts” at CSU.
  • English faculty participated in the Fine Arts Series, which gained a subsidy from the university in 1961 and brought many well-known artists from various creative fields to campus, including the novelist John Dos Passos.
  • The Colorado State Review literary magazine had its initial four-year run in 1965-1969.
  • The Ballad Club, begun in the mid-fifties by English instructor Glenn Matott and student Marty Hoffman, held its first CSU Folk Festival in January 1961. Club members performed English and American folk songs at the Student Union to an appreciative audience.
  • Obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree in English required 192 credits. The 1964-66 catalog describes the Course of Study in English: “The courses in English are planned to give students a broad cultural background. Laid down upon a supporting base of philosophy, art, history, foreign languages, and related subjects, the English courses acquaint students with the great works of English and American literature and develop clear, effective writing.”
  • And then there is this item reported in the Collegian on Sept. 21, 1962:

Over the Labor Day weekend in September 1962, several members of the Department of English faculty and their families picked several bushels of vegetables from an experimental garden located just south of where the Hilton Hotel now stands. They had heard a rumor that the crops were to be plowed under. Actually, they were part of research projects for several graduate students in the Department of Botany. The Department of Botany was very upset and warned the Department of English that not only had they ruined research work, they had picked vegetables that were not safe for human consumption due to experimental chemicals that had been used in their production.

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