Town and Gown
Town & Gown: FLC and Durango celebrate a 60-year romance


Since Fort Lewis College moved its campus to Durango, the two entities’ futures and fortunes have been intimately intertwined -- as have their personalities, their households, their activities, and even some of their property. You could say, it’s been a 60-year-long happy marriage.

Durango in a very real sense is two places interlaced, two personalities interacting, two micro-cultures intermingling. However you describe it, after six decades the mesa and the valley, the campus and the town, are interwoven, needing each other, shaping each other, and evolving together. And they teach and learn from each other.

It’s a powerful symbiosis, and like in a successful marriage the result of that coupling is greater than just the sum of the parts. And both partners benefit.

Today, we can no longer imagine Fort Lewis College without Durango as its source of collaborators and mentors, and its connection to the larger world.

Of course, this couple wasn’t always together -- at first they were just neighbors. From its inception as a military fort in 1880 to the establishment of a two-year agricultural college in the Colorado State A&M system in the 1940s, the various incarnations of the school bearing the name “Fort Lewis” were located at the site of the original military fort in Hesperus, 25 miles west of Durango.

Since moving to Durango in 1956 when the College took up residence on top of Reservoir Hill, overlooking the city, FLC has continued to grow, change, and mature hand-in-hand with its partner, the city of Durango.

Those shared prosperous fortunes are no accident. Because at the heart of both FLC and Durango lies a deep love for and connection to the western slope of the Rocky Mountains and the high-desert Southwest -- and all the history, culture, landscapes, experiences, adventures, challenges, learning opportunities, and diversity that this magical place implies and offers.

And it’s that setting that binds all of us, whether we’re here for four years or a lifetime.

Today, we can no longer imagine Fort Lewis College without Durango as its anchor, hometown, collaborator, mentor, and connection to the larger world.

And you couldn't have Durango as we know it without Fort Lewis College: With students from 46 states, 23 countries, and more than 160 American Indian tribes and Alaskan Native villages, FLC infuses Durango with a youthful energy that keeps this historic town cutting fresh tracks.

Fort Lewis College and Durango: Six decades later, still bettering each other, like good partners should.

60 year timeline
  • 1954

    Aggie logoGovernor Daniel Thornton signed a bill authorizing a "branch" of Fort Lewis A&M College in Durango. In preparation, a water tower, administration building, and a field house were constructed on the new site.

  • 1956

    Spurred on by the growth of Durango, Fort Lewis A&M College moved from its location south of Hesperus to Reservoir Hill in Durango. Three dorms, a student center, a fine-arts building, a chapel, and a football field were soon added to campus.

  • 1962

    Fort Lewis A&M College began to offer four-year degrees. The school served around 700 students and offered seven majors.

  • 1964

    Raiders logoThe school was renamed Fort Lewis College, and held its first baccalaureate commencement ceremony on April 19, on the plaza of the Miller Student Center, recognizing 59 graduates. Athletic teams also became the "Raiders" and changed their colors to the blue and gold still worn today.

  • 1964

    The Center of Southwest Studies was established.

  • 1966

    Hozhoni DaysThe Shalako Indian Club turned a small on-campus event into a full-blown celebration and renamed the multi-day event "Hozhoni Days," featuring a banquet, powwow, and basketball tournament.

  • 1966

    Purgatory Ski Area logoPurgatory Ski Area opened, partly inspired as place for FLC ski teams to practice and host races.

  • 1973

    Bala SinemThe Bala Sinem Choir recorded the album “American Indian Songs and Chants,” with Canyon Records.

  • 1974

    The School of Business Administration became the first undergraduate-only program to be accredited by AACSB International.

  • 1975

    On May 13, 1975, KDUR broadcast its first song over the air: “Because of Rain,” by Tim Weisberg.

  • 1976

    Sleeping bagOutdoor Pursuits opened, offering tents, sleeping bags, and back packs for loan from a small room in the College Union Building.

  • 1984

    FLC joined the Colorado State University system.

  • 1986

    Pizza BikeA group of mountain biking enthusiasts started the Cycling Club, promoting weekly on-campus races competing for pizzas.

  • 1991

    Environmental Center logoThe Environmental Center opened its doors in the attic space of the College Union Building.

  • 1994

    Skyhawks logoNative students, the student senate, and the Southern Ute and Navajo tribes pushed for the retirement of the “Raiders” athletic logo and mascot. In response, President Joel Jones changed FLC’s nickname to the Skyhawks.

  • 1994

    National Collegiate Cycling AssociationThe new FLC Cycling team won the inaugural National Collegiate Cycling Association mountain biking national championships in Castaic Lake, California.

  • 1999

    Men’s soccer reached the NCAA Division II national title game.

  • 2002

    Fort Lewis College became an independent institution governed by the Board of Trustees for Fort Lewis College.

  • 2004

    Fort Lewis College revived the tradition of Fall Convocation, at which faculty parade in full academic regalia to welcome and honor new freshmen and transfer students.

  • 2005

    Men’s soccer won the NCAA Division II National Championship. They will win titles again in 2009 and 2011.

  • 2006

    The first book in the inaugural Common Reading Experience was Professor Emeritus of English Leonard "Red" Bird’s Folding Paper Cranes.

  • 2007

    President Brad Bartel signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment pledging FLC will become a climate neutral campus.

  • 2007

    FLC Cycling finished #1 in the nation in USA Cycling's Division I. They will repeat that accomplishment in 2009, 2010, and 2011.

  • 2010

    Skyhawks women’s basketball reached the NCAA Division II National Championship game.

  • 2012

    The Rocket Composter was installed in the new Animas Dining Hall, eliminating 76,000 pounds of discarded food each year that would otherwise go to a landfill.

  • 2015

    FLC's first master’s degrees were awarded in Teacher Leadership.