University History

The 30s

A focus on agriculture, academic reputation

During the early 1930s, Colorado's land-grant college sought to meet statewide needs created by the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, while in the latter half of the decade the school dealt with demands on its own homefront.

Colorado Agricultural College's Extension Service helped farmers increase production during the agricultural boom created by World War I. In the early '30s, the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl forced the college's outreach arm to serve the same folks in a disaster-relief capacity.

When a survey showed 20,000 people in Eastern Colorado were in urgent need of food, the Extension Service - under the direction of F.A. Anderson - organized community and county relief programs. When grasshoppers attacked farm lands already hit hard by drought, Extension agents directed farmers in the application of grasshopper bait and saved a million acres of crops. When wind-captured soil clouded the skies, the agency distributed 200,000 trees so landowners could build windbreaks and grow timber for fuel and posts.

The college's Experiment Station also helped ease the hardships created by drought and grasshoppers. It saved fruit growers $1.2 million by finding the remedy to a severe outbreak of peach mosaic in Palisade orchards.

President Charles Lory, through his involvement with the President's Association, also sought to help Colorado agriculturists by pushing for major tax reforms to relieve farmers of unfair tax burdens.

Additionally, the president played a significant role in a 1930s project that would supply irrigation water for future agricultural development in Eastern Colorado. Lory gained association with the Colorado-Big Thompson water-diversion project because of his longstanding interest in irrigation and his association with former CAC professor Elwood Mead, who now headed the Bureau of Reclamation. Lory helped resolve differences between Western Slope and Eastern Colorado residents and devised a way for the region served by the project to meet federal financial obligations.

However, Lory and the State Board of Agriculture had resolutions of a different kind to handle on the homefront in the mid- to late 1930s. In the nation's system of higher education, more professorial posts required doctorate degrees, and college programs needed to meet accreditation standards.

Some people believed Colorado's land-grant institution was falling behind. At an April 1938 meeting, the board received reports from a faculty committee and the Alumni Association that pointed out the college's shortcomings and called for changes to shore up the institution's academic ranking.

Reforms followed the reports only one month later, perhaps sped along by adverse and sensationalized headlines in The Denver Post and the Fort Collins Express-Courier. In its most drastic move, the board retired or demoted several senior professors and administrators who, the alumni report claimed, had passed the peak of their proficiency.

This upheaval was followed by the hiring of new doctorate-holding personnel, approval of paid sabbatical leaves for professional development, consolidation of multiple sections of the same lecture courses and new facilities.

The school built new agricultural and veterinary medicine buildings and remodeled space for the electrical engineering department.

Student-sought changes also came about during the 1930s. Most notable was the governing-board approval of a student petition to change the college's name to more accurately reflect the diversity of its academic programs. The school became the Colorado State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, or Colorado A&M in 1935.

The college responded to other student desires and needs in the late 1930s by constructing a student union and a women's dormitory. The union, named Johnson Hall after a dean admired by students for 25 years, was completed in 1936 and aimed to create a sense of unity among the student body.

Until completion of the dormitory in 1940, students had to seek housing in fraternities, sororities and boarding houses because on-campus housing had been cleared for instructional space in 1893. The new residence hall, completed in 1940, was named for Aileen Rockwell, wife of governing-board member Robert Rockwell.

Colorado A&M experienced one last monumental change before the end of the decade. In April 1938, President Lory announced he would retire on his 68th birthday. Thirty-one years of Lory leadership came to a close on Sept. 25, 1940.

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