Adams State becomes a University

(05-22-2012)

A crowd of over 300 gathered under calm blue skies to witness Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper sign the law designating Adams State University, May 19. A banner proclaiming "Our great story just got better" set the stage for the 91-year-old institution's move to university status.

"You talk about oil, you talk about wind energy . . . the energy of our youth is the most powerful energy we have in this country, and you guys are helping make sure we get the most out of it," Hickenlooper said. "In all of Colorado, it's hard to find another community with as strong a sense of place as what you have created here. A good university is the heart of great community."

Adams State President David Svaldi welcomed the audience by recalling the school's founder and early presidents: "Somewhere, Governor Billy Adams is smiling and perhaps toasting this wonderful event with President Richardson and President Plachy. "Governor Adams worked his entire political career to found a teacher preparation school (so-called normal school) in the San Luis Valley. Against all odds, including political opponents and the Ku Klux Klan, Adams worked successfully with his constituents to legislate funds to construct the Normal School."

There is an "unbreakable bond of community" between Adams State and the San Luis Valley, Svaldi added, telling how - when Adams' opponents blocked state funding - area residents donated produce, livestock, and other products to raise the school's first operating budget of $25,000.

"Now we are here today to celebrate the next chapter in the great story of Adams State. I again have to thank our community for helping us to this juncture. Now our name will reflect what we truly are: Adams State University," he said.

Alamosa Mayor Kathy Rogers presented a proclamation declaring August, 2012, as the Month of Adams State University. "We are so fortunate and pleased to have Dr. Svaldi with us. He has done so much for this campus and our city."

The name change was proposed in HB 1080, co-sponsored by House Representative Ed Vigil State and Senator Gail Schwartz.

"Today is a day of pride and honor," said Vigil, a 1986 graduate of Adams State. "I'm so proud of our college that is now a university; it was an honor for me to run the bill."

Schwartz also said, "It was a privilege to sponsor this bill, and to know what a difference it will make, both for today's students and those to come in the future."

The name change will be official Aug. 7, 2012. The college's Board of Trustees voted to pursue the change Aug. 26, 2011, after exploring the issue for three years. Founded in 1921, Adams State Normal School was created to educate teachers for rural Colorado.

When it opened in 1925, the campus had one building, three faculty, and 42 students. Adams State now boasts a campus of 54 buildings and recently completed $62 million in campus construction and renovation. The university employs 110 full-time faculty and 358 staff. Enrollment has increased by 34 percent since 2008.

Adams State University has enjoyed record-breaking enrollment for the last three years, with a total of 3,701 students as of the fall 2011 semester. One quarter of those students are enrolled in one of the university's nine graduate programs.

In 2001, Adams State became Colorado's first four-year institution to be federally designated a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI). Since then it has received more than $14.1 million in Title V and other grants to help HSI's improve capacity and services. The undergraduate student body is 33 percent Hispanic; an additional 14 percent of students identify as members of other ethnic/racial minority groups.

In 1929, the institution's name shifted to Adams State Teachers College of Southern Colorado, in 1938 to Adams State Teachers College, and then Adams State College, adopted in 1946, in recognition of the broader offering of under-graduate liberal arts programs and the expansion of graduate degree programs.

Watch video of bill signing ceremony

By Julie Waechter