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1980s Memories

NEW! SKI CLUB ADVENTURES, by Dom Schiavone

One of the main reasons that I ended up living in Durango for the last 27 years was because of the Fort Lewis Ski Team.  In 1982 I moved from southern Germany to race in Vail’s program.  I wasn’t enthralled with the town of Vail, but I had the opportunity to come down to Durango to participate in a couple of races.  I immediately felt a connection with the valley and the nearby mountains that reminded me of the Isar Valley where I grew up in the Bavarian Alps. Later on that season, the FLC ski coach, Craig Kruger, gave me the last nudge to commit to Fort Lewis. 

The first years of the club race program (the varsity program had been dropped in the late 70s or early 80s), we paid our own way, traveling to races in our personal cars.  I especially remember being packed into one teammate’s FIAT; the FIAT’s heater emitted fumes that smelled like pancakes. There were weekly epic drives over the passes in storms and there was a near miss with an avalanche. We would stay in the cheapest motels and some teammates would scavenge food off people’s left-behind cafeteria plates. There was a great team atmosphere, which was quite refreshing after racing as an individual for so many years.
The Fort Lewis student body was always supportive of the ski team and later on we managed to get a budget through student fee raises. When I became the coach of the team we had some money to use college vans and had money for motels. There were a number of great full moon adventures on the drives such as hiking and skiing at Wolf Creek in the moon’s glow. The ski team was a wonderful part of my education at Fort Lewis.  The teammates are scattered across the West so we have yet to get back together for a ski, although the idea has been discussed.

NEW! BUDGET CUTS WITH A CHAINSAW, by Mike Otten, '85

A number of clubs came through to get on the agenda to pitch for money.  One I'll never forget was the Anarchy Club, who needed some cash to print some flyers and host an organizational event.  I don't recall if we funded them or not, but it was colorful to be a government hosting their request.

I remember Mark Nealon joining ASFLC, a junior or senior who had started and run his own business.  With that experience his first assignment was to chair the budget committee where he coordinated these budget interviews with every organization we were funding.  He brought a whole new level of focus and scrutiny to the budget process.  I saw students come out of those interviews and make the hand motions of someone firing up a chainsaw.  They asked stark questions like, "What would you do if you only got half of last year's budget?"  It really flustered some of the groups, but what they were looking for were the groups that said they'd still find a way to support their events, or they'd prioritize and keep the things that made the most impact.  I don't recall any specific fallout, but the process was intense, and very professional.  It really raised the bar for the clubs and organizations, and it left everyone in the government feeling our budget was healthy, polished, and something to be proud of.

We had the Charlie Daniels Band on campus, and G. Gordon Liddy, and Allen Ginsberg.  The STAC president (Todd Welter) returned from a trip to Denver with a tale of shopping with an oversized shopping cart at some huge warehouse with fork trucks driving around, giant packages of jelly beans, tooth paste, socks, nutmeg, … the list went on and on.  It was like he'd gone through the looking glass.  I think he lost all credibility when he added "and tires!”  It really was hard to imagine (an early Costco or Sam’s Club).

RESEARCH OPPORTUNITIES, by Wilfred Denetclaw, Ph.D., '83

As someone interested in research, the beautiful scenery and the openness of the Southwest fostered that sense of wonder in me.  I was inspired by the surroundings—it made me want to know more about the natural world.

I was so curious. I wanted to soak in as much as I could.  Biology was my major, but I took full advantage of Fort Lewis’s liberal arts curriculum.

The faculty was very supportive of my ambitions. They helped open doors for research opportunities, and I took advantage of that.
For me, it was dedicated Fort Lewis College faculty like Mary Jean Mosley, Albert Spencer, Ted Bartlett and many others who opened their doors to me and helped me discover what was possible.

BLESS YOUR HEART, by Miki Harder, '91

When I was a Freshman at Fort Lewis College, being interested in art, I enrolled in “Art and Relevance” with Stanton Englehart.
I was to learn that this class was less about art and more about Thinking for Yourself (which has EVERYTHING to do with Art, but that is hard for a new freshman to grasp).

Stanton was a very open and forward thinking man.

Now, me on the other hand, JUST coming from a very conservative high school was a little taken a back by Mr. Englehart's, umm, I can’t call it boldness for he was a very soft spoken person…call it, well...he just didn’t have a filter. :)

In this class we were to keep a journal every week, jam packed with our “Thinking for Ourselves” thoughts and our reactions to his open oratory of his personal and professional life. He would reread them and give them back to us with little comments in the margin by something that caught his attention.

I recall ONE lecture, where he in his quiet voice told how when he was climbing Hesprus Hill on his road bike, standing up on the pedals.. I mean really pushing it, he would grunt really loud, like if he was...well…You know…!!!!!!!!!!!

“EXCUSE ME??” My fresh little ears screamed….

SO the next journal entry I just let him have it how I thought that was inappropriate and yada yada……. When I got THAT journal back…he had written: “Well Bless your Heart!” in the margin.

I was floored.. I didn’t get in trouble, he didn’t get mad.. he even wanted my heart blessed!!!

I kind of got cocky after that and railed on him quite a bit, and always with a little “Bless your Heart” in the margin.

Many years down the road, as I was COMPLETELY dissing someone for doing something I thought he was a twit for... Then added the “Bless his heart”…You know...The thing you say after you say something mean and it is supposed to abolish you of your rudeness…Quietly, suddenly, I had a wee reckoning.

If it was a cartoon my eyes would have gone distant and an asterisk would have appeared over my head….”bless my heart.” I had to chuckle and shake my head.. Aw Stanton.. Here I thought you wanted my heart blessed and now...I think you were telling me to shove it!

Stanton became a really good friend, as I think he was to about every art student. Everything feels relevant to Art now and thinking for myself? Well, still a struggle at times. But the most valuable lesson from Stanton..” you can disagree and still be loved…”..and maybe even throw in a little “Bless your Heart “ if it hurts a bit.

Thank you, Stanton Englehart.

PUBLIC LIBERAL ARTS, by Byron Dare, Professor of Political Science

I started teaching in 1975 and I had put off my dissertation for 9 years.  I finally finished it in '83 and went on the market in a big time way. I had three offers. I came to my interview at Fort Lewis having already decided to accept the offer at Cal-State Chico which had been one of my dream schools for a long time.  I was through Durango on vacation as a kid. I remembered the place and I thought, well, it's been a stressful year, I'll go and have some free meals and hang out. So I came here as kind of a vacation. When I got here it was primarily the individuals who I met who were on the faculty; Will Coe, Doreen Hunter, Reece Kelly, Red Bird who impressed me so much in terms of their commitment to the institution and to the goals and the values of public liberal arts education. I'd taught at UC San Diego, University of Southern California, Cal-State Northridge, Los Angeles Pierce College.  So I'd really experienced the entire range from a walk in off the street and take classes at L.A. community colleges to the best and the brightest at UC-San Diego. And so with that kind of gamut of experience, I was really attracted, in addition to these personalities to the whole idea of public liberal arts education which historically has been reserved for the children of the elite.  The challenge of trying to bridge that gap and open up and make available exactly the same type of intellectual process and educational experience that is generally reserved for students at private liberal arts colleges, to just tear the door off the hinges and try and democratize, that is, I think, the largest feather in the cap of Fort Lewis.It's a struggle and it plays out in all kinds of policy issues and it plays out in the classroom.That was really appealing to me.

BED RACES, by Marcy Jung '81Bed Races

Bed Races of old!  Too fun.  In 1977-78, I was a freshman and lived in Sheridan of the Bader/Sheridans.  In the springtime I raced with a team from the Bader dorm (Bader B as I recall).  Still picturing Darla Rohrig (sp?) who rode on the bed with her big safety goggles and laughing all the way down the hill.  Four to six of us pushed and pulled the bed on wheels beginning up at the end of 8th (by the golf course) and all the way to the stoplight.  What great fun - dangerously funny.

SIGN O' THE TIMES, by Bill Bolden

Rexer Berndt was the president when I arrived and he reminded me of the captain on Gilligan's Island.  He was a big guy.  He just had this kind of smirky grin on his face a lot.  But when you talked to him you knew exactly what he meant and what he had to say and what he wanted from you.  I remember, you couldn't walk on the grass, you had to stay on the sidewalks.  Now they do the cattle path kind of thing, where if there's a trail there they put a sidewalk.  Back in those days you were on the grass.  No dandelions anywhere.  He was a stickler for the campus looking really nice.  My favorite Rexer thing would be on Fridays at 4:50 he would call our office and ask some pressing question about enrollment or about what's going on in the residence halls and then we knew after that call we could leave…He also didn't want to have buildings to have people's names on them so when they named Berndt Hall I always thought that was ironic.  The residence halls were the new apartments, Dorm A, B, C, the classroom building, the education building, he didn't believe in naming names. The gym was the gym, the pool was the natatorium.  He lived on the corner of campus where admission is today so he was always around.  He and his wife were good people. Rexer's last project actually, was to build those apartments, the Anasazi apartments, and the amphitheater…those were his last two and the amphitheater actually was supposed to have water, that separate piece where the stage is, that was to be kind of a moat and a campus lake kinda thing. And then we talked about how in the spring that could turn into a lot of fun and they just decided against that.  It used to be a big parking lot right in the middle of campus and he moved that out and they went further out to the edge of the rim and they built more parking.

As you come up the front hill, as you come around the second turn, hit the third turn heading up to the straight away to campus, there was a guard rail there and it was the campus bill board for opinion.  It was before people knew to post a blog.  There would be comments, there would be different causes championed on this guardrail and on the road leading up to the campus.  I remember one time seeing bodies outlined in chalk to symbolize some national atrocities that had taken place.  When Westmoreland and G. Gordon Liddy spoke here there were comments about them on the guard rail. You knew the source by what the message was.  The physical plant would just go out and roll over it and then in a couple of days or a week later or so there'd be another comment there.  I'll bet you there was probably ten, twelve layers of paint on that thing when they finally took it down and replaced it.  And then there was the water tower which is now the Hesperus Peace park. The thing was to get up there and write something on it because if you're going to climb up there you better make it worth your while.There were political comments or just people's names.  I remember at one of the football games, they dismantled it during the game and brought it down. That was kind of sad to see because coming in from the north down 550 you could see the water tower cause it stuck up in the air. The guard rail and the water tower, those were the political bulletin boards, a sign o' the times and the campus climate.

CAMPUS LIFE GETS "SPOTTY," by Dan Hoff

Dan Hoff proudly wears his
"I Survived the Measles
Quarantine, Fort Lewis College,
1988" t-shirt.

There was a measles epidemic at Fort Lewis in January of 1988.  Our first case happened right before Christmas break.  As soon as we got back we were notified by the state that there may be more coming.  It ended up that over a 2 1/2 month period we had 88 cases of measles on campus.  The state health department came in and quarantined the school which meant that everybody that was on campus had to be immunized against the measles.  It restricted a lot of athletic events, plays; all outside events were pretty well curtailed.  Though we'd never faced that kind of epidemic problem before we were somewhat prepared in that a couple years before we had started a pre-matriculation, immunization requirements for both types of measles and so most of our student body had been immunized prior to the epidemic happening.  I think there were only about a 120 students that weren't immunized that we had to get hold of during that first week in January.

Other schools, CSU, UNC, Colorado School of Mines, Metro had at least a few cases but none got out of hand like ours did, partly because one of our first cases was what they call a "super spreader." He wasn't very sick so he went to a lot of events.  He went to basketball games.  He went to classes.  He just went around spreading the measles.  He was probably responsible for the main mushroom of our epidemic. 

Two doctors from the CDC (Center for Disease Control) came to campus and stayed for over 1 month. They interviewed students, both sick and well and had a double blinded study of a large measles outbreak in a population of mostly previously immunized students. The conclusion of the study which was published in the journal of public health was that one immunization against measles was not enough to provide immunity. Within a year, CDC recommended the 2 immunizations against measles and rubella and mumps, the policy that is still followed today. The National Geographic magazine was working on a story of the doctors of the CDC entitled “Germ Fighters.” A writer/photographer from the magazine came to FLC. He took many pictures and 2 photos were in the magazine. One was of the CDC doctor interviewing a patient with measles and another of the 88 students who had measles on campus all lined up in the bleachers.

There were several people, especially the students, that ended up getting measles and had to be quarantined and couldn't go to classes and they were upset.  A couple of students had to drop out.  One of them was a lady who was pregnant and couldn't be immunized so she had to drop out of school.  We also had a student that had cancer and was on chemotherapy and had to go away from the campus for several months.  It was kind of chaos for a while.  I was working about as fast as I could work for 9, 10 hour days there for 2 months.  It was pretty hectic.

NUKE ‘EM ‘TIL THEY GLOW, by Jack Llewellyn '86

I have always said that the social part of higher education is a cornerstone for developing leaders of tomorrow.  Now don’t get me wrong, course work is a must and an obvious part of the college experience, and students are there to learn and apply those theories to the practical working environment.

However, looking back on my Fort Lewis College days I remember most my relationships with roommates, friends and professors.  One of my favorite memories is of the water tower.  Yes that towering icon that watched over campus, just waiting to be summited to have your message proudly displayed.  I, of course, did not partake in the climbing of the tower.  No really, my fear of heights would not allow it.  But, I know someone who did.  In fact I am sure they applied science and managerial knowledge to their research, and apparently it is true, humans are creatures of habit.  Their investigations uncovered the exact time the security, now sworn police officers, took breaks and patrolled campus.  Once that was established they had to scale the monster and reach the ladder some 25 feet out of their reach.  Apparently surgical gloves and honey did the trick. 

Now I honestly can’t recall what was inscribed on the tower, but I do remember “Nuke ‘em 'til they glow Gonzo and Bonzo” was a message that dominated the towering billboard.  

COLLEGE COMMUTE, by Betsy Yazzie '86

As a student commuting from Window Rock, Arizona I often was asked to give students rides from various communities along my route to and from Ft. Lewis.  One winter morning, I had a passenger from Shiprock and another from Aztec.  We drove through Cedar Hill and on toward Durango.  We had just started the climb up the hill just past the turn off to Ignacio when I realized that the road was slippery.  As we neared the top of the hill, we hit an ice patch and my little blue Subaru spun around, sliding toward the edge of the big cliff.  We screamed and prayed and saw our lives flash before us!  The car then slid in the opposite direction and into a small ditch.  After we caught our breath we got out of the vehicle and gently pushed it back onto the highway.  We continued on and were still in class on time!

FIELD SCHOOL OPPORTUNITY, by Jody Vaclav '86

During my tenure at Fort Lewis College, one of my most memorable times was a field school that I attended through the Psychology Dept. there at the Fort. We spent three weeks doing hands on work at Camarillo State Hospital in Camarillo, California. While we were there we stayed on the hospital grounds in dorms shared by the California Conservation Corps a group of young men who, instead of going to jail, opted to fight fires up and down California, (an interesting bunch to say the least.)  Many of the students worked as psych-assistants on locked units helping patients with a myriad of different diagnoses ranging from schizophrenia to the severely developmentally disabled. My particular assignment was to work with UCLA’s Neuropsychiatric Research Institute assisting with ongoing research being done with the hospital’s schizophrenic population. (After graduation I returned and worked with them for 4 years.)

While we were there in Camarillo we decided that since we all had Memorial Day weekend off, and we were so close to Mexico, that we all should go to Ensenada for the weekend. Being the only one with a car, 7 of us loaded our camping gear on the top of my VW Rabbit and headed off towards the border. While in the US we got quite a few looks for the amount of people we had crammed into my car, but when we hit the border there were people actually trying to get a ride from us. (Where we would have put them I don’t know.) We ended up camping on the beach, eating fruit from stands on the corners, buying tamale’s from roadside vendors, and even eating ice cream from the local Mercado. We, in effect, did everything that they say not to do when you go to Mexico… and the only thing I regretted was getting gas there. No one got sick, we weren’t accosted, harassed, or arrested, and all in all it was truly a great bonding experience.

Being at Fort Lewis College was such a great experience, from taking classes from professors that really wanted to teach you what they knew, to late night discussions in the local bars with those same professors, to the many close relationships that were formed during the years that I was there. When I returned to California after graduating, I started working with UCLA’s NPI and found that my education far exceeded that of the undergraduate program at UCLA. At the Fort we were doing lab work that rivaled some of the doctoral programs at UCLA, and I ended up teaching Neuropsychiatric testing to post doctorate students and finding out that our little Fort was the best education that I could have found.

I worked in the psychiatric field for over 14 years and I still use my degree almost every day, because I now work in the entertainment industry as the set designer for Wheel of Fortune. (And everyone knows just how crazy show business people are!)  Life does have its adventures, and I consider my years at the Fort as some of my most memorable.

MOUNTAIN BIKE RACING BEGINS, by Dan Brown '87

I am a graduate of 1987 (BS Geology). While I was at FLC, my friends and I started a mountain bike intramural's race and program. This had never been done before. We created a race course on the campus and even held a “King of the Mountain” race format (much like the Iron Horse Classic) with a cross country race, hill climb and road race. We got a sponsor to give away pizzas for the winners and had a significant turnout in that first year.

GOING WITH THE FLOW, by Tami Graham

My sister Laurie attended Fort Lewis one year before I did, and for only one year.  That year was 1984.  I followed in her able footsteps.  One foot print she left during her short stint at Fort Lewis was to be involved in starting a fledgling student club called FLOW – Fort Lewis Organization for Women.  I believe it was a local spin-off of NOW – National Organization for Women.  It was about that time that Women’s Studies programs were starting to really come of age on campuses around the country and even though Fort Lewis never created a program, this young, student group managed to stay active for a couple of years before evolving into what I believe became the Feminist Voice club.  I remember my sister laughing when telling me that they used to put FLOW flyers up in women’s bathrooms, on the dispensers where you could purchase feminine hygiene products.  Gotta love a wry sense of humor!

In any case, I had become involved with KDUR as a student and had also become a big fan of both Betty Leyerle and Doreen Hunter, professors from whom I learned a great deal during my career as a student.  Can’t remember exactly how it happened but in 1987, I ended up being the lead student involved in bringing Sonia Johnson, a recovering Mormon and lesbian separatist activist, to campus.  Thank goodness I had the support of Betty and Doreen all along the way, as we brought this event to FLC through the support of FLOW and the Sociology Department - two entities that were always willing and able to present provocative events on campus. 

This particular event proved to be personally significant for several reasons.  In essence, it was my coming out at Fort Lewis.  Sometimes “guilty by association” is actually true.  I wasn’t a separatist or a recovering Mormon but I was a young, coming-of-age lesbian.  In addition, little did I know that this first event I was producing would be the beginning of a career doing event production that to date has spanned 20+ years.  The excitement, anxiousness and anticipation of presenting not only an engaging speaker but one that is somewhat controversial has proved to become an irresistible lure over and over again.  As well, I had begun a weekly radio talk show on KDUR, titled “The Sunday Sister Show”.  My co-host, Nora Tracey, then Board member of the brand new Women’s Resource Center, and I interviewed Sonia Johnson on the radio.  I remember this interview vividly, as I was fascinated by Sonia’s worldview, even though I found it a bit extreme.  A deep love of radio and sharing new and different perspectives with others became indelibly marked on me.  My career with KDUR not only spanned 3 years of involvement as a student but an additional 7 years as the Station Manager, upon graduation.

Thank you Fort Lewis for affording such great opportunities that have proven to be more significant than I could possibly have imagined at the time!  

CROSS COUNTRY ALL-AMERICAN, by Melissa Knight-Maloney

One of my best memories was my one year of running cross country at FLC (my senior year was when I decided to run, 1988) having never been a distance runner before. My dad entered my in a the Hozhoni Days 5k and I found out I could run 5k (I'd run track in high school but nothing longer than a 400 meter run, 5k seemed really long). So, Dad talked to the basketball coach, Chuck Walker (who was going to be the head XC coach, but had never coached runners) and they talked me into doing XC in the fall.  To make a long story short I ran that season won the conference and district championship, qualified to NAIA nationals and ended up finishing 18th out of about 300-400 (it has been so long that I can’t remember the total) and making All-American and also becoming a Scholar Athlete (Academic All-American).

THE PRESIDENT’S CASE, by Doug Lyon

In the fall of '82 I was a freshman at Fort Lewis, just moving into my new dorm, Camp Hall.  Rexer Berndt, the president of the college at the time, was going from dorm to dorm, greeting new students.  We met him in the common area where the pool table, ping pong table and TV were located.  As part of his self introduction he informed us that he could drink a case of beer.  It was Rexer Berndt we're talking about here.  We believed him.

CAMPING 101, by Charles Brown

Among my fondest memories of being a student are some of the excursions I went on.  As part of an elective Physical Education class called Camping there was a wonderful trip with Dolph Kuss to Canyonlands.  Twenty of us enjoyed several days and nights of camping out in the wild together.  There was plenty of spirit and spirits to share amongst us.  Two of the people on the trip (who shall remain nameless) brought tequila and we drank with the group and got really loud around the campfire.  I think we kept Dolph up most of the night. Anyway, I fell off a small cliff but I was ok.  Got back up.  The tough part was the hangover in the morning and Dolph purposely working us really hard on the hike in Canyonlands.  That was last spring of 1984. 

I also went on a wonderful trip with Reg Miller who taught marketing.  He was the professor in charge of the Student Government.  I was elected to student senate and we planned a trip down the San Juan River near Blanding.  It was two nights and it was a lot of fun.