Long-time professors look back on campus history

May 11, 2015
50 Year Issue

April Wefler
[email protected]

To commemorate the school’s 50th anniversary, The Scribe asked long-term and retired professors about the early days of UCCS.

Allen Schoffstall, chemistry and biochemistry professor
47 years

The Early Years

Allen Schoffstall said UCCS was first called the Colorado Springs-CU Extension.

“I think the attitude of people around town was that we were some kind of Boulder thing,” he said.

“There was no grand design for this campus. It started as a bootstrap organization and we were an old sanatorium. We had the old buildings, we had dirt parking lots, we had snakes in the building.”

Colleges at CU-Boulder established various subcolleges on the UCCS campus.

“When I was here for the first five years, I had to go to Boulder once a week to go to departmental meetings,” he said. “Then I would shop at Boulder because that’s where the stockroom was. We did not have a stockroom and so I bought chemical supplies, whatever else I needed, and brought them in my vehicle.”

When UCCS did create a stockroom, it was in the old kitchen of the sanatorium.

“Our stockroom, which was very small, it was in the butcher shop. They actually carried the butcher block out of the back door and part of it landed on my toe. I had a black toenail for about five weeks, six weeks,” Schoffstall said.

In 1974, UCCS was permitted to award degrees.

“My wife got a bachelor’s in psychology, she’s a University of Colorado-Boulder graduate,” said Schoffstall. “She never took a class at Boulder.”

“People started here and they had to complete their work, some of them had to transfer.”

Campus offices were located in Main Hall and Cragmor Hall. Senior faculty had the Cragmor Hall offices, which were considered more deluxe.

“Cragmor Hall was somewhat more modern because it was kind of like a motel. Each room had its own bathroom, bathtub and they didn’t take those out before the campus got started,” Schoffstall said.

“Some people had offices complete with bathtubs in them.”

Scotland the Brave

Schoffstall used to go up on the roof of Main Hall with an English professor.

“It was a lovely place. We would just go up there for lunch,” he said.

The professor, whom Schoffstall said might’ve been Scottish or of Scottish descent, mentioned to Schoffstall that he played the bagpipes.

“So there was a day, it was a Saturday or a Friday where nothing was going on and we went up there and he had these bagpipes that he brought so he played a bagpipe song up there on the roof,” Schoffstall said.

“He was pretty good. He would play the popular song, the one you always play on bagpipes.”

The Search for an Academic Leader

When the campus decided to get an academic leader, Schoffstall was assigned along with another professor to lobby the Regents.

“We won by one vote,” Schoffstall said.

Then came the struggle to find an academic leader. Chuck Hinkle was the first academic leader, the vice provost.

“Chuck did a really good job. He was the first effective vice provost we had.”

Then the school was allowed to have a vice chancellor. A man named Walker that was hired for the job changed his mind, so Lawrence Silverman became the vice chancellor.

Silverman had been on the committee to find a vice chancellor.

“He had gotten to kind of like us and he was charmed by the campus. And so he went back to Fred Thieme (president of CU) and requested that he be allowed to be our vice chancellor. So Thieme agreed, we agreed, and Dr. Silverman became the vice chancellor.”

“He was very popular and he did lots of good things for the development of the campus.”

Kenneth Pellow, English professor
46 years

The Library with the Books in the Bathtub

Before South Hall became the place for the rat labs, it was used as a library.

South Hall, which was originally the nurse’s quarters when the campus was a sanatorium, was equipped with unplugged commodes, bathtubs and washbowls.

“We didn’t have nearly enough shelf space in that building, so the books would be stacked in the bathtubs,” Pellow said. “It’s one of the things that anybody who’s been here that long remembers about – ‘Ah, yes, South Hall, the library with the books in the bathtub.”

Pellow said the bathtubs, which had long since dried up, made good storage places until the books could be catalogued and the school could build more shelves.

“If you came in looking for a book and the librarian was pretty sure, ‘Yes, we have that, it’s not catalogued yet,’ by then the search began. ‘You take that bathroom, I’ll take this one, and we’ll see if it’s in there somewhere.’”

Following an accreditation visit that complained about not having a decent library, Dwire Hall was built as a solution.

The first floor of Dwire housed a library and a theatre and the second floor had science labs.

The Naked Girl’s Experiment

An anthropologist who was teaching sociology classes decided to do an experiment.

The professor had been working on how some things are so taboo that no one will call attention to them when they happen.

“He wanted to bring up that point in a class and so he talked a young woman student in the class into coming to class without a stitch of clothing,” Pellow said.

The student had asked Pellow if she could use his office as a changing room and he agreed. The experiment went exactly the way the anthropologist thought it would.

“In the middle of class, he stopped whatever he or they were talking about, said ‘Is nobody going to point out the fact that so-and-so is sitting here, stark-naked this morning?’ And of course, the answer he already knew: heck no, nobody’s going to point that out.”

Pellow said the girl told him that everyone looked in her direction as she entered and then quickly turned their heads.

“And so everybody spent the hour, some of them blushing and snickering to one another, but nobody looking in her direction,” he said.

“The attention of the class had never been so thoroughly focused on the instructor for the whole semester as it was that day.”

The Duplicating Room

The Duplicating Room, in use when the campus used mimeograph and Spirit Ditto machines to make copies, had a doorway hung within a wall, two walls on either side and no fourth wall.

“What constituted the fourth wall was earth and rock,” Pellow said.

“Some poor secretary wandered in there early in the morning … and as soon as she flipped on the light, there was a large rattlesnake going up in the middle of the room.”

The secretary fled and shortly after, the room had a fourth wall built into it and was then no longer used.

Cream of Elephant Soup

There used to be an old water tower that stood behind where Dwire Hall is now.

“It had long since ceased to be in use by the city to hold any water. It was, as far as anybody knew, empty,” Pellow said.

At one point, art students decided the water tower needed to be decorated.

The students painted the water tower to look like a large can of Campbell’s soup and labeled it “Cream of Elephant Soup.”

Schoffstall’s daughter noticed the students painting it.

“She said, ‘Daddy, there’s somebody painting the water tower.’ And it made a national newspaper, I think it made papers all over the country,” Schoffstall said.

“It became one of the most famous landmarks that we had on campus,” Pellow said.

“When you talked about where you went to school or where you taught up at CU and Cragmor, somebody in town would say, ‘Oh, by the Soup Can, is that where you go to school?’”

The Soup Can, which was used by people for target practice, was later torn down after a chancellor decided it was too much of a liability.

“It was to the regret of many people. We really sort of liked our one really stand-out landmark,” Pellow said.

“I didn’t like it [being torn down.] I liked the Soup Can,” Schoffstall said.

Thomas Napierkowski, English professor
43 years

When Thomas Napierkowski first came to UCCS, the road to campus was dirt.

The cafeteria consisted of three or four vending machines on the second floor of Main Hall. There weren’t any athletic teams, fraternities or sororities.

“What brought people down that dirt road was the desire to get an education,” Napierkowski said.

Many students were nontraditional, 40 to 60 years old.

“It was not at all unusual for many of [the professors] to be among the youngest people in the class,” he said.

Parking wasn’t an issue. “It didn’t become a problem until we started to grow so very significantly. We were surrounded by dirt lots. The biggest problems were snowstorms and rainstorms when things got very muddy and kind of ugly,” he said.

“You could just drive up Cragmor Road from Nevada … and Cragmor Road just came up right past campus and ended out here in a cow pasture. So it was no big deal to park,” Schoffstall said.

He said that parking was initially free and that people weren’t happy when the campus decided to start charging five dollars for parking.

“I think everybody was upset that they were gonna charge anything. They decided to start charging for maintenance of the dirt road,” Schoffstall said.

There was one police officer.

“He was very good and we didn’t need any more. The biggest police challenge we had one time was when we had a commencement on campus, in which there was a streaker who ran kind of in front of the stage and off into the Bluffs. Our police officer chased him away,” Napierkowski said.

Schoffstall said the streaker was then tied to a telephone pole.

Before UCCS had athletic teams, students, faculty and staff played in the city leagues. About 16 or 17 teammates were on the soccer team.

“We were not great soccer players, but enjoyed the game,” Napierkowski said.

The team played a group from Fort Carson, “which didn’t bode well because these guys would know how to play soccer.”

Napierkowski went to Boulder that day for a meeting and called a colleague when he returned. He was told that the team lost 11-1.

“My colleague said, ‘I always thought Fort Carson was an American army fort. No one on that Fort Carson team spoke English.’ They were all speaking Spanish and Slavic languages. These were immigrants who had joined the army and had grown up playing soccer and were really good and they crushed us.”

When UCCS did establish athletic teams, it needed to find a mascot.

“At one point, we considered making the mascot for UCCS a consumptive buffalo, a buffalo that coughed,” Napierkowski said. “CU Buffaloes up in Boulder and we inherited a tuberculosis sanatorium, why not a consumptive buffalo?”

Joan Ray
Retired, English professor emerita
35.5 years

At age 27, Joan Ray interviewed at UCCS fresh from getting her doctorate at Brown University.

Ray, who was born and raised in New York City, was in for a surprise.

“I was quite shocked to see the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs had a dirt road in front of it. I thought, ‘what the heck am I getting into here?’”

“I went to Brown for my master’s and Ph.D., a very well-established school with beautiful buildings, beautiful lawns, sidewalks to walk on.”

She said the professors, including Kenneth Pellow and Thomas Napierkowski, were all kind to her and liked the presentation she did on Shakespeare criticism.

“When I walked in to my first semester, which was English 1020, I was the youngest person in the program. I had a man in his 80s in my class. When I walked in, they couldn’t believe I was the professor for the class.”

Ray liked her students. “I’ve had some wonderful students. My best students would be best students at Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Cornell, Brown,” she said.

“It was heartening to me to see women who raised families and soldiers who have come back to school as veterans. Even in my Jane Austen class, some of my best students in that class over the years have been veteran men.”

Ray said there was a good sense of community.

“Whenever any faculty member in the English department had a family illness or someone who’s ill and can’t teach, we all pitch in and suddenly become experts and teach the classes for that person.”

“When my husband was ill, suddenly people who hadn’t read British literature in years were teaching my classes.”

Ray chaired current Chancellor Pamela Shockley-Zalabak’s promotion committee to full professor.

“She moved up, up, up and she really built that communication department from nothing,” Ray said. “Now communication is one of the biggest departments.”

Ray, former president of the Jane Austen Society of North America, is now on the board of trustees of Chawton House Library for the Study of Early Women Writers in Hampshire, England.

She advises the library on collection and travels all over the world speaking about Jane Austen and her novels, as well as Austen’s literary predecessors and successors.