TUTT LIBRARY SPECIAL COLLECTIONS CCRm
COLORADO COLLEGE ARCHIVES R79
ORAL HISTORY TAPE TRANSCRIPTIONS
GORDON, JOSEPH T., 1930-
Colorado College Assistant Professor of English 1964-1969
Associate Professor, 1970-76
Director, Southwest Studies Program 1970-1994
SIDE ONE - TAPE ONE
This is tape recording No. R79 of the Colorado College
Archives Oral History Project. I am Judy Finley,
interviewing Joe Gordon at Tutt Library, on April the first,
Born in St. Louis in 1930, Professor Gordon received
his B.A. degree from St. Louis in 1955, another B.A. degree
from DePaul University in 1958, his master's degree from
Colorado University in 1960 and a Ph.D. from Pennsylvania
State University in 1967.
A specialist in American literature, Professor Gordon
came to Colorado College as assistant professor of English in
1964. He was promoted to associate professor in 1970 and to
full professor in 1977. In 1970 and thereafter he became
both the creator and director of the college's Southwest
Studies program, a position that he held most of the time
until his retirement in 1994. One of his chief
accomplishments was the establishment of the Colorado College
Baca Campus in 1987.
Joe Gordon is also an avid tennis player, skier and fly
Good morning, Joe. This is a nice opportunity for me
to find out all the things that you remember about your
wonderful long career at Colorado College, and I would like
to start at the very beginning. I notice that you got
bachelor of arts degrees, one in English and one in
philosophy, and then went on to get your master's at CU and
your Ph.D. at Penn State. How did you evolve into wanting to
Well, the one in philosophy, I was in a Jesuit seminary
for two years.
I didn't know that.
Yes. And so the undergraduate degree for seminary is a
degree in Thomastic philosophy. So that's how that came
Then I spent a few years in the army, and when I came
back out of the army, I decided really, that I didn't want to
go on in philosophy, that I was more interested in
literature, because I spent most of my time in the army
And you mentioned if I wanted to talk about baseball,
one of the things that I did while I was doing some very low-
level semi-pro and minor league baseball was read books all
the time, because it was such a boring--you just sat around
in buses and one thing and another. So I read books, and
that's why I decided that I wanted to go into literature.
So when I got out of the army, a good friend of mine,
Father Richardson, who was a Jesuit, who was at DePaul
University in Chicago, who offered me a job to come up there
and finish up, or do my degree in English. So that's how I
got in English, and then I stayed with that, although I've
always used a lot of philosophy as well, and enjoyed it.
Uh-hum. And did you know right when you graduated from
DePaul that you wanted to go on and become a professor?
No, as a matter of fact, I didn't. As I recall now, I
think I got out of, finished up at DePaul and I was living
with a bunch of wild guys up on North State Parkway, and I
thought Chicago was a booming town, I would just stay around
there and have a little more fun.
But it was one of those periodic recessions--I forget
when I graduated--'57 I guess or something like that. I got
out in '58, I got out of DePaul and there was a recession
going on. So I applied for some jobs and didn't get hired,
[laughter] so I figured I'd better go back to school again!
Then I came out to Colorado Springs--my sister and my
mother and my sister's kids were living here, and I helped
them since my sister's husband died--he was a professional
Air Force officer.
And so when I wasn't in the army or when I was doing
this, I always came back here, to help Pat with her kids.
That's what I've been doing this last two weeks--they all
have children, my great-nephews and -nieces, and they come
out here skiing in the spring. So I go bumming around the
mountains with them.
Is your sister Pat still living?
No, she died. And Pat went to Colorado College. She
worked here at the library for awhile, for George Fagan, and
she went and enrolled at the college, and took come courses
in the English department, and enjoyed it here very much.
Her married name was White?
And then for one reason or another, she decided to
transfer up to UCCS--I think for money, primarily, financial
reasons. And she finished up her degree up at UCCS.
Well, so when you were going to graduate school in
Boulder, you spent a lot of time down here?
And is that where you met your wife, Diane?
That's right. I met Diane at the old Kachina Bar down
here--what hotel was that? The Alta Vista Hotel or something
I think so, yes.
And I was working at the railroad as a redcap then. I
used to work in the summers as a redcap, car clerk, and a
brakeman and everything else for a period of three, some
You were at the Denver and Rio Grande station?
Yes. That's how I got to be such good friends with
Frank Waters, as a matter of fact. Old Frank used to work as
a redcap over at the Santa Fe station.
In fact, I think that's why I was hired at Colorado
College, because Frank Krutzke, who was chairman of the
department when I was looking for a job, was a railroad man
with the old Pennsylvania Railroad. And Frank figured,
"Well, anybody that's a railroad man can't be all bad." He
was wrong, but nonetheless, that's what he thought.
So you went on to Penn State to get your Ph.D. but you
came here before you finished your dissertation, right?
Yes. I did. I came here in '64; I finished my
dissertation in '68. I don't know whether you and Dave went
--but the business of trying to finish that up with
three kids, and all the other stuff.
Yes. It isn't easy.
It's pretty hard to do.
What was Colorado College like when you arrived?
Describe a little bit about your hiring process.
Well, actually my hiring process was a little
irregular. There was a young man in the English department
at the time that I was just finishing up at Penn State,
before I was hired. I can't remember his name, to be honest
with you. I never met him. Who was peremptorily dismissed
around here, and I never found out what all that was about.
But nonetheless, he was.
I had sent a letter when I had sent letters out, I had
a chance to go to the University of Arizona--a faculty member
at Penn State wanted me to come down. He was going down
there--he was a big man in restoration and he wanted me to
come with him when he went to Arizona.
And for various reasons, my sister and my mother and
their kids, and Diane's family is all up in Denver, I would
have preferred to have come to Colorado College. But I sent
a letter, and never heard from them.
And then when this guy, Brice Harris was his name,
began to pressure me to go to Arizona, I called up, and
talked to Frank Krutzke, and I had met him. Because Di, of
course, graduated from CC, I knew Neale Reinitz. I said,
"What ever happened to my letter?"
He said, "Well, I think your letter was lost. I'm
sorry about that."
I said, "Well, that's all right."
Actually, I don't think the letter was lost. I think
they just didn't pay any attention to it. But then they
decided to get rid of this other guy. Whose name I can't
remember. You and Dave came back at the same time we did,
Right. I have no idea who you're talking about.
Well, at any rate, over Christmas I got a phone call.
I was home visiting my sister and mother over Christmas and I
got a call from Frank and he said, "Why don't you come down
and we'll talk about this?"
So I came down, and we talked about it. And they took
me in to see the president--there was no--
No search or anything. Things were a little easier,
free and easy back in those days, but they were in desperate
need of replacing somebody and they wanted to do it on the
quiet, I think. And so I was hired in a matter of a day or
Were you told it was a tenure-track position, or was it
just a sort of?
Yes, I don't know that I was told, but I think that was
the assumption. So as I say, we could probably go to jail
for this little shenanigan here, because we didn't go
through--I don't know whether they had the process.
No--I think that was pretty standard in those days.
The process was just less formal, less elaborate.
So you came in the fall of 1964.
Who were the most memorable colleagues in the
department at that time, and how were your introduced to the
Well, you are introduced to it, as you well know, by
just being thrown into it, and sink or swim. That's right.
When I interviewed, I didn't meet the other members of the
department. I was hired under the blanket, I guess would be
a way of putting it, so I didn't know any of them.
But there weren't that many at that time, and they were
all really pretty decent people. Bob Armstrong came with me-
-he was hired that same year.
Bob Adams was here. Bob Adams, by the way, was a very
popular and very conscientious teacher--well liked by the
students, and Bob was so conscientious that I think he used
to get himself into a nervous twit about teaching, to be
honest with you. He was never satisfied when he was working,
and everybody else was.
And he dropped out of the department after a few years.
And he went on, as you probably know, to become one of the
finest photographers working in the United States today.
I just saw a review of his latest book, which is
photographs by Bob Adams and poetry by Robert Stafford, the
poet, called Beyond the Columbia River.
And he brought that same fastidiousness that drove him
nuts as a teacher to his photography, only he could do that
without the distractions and the nervousness, I guess, the
same way. And so he's just become--well, his work's been
shown in the Museum of Modern Art and everyplace.
It's wonderful. Do you recall was he doing photography
while he was teaching?
You know, he really wasn't. He sort of backed into
photography while this was going on. I remember having
conversations with him, we would, you know, talk about
getting interested in photography.
He married a young woman who was a librarian, as a
matter of fact, here, at Colorado College, and I can't
remember exactly what her name was now. But they moved up to
Greeley, I think or someplace like that. She worked in the
library, and he went to work on his photography. So--
Isn't that something, the way he got started on that?
Yes. And of course, Neale Reinitz was here then. And
Neale was a great help to me, and a good friend. He was--
Diane had a lot of courses from Neale, and they were close,
and always have been. Tom Ross was teaching Shakespeare at
that time, a very popular teacher.
How about Lewis Knapp, was he still teaching?
No. Knapp had left. I met Knapp of course a couple of
times at various faculty parties, but he was gone. And oh--
who is the other guy?
George McCue had just left, and I had never met George
McCue, as a matter of fact. But he was gone. Bob Ormes was
around at that time, teaching.
And then we had about four women who taught part-time.
This was back in the days when we had English 107 and 108,
Introduction to the Literatures of Western Civilization, and
the history department had History 107 and 108, or some such
number, where they did a survey of western civilization.
And every student had to take this survey of literature
and a survey of history--which by the way I still think was a
great idea and we should do it again. We should do something
But those classes were a riot, and you know, I jumped
right in and started teaching the Iliad, which I hadn't read
in a million years. And just a survey--The Divine Comedy.
It was sort of sink or swim.
Then we used to have meetings every week. I think we
taught that maybe four times a day, 8:00 every morning.
Oh, my gosh! Because it was a required course.
Everybody had to teach it, I presume?
Everybody had to teach it, and everybody had to take
it. That's why these four ladies, who just taught part-time,
taught that class.
But then I remember we used to have to have a meeting
in the evening, during the week. And [laughter] I don't know
why we had to have an evening meeting, but we did, and I used
to think that was absolutely terrible, and everybody thought
it was kind of crazy, but you know, somebody, the students
back in those days, remember those meetings in the evenings,
because wild things would go on--you know, it was half party,
half class, to be honest with you.
And I used to sort of run by them and say, "Well, let's
just kick around what we've talked about, or whatever. If
we're reading Dante's Inferno, we'll talk about that--or
we'll talk about the modern world as hell, or something."
But everybody remembers that very fondly. [laughter]
I don't want to do it again, but they remember it very
Yes. When was the first female faculty member hired
sort of on an equal footing full-time with males? Who would
that have been? Maybe Ruth Barton, or she was part-time,
She was still adjunct. Ruth was one of those ladies
that I was talking about. And I just can't remember the
names of the others right now. But even though Ruth was an
adjunct, she was always more of a presence in the department
than that tie would indicate.
I guess I almost want to say Adrienne Seward, but we
must have had somebody around here before.
Was it maybe Ellen Rosenthal?
Ah! Ellen, well, but she wasn't--well, she was hired,
but Ellen didn't make it, did she?
No, she didn't. So it's been pretty much a male
department, like many departments on this campus, throughout.
I want to--I sort of have a memory of Jim Coleman being
hired as maybe the first black professor ever, ever. He was
in the English department, wasn't he?
He was in the English department. Jim must have come
about 1970, somewhere in there. Yes, he was the first black
faculty member we had. We had a Chicano faculty member back
in the days before we knew what Chicanos were, in the
political science department, Rudy--
Rudy de la Garza?
No. Rudy Gomez.
Rudy Gomez, yes. Well, when Jim Coleman was hired in
English, was there some specific effort to hire a minority?
Absolutely. Yes. It was a determined effort to go get
somebody, that's right, yes.
And was the process more elaborate then--when you were
By that time, the process was more elaborate. This
would have been, you know, about the time, frankly, Martin
Luther King's death, and the college, I think, did a lot of--
oh, not foolish things, but detrimental things.
You know, they just went out and said, "We've got to do
something." And they went out and tried to recruit
minorities all over the place. And it didn't really work
out, I think, very well. Good will, but not really thinking,
it seems to me.
Jim Coleman was part of that, and I don't mean to say
that about Jim Coleman. Jim had a lot of trouble at Colorado
College--there's no question about that. He, I think,
understandably, had a bit of a chip on his shoulder, so he
never was able to really feel comfortable with our students.
That's the fact of it.
But Jim was a hard worker, and a conscientious teacher,
and really a decent man. I liked Jim very much. And Jim,
you know, published that biography of the black writer, and
Jim has gone on and done really very well. I think he's
established a good name for himself, and he's in graduate
level now, so I think Jim is much more--
Right. Of course, that was an era when people from
various minorities didn't have much opportunity to get
advanced degrees, either--Ph.D.'s, or the applicant pool
wasn't very big in those days.
It was very small, and also they were put off by a
place like Colorado College, because not many of them had
ever had an opportunity to go to a very small, rather
elitist, frankly, liberal arts college. They had all gone to
state university, so when it came time for them to go out and
get a job, they just never felt right about coming to a place
like Colorado College. I remember Jim telling me that
The last time I heard from Jim was a couple of years
ago, when a mutual friend of ours, a very dear friend of
mine, Charles Nilon, who was a black man from the University
of Colorado, my thesis advisor, and I used to bring Dr. Nilon
down here to teach after he retired.
And he and Jim Coleman were close friends. When Dr.
Nilon died, Jim called me--he heard that somehow, and he
wanted to know all about it. He told me he was down in
Virginia, doing very well.
Well, that's good; that's good. Those first few years,
from '64 to '70, were quite a period of ferment at the
college, especially when the Viet Nam War heated up. Do you
recall anything in particular about the effect that had on
the curriculum and attitudes toward teaching and learning?
Well, I don't think, you know, in a way, the Block Plan
was sort of moving forward at that same time, and there was
really more interest, I think, frankly, in what was going on
with the Block Plan than anything else.
Because the Block Plan, I think more than anything
else, was what allowed us to open up the curriculum. For one
thing, it allowed more courses to be offered, so that you
could offer different kinds of literature.
You know, when you had the old semester system and you
were teaching three courses in a semester, you were pretty
well locked into quote, teaching the standards. But that was
The Viet Nam War opened up, did a lot of things that I
think were good for the college, and a lot of things that
were bad for the college. The breakdown of the grading
system, stopping insisting on foreign languages, and things
like that, I think were detrimental to the college.
But in other ways, it allowed us to begin to think
about the world in new and different ways, so it allowed us
to begin to teach different kinds of literature, which was
How did you personally adjust to the teaching under the
Well, I don't know. I don't think I really had that
much problem. I had the problem most people had, what you
tried to do was to put a semester's--you know, how can I put
the old survey of American literature from the beginnings to
the Civil War, and the Civil War to the present. How do you
do that in a block? And then gradually, we all began to
recognize you can't do that in a block.
So we divided it up into smaller segments. And it was,
you know, it was hard from going from what was essentially--
some of the American literature classes that I taught there
at the end of the semester system got, you know, got pretty
There was one class I had that had 93 or 95 students in
it. And that tended to be pretty much lecture. And you just
couldn't lecture in the Block System; I mean, you could do a
little of it, but you can't just talk for two or three hours
that you're in class with students.
So it was difficult, but it was all right.
The research I was doing shows that at that time there
was a lot of dissatisfaction with the way students didn't
know how to--the way students wrote. They didn't know how to
write, and this wasn't just in the English department, but in
I think the English department led the way for sort of
a writing program. Were you involved in that at all? What
do you remember about it?
Well, what the Writing Program was, was--this was after
we decided we'd drop old English 107 and 108.
Because in 107 and 108, what happened was the English
department accepted the responsibility for getting the
students writing up to snuff. Okay. Then when they decided
to drop 107 and 108, which I think most of us sort of thought
was a good idea, even though now I don't think it was a good
idea. I still think we need some sort of survey of Western
Civilization, but that's a big discussion in education in
What the English department did was say to the faculty,
"Okay. If that's the way you want it, we no longer accept
the sole or even primary responsibility for guaranteeing the
quality of a student's writing--and everybody else--history,
political science, chemistry, wherever, where they ask you
write, you have to take the responsibility of grading papers
on the basis of syntax, and grammar, and punctuation and
spelling, just as well as everybody else."
And I think, more or less, I think that's worked. I
think everyone joined in, and I think it's probably better
that they did. And then there were, of course, a series of
seminars and one thing and another to talk to other faculty
who hadn't been involved in this for a good number of years
themselves and most of them were undergraduates.
You know, "What do you mean by syntax?" Somebody in
And so there was a concerted effort, I think, on the
part of the English department to go out and talk to other
faculty about how to go about working on papers--logic and
organization and structure, and all that sort of thing.
Right. As I understand it, at first, when this started
a different faculty member was assigned to each block to sort
of oversee this. I'm not sure how well that worked.
I don't remember. I remember doing that sort of thing,
and talking to other faculty about how you go about it, and
recommending Strunk and White's The Elements of Grammar to
them instead of a big grammar. But I don't remember an awful
lot about that.
But again, it seems to me that it seems to have worked.
And it's nice that other faculty take the responsibility.
Well, it's really developed into a full-fledged program
with a Writing Center and everything, now.
It's really grown. Well, Joe, in the early 1970's, or
maybe the late 1960's, there seemed to be an interest in
regional studies or area studies, and I'm just wondering if
that's how Southwest Studies got started? What happened?
What's the origin of Southwest Studies?
Well, there really were several things that were in
Southwest Studies. Regional Studies was very important back
in the twenties and the thirties, when one of the classic
statements of the southern writers was a book called I'll
Take My Stand.
And the stand was for agrarian values as opposed to an
industrial, military and industrial complex--the thirties
would have been a little early for that, but nonetheless.
And Rockefeller got involved in it--the Rockefeller
Foundation. And then it sort of died out during the war,
everybody, you know, there was no time for regionalism during
the Second World War.
I guess I had a strong feeling about regionalism
because when I first came out here, I started travelling
around through the Southwest, and quite frankly, was
fascinated by it. And then there were several faculty here--
Art Pettit, in the history department. And Art was a grand
guy, as you remember.
And very much interested in the southwest, and he
published something at that time about attitudes toward
Mexican-Americans. He grew up in a border in California, and
sang Corridios, and sang in a Mexican orchestra and played in
a Mexican Orchestra.
Marianne Stoller was around and sort of [laughter][not
clear]. The famous story is they hired her husband, Buzz
Kutsche, and she applied for that job in the anthropology
department under her maiden name, and they didn't know that
they were married or something. I don't know if all of that
was true or not.
Buzz Kutsche himself, Paul Kutsche was involved in the
southwest. So there were people around here who were
involved in the southwest and knowledgeable about the
southwest and we all sort of gravitated together and talked
about trying to put some courses together. That was one
aspect of it.
The other aspect of course was the movement for getting
minority students into the colleges and universities, and
that whole firma with the death of Martin Luther King killing
and the killing of Bobby Kennedy.
Uh-hum, that whole period of '68, '69, '70.
And I remember the Modern Language Association as a
matter of fact sponsored programs around the country,
regional programs, where they brought faculty together to
talk about the integration of curriculum and diversity--I
don't think we used the word "diversity" in those days--of
faculty and student body.
Jim Coleman and I were asked to go down and talk to--I
think they held the regional meeting was in Albuquerque and
Jim and I went down together and I gave a talk about
Southwestern Literature, and Jim gave a talk on something
else. I don't remember what it was.
And so all of these things were sort of bubbling around
together. Now the other interest that I had from the word Go
was interdisciplinary studies. And I think I offered the
first interdisciplinary course in "America 1920's" about 1966
And I got A. Boderman, a sociologist, Bill Hochman, a
historian, Darnell Rucker, a philosopher, and myself. And
all of us worked together on an interdisciplinary course on
Well, the logistics of that was just impossible under
the old semester system. This would have been before we went
on the Block Plan. But somehow we did it, and it was really
And the title of the course was--
The 1920's, varying perspectives, or something like
that, of the 1920's. So interdisciplinary study, which was
of particular interest to me, and anthropology, because
anthropology is by definition an interdisciplinary program.
The emphasis, the growing emphasis on getting minority
students into education, and minority faculty into education,
and my own personal interest, which was encouraged by others
around here, like Marianne and Buzz Kutsche and Art Pettit,
in the southwest.
So that's how it all really got going.
There was some sort of a planning committee, I think,
about 1970, which you chaired. Was that for this kind of
idea that was fermenting, or was it mostly related to those
summer institutes, that seemed to be the first?
I don't remember, Judy. That's right. The Southwest
Studies Institutes, I think Buzz Kutsche offered the first of
those, which would have been in the late '60's.
I think it was 1972.
Was it that late?
At least that's the one, the first I could find. Four
sections of the first institute, Ecology, Pre-History,
History, and Seminar on the Arts of the Southwest. Does that
Yes, it does sound logical, so Buzz and Marianne must
have put that together. Okay.
Then the other thing I might mention, when you stop to
think about it, most of the scientists in biology and geology
are really regional scholars because most of the work they do
right here is in the region.
So we had another body of people that was interested in
it. Then the story that I always like to tell, that I--
Let me turn this tape over before you tell it, because
it's about to run out here.
SIDE TWO - TAPE ONE
This is side two of tape one of my interview with
Professor Joe Gordon on April first, 1996. Joe, you were
starting to tell a story, and please proceed.
Well, in the old days we had divided American
literature beginning to the Civil War and the Civil War to
the present. I had a large class, maybe, by that time we had
two sections of that. One of them was about 60 students.
And we held it over in the basement of Shove Chapel, and the
desk was up in front. The desk tiered up in the back.
And there was this young Indian woman who used to walk
into that class late almost every day, and she always sort
of--she had to walk down in front of everybody, and she had
an artificial leg, from her knee down.
Then there were two Hispanic kids in that class, and I
used to get started talking to them, and I was just starting
to get interested in some of the literature, Native American
literature and Chicano literature.
That's a dated term by the way, Chicano, Hispanic
literature of the Southwest. And so I used to kind of corner
these kids sometime and talk to them a little bit about it.
One day we got into a conversation, and they said, "You
know, we really enjoy your class, please don't get us wrong."
I think we were doing Melville or Hawthorne or something at
"But, you know, our people were over here writing
literature and composing coridos and songs and tales and
legends and myths and one thing and another a long time
before the Hawthornes even got on the boat. And why don't
you spend a little time talking about that?"
Which fit in with my thinking at the time, and
everybody else's thinking at the time. So I said, "Good
But that young woman I remember, kind of limping in on
her artificial leg, I thought took so much courage. And she
went on and has done very well, and has sent her son to
Really? Do you remember her name?
I don't. I don't remember her name, and I should. But
at any rate, I'll hear from her every once in a while. I
think I got a note from her about five years ago or something
like that, about the time that her son graduated from
So--I started integrating into those courses some
literature in a very stumbling fashion that maybe people
would say, Hispanic people. But--what came out of that, as
far as I was concerned, is that if you were going to put
together a program, or let me put it this way.
If you were going to go out of your way to recruit
minority faculty and minority students, you couldn't do it
just ad extra, because you wanted to do it. You had to
create a curriculum that honestly reflected their interest
and wasn't forced upon it.
And it was about that time that I talked to the
provost, Jim Stauss, who had come here from Grinnell College,
and Jim Stauss and Harriet had become aficionados of the
Southwest. And Jim travelled all over the southwest and was
buying rugs and pottery and pictures and one thing and
another, and I think it was Jim's dream that when he retired
as provost of the college, what he would do--well, I know
this. He bought a building; they were going to start a store
in Taos, New Mexico.
Sort of a little art gallery.
A little art gallery in Taos, New Mexico. Well,
unfortunately, Jim died of cancer before that ever came
about, but Jim was a tremendous help to me.
I don't know exactly how I got to be friendly with Jim,
but we always just sort of got along, and one day I was
telling him about trying to do all of these things that were
bubbling around in my mind.
And he said, "You know, there's a new organization that
just started in Washington, called the National Endowment for
the Humanities. And what they're doing is offering some kind
of grant, I'm not exactly sure, but something went across my
desk the other day, let me go look at that, and I'll call you
So he called me on a Thursday, and he says, "You know,
all those things you were talking about--interdisciplinary
programs, regional studies programs with minority emphasis,
and also field programs, because somewhere in all there, we'd
gone into the block plan, and all of a sudden, field programs
became very important in the block system."
He says, "The deadline to get this in is next Monday."
I think this is about on a Thursday.
He says, "Why don't you sit down and type up a proposal
of all the stuff--don't get nervous about it--just all this
stuff we've been talking about. Put it down, bring it in,
we'll get somebody to go over it and organize it in the
proper fashion and see what happens."
So that's exactly what I did. I went home that weekend
and I just put all my ideas down on a piece of paper and
turned that over to Jim, and he put it in the proper form,
and sent it in. And I forgot all about it.
That would have been sometime in the spring. I came
back ready to teach the next fall and had a call from the
president's office. And he says, "By the way, this grant
That would have been about 1973, I think, wasn't it,
the first one?
Might have been, '71 or '72. Somewhere in there.
So the grant came through?
The grant came through, and that was for what they
called the Development Grant, for $25,000, I believe.
Then is when I began to have all the meetings with all
the various faculty, and tried to talk to them. I went to
talk to a chairman of every department about borrowing some
of their faculty to teach courses that related to the
My idea was at that time if we could get every
department just to teach one class that dealt with regional,
we would then have created the beginning of a curriculum,
that did suggest the diversity of the southwest.
On an interdisciplinary basis?
On an interdisciplinary basis, yes. So that all worked
nicely. Then I spent a lot of time traveling around. I used
that money to travel around and look at other programs.
University of Arizona, Arizona State, New Mexico, Texas, and
what I found at that time was that there were Black Studies,
Chicano Studies, and Native American Studies programs were
started in all of those institutions, because of the uproar
of various minority groups.
But what the colleges and universities did, instead of
really doing, integrating them into the curriculum, they
said, "Okay. Here's an old house we have over here. We'll
call this, and we'll put a sign on it, 'Black Studies,' or
'Chicano Studies,' or whatever."
So it's segregated.
And it's segregated. "We'll hire one Chicano, one
Black, one Native American, and you guys go over there and
ferment and raise all the hell you want, but you really, but
you know, we're putting you off as best we possibly can."
But it had no impact, serious impact, on the
curriculum. Really, the philosophy of the institution wasn't
involved, and I said, "I don't want anything to do with
And Colorado College--and of course we had some of the
few students who were trying to do the same things here, and
I got in trouble with them, as a matter of fact.
I said, "That's just terrible. The program has to be
integrated into the departments because that's the way we are
at Colorado College. It has to grow out of the central core
of what the college is all about."
And interestingly enough, it's the students who didn't
like that. The students wanted their own building; they
wanted their own program, and I tried to explain to them that
happens when you do that that they really do become
So--I think we've applied--and shortly after that,
everybody agreed. The faculty voted on it, and said, "All
right. We'll give this Regional Studies program a try."
But I had no money. And you can't get anything done
without money. So there was--this was a developing program
at the National Endowment for the Arts, and they had given a
lot of these development grants.
And people were coming back and saying, "Well, we've
discussed all this, and we're ready to begin the development.
Then they came up with what they called the Program
Grant--it was $250,000 to implement the program.
That was from 1973 through '76--a three-year grant,
That's correct. And we got that. And then all of a
sudden, we were really in pretty good shape. Jim Stauss, by
the way, had an old house around here that he didn't know
what to do with, and they gave that to us, which is Dern
House over here, so we had a building. And we had an
administrative assistant, and then I had money.
And you were named the official director of the
I don't know whether I was official or not, but I was
director of the program.
Well, but you moved right into the Dern House at the
beginning. Is that right?
No. For awhile I had my office over at the--for the
development grant I had my office over in the English
department. Then for awhile I was downstairs underneath the
administrative offices, down where women's studies is now.
Oh, in Armstrong?
In Armstrong. And then--this house became vacant, and
let's see, there was a Spanish language program over there.
Who was that guy in Spanish language, that had some sort of
wild-eye program for teaching Spanish?
Yes, I can't remember his name, but I know who you
Well, when he left the college, Jim turned that over to
it. But most of all I had money so that I could go to
departments who could not put somebody teaching one course on
the Southwest and say, "Look. I've got money for you to take
time off, to hire a replacement for you for a block, to give
you money to travel, to get research materials, in other
words, bone up a course on the Southwest."
And we must have done that with probably about 10 or 15
And then they were able to come back and offer the
course in the department. It also gave me money for the
first time to bring visiting faculty in, especially under the
Block Plan--it was easier bringing them in for one block than
it was for a whole semester or a whole year.
And that really began. Then things began to move
Well, now, Joe, when all this started, were you still
expected to be teaching full-time in the English department,
or were you given release time?
Under the development grant, I taught full-time in the
English department. Then under the program grant, I think I
took like a department chair, one block off is the way it
worked, one block off a year. It surely wasn't nearly enough
to do all the work.
No. As the years went on, and that program grew, and
grew, how much were you teaching in the English department
Well, then, when I got the development--not the
development grant, the last, the challenge grant, which was a
$2,000,000--the $500,000--well, then I got out, Judy.
I'll tell you that.
Well, let's go back and sequence.
Yes, okay. I got out of the program. We brought in,
we began to recruit, we brought in Rowena Rivera, who's going
to be here over Easter, as a matter of fact. Rowena and I
have remained dear friends all these years. She's doing some
work for Devon Pena on his Sierra program, and she's coming
up here to interview some people. And she's going to spend
Easter with us.
We brought Rowena in. We brought a young man in, in
the sociology department, who didn't work out too well, but
he was here for a while. We brought in Shirley Hill-Witt,
who was what I call one of the northern, one of the--what was
she? From Massachusetts? Mohawk.
Then Rudy de la Garza came along. But all of a sudden,
now, we had--and there were some others, that I'm omitting
here, but we began to have a program that interested minority
Because they realized that they could come here and not
just be sort of an addendum to everything, but be a
participating member of a curriculum within a discipline. In
other words, they were integrated in the departments in ways
that would not jeopardize them as far as promotion and salary
and all that sort of thing was concerned.
And also, what they used to call a critical mass of
minorities. So when they began to come in, things really
began to move, because they had all kinds of connections in
the southwest, in terms of people that they knew, and
colleagues that they had gone to college with, and graduate
school with, and all that.
So we asked Rudy to take over, when I decided it was
time for me to step down again, which would have been about
1975 or thereabout, at the end of that development grant, I
had to stay with that until--that was the planning grant, til
that was finished.
And Rudy took over the program, and did a very good job
with it. And brought a whole new twist and skin to
everything that I thought was--
Was he the one that took a group down to El Paso for a
semester in El Paso?
No, that was mine. We took kids down to a semester in
Santa Fe, and a semester in El Paso, but it really kept that
aspect of it going. And then it just got to be too much of a
big logistical problem. He may have done the one in El Paso,
but I don't think so. At any rate.
Then Rudy went on to--got a better offer at the
University of Texas at Austin, and left the college.
Then didn't Val Veirs do the program for a while?
Then Val took the program over. Val had problems with
it. Val did a remarkably good job with the Native American
kids, and he got us involved in the "Tribes Program" which
brought Native American students here to study at Colorado
College in the summer. And that was really the beginning of
our creating a name for ourselves among Native American kids.
And of course, I developed a relationship with Peterson
Zah, who was at that time chairman of the Navaho Nation.
And I have to remember to call him "President" now, not
"Chairman." And he got involved, and started helping us. Of
course, now Pete is still on the board of trustees at
Colorado College, and that was a great assistance to us.
So Val is responsible for that. But Val somehow didn't
feel that he had--he didn't want to take time off from his
teaching, because I think he had some pressure, from the
Which is always a problem with these interdisciplinary
programs. And he just couldn't get things to work; he said
he couldn't get people to cooperate with him, essentially, is
what it boiled down to. And of course, what had happened is
the grants had dried up by that time, and he didn't have
that--what I called "sugar money."
Quite frankly, to help him. And the college was very
generous. The college--any program we developed with money
from the National Endowment for the Humanities, we had to
promise we would try to keep that going with college funds.
The college had been very generous about that.
But Val got frustrated, I guess, and blew his stack,
and said, "This isn't worth it. I'm quitting, and I think we
ought to just drop the whole program."
Which would have been what--about 1983?
Uh-hum. And then you came back in at that time, right?
They pulled you back in?
Well, what happened, it was really funny. He got all
the Chicano faculty together and at that time--Doug Monroy
was here by that time; Devon Pena was not. But the young
woman who was in political--
Christine Sierra was here. They got all those--the
dean got all those faculty together and they said, "If you
drop the Southwest Studies program, we'll probably leave,
because it's the one organization on this campus where we
feel we have a real say. And that money and everything is
there for us. And we have a critical mass."
So I guess Glenn said, "Well, who do you think ought to
take it over?"
They said, "Well, you ought to bring Joe Gordon back."
And Glenn and I talked about it, and I was reluctant, I
will be honest.
I said, "The only way that I will do it, is if you
allow me, and give me all the help you can, to go for a large
Which I knew National Endowment had just started. And
the challenge grants were--I think the highest you could get
was $2,000,000, and that would be a three-to-one match. You
would have to--we would have to raise $500,000. And they
would kick in with the other.
A million five.
A million five. And Glenn said, "Okay. We'll do
that." And he did.
And Barbara Yalich was a tremendous--both of them just
went out of their way to get this. And there are all kinds
of wonderful stories that Barbara tells about me--she could
never get me to ask for money and she always loved that. She
said by the time they were through with me, that I was
cornering people and tearing the billfolds out of their
purses, and their pants pockets.
She converted you into a fund-raiser?
Into a fund-raiser in a hurry, that's for sure.
Well, let me interrupt just at this time to ask you the
question, then. When you came back in 1983, from that time
on, did you still have to teach a number of courses in the
Oh, sure. I was teaching full-time.
I think it was '84, because Brian, my son, graduated in
1983, and I was teaching full-time in the English department;
Brian was here. So it was very shortly after that, '84, that
I came back and we applied for the grant and got it in 1985.
And then began a whole new thing as far as Southwest
Studies was concerned. We had money coming out our ears, all
kinds of programs that we promised to develop, and most of
them, we have.
And also, the outreach component, the Aficionados
Program, the newsletter, and all the things that have made
Southwest Studies high visibility.
And how did all those evolve? Were those your ideas,
Oh, I don't--yes--not mainly, but they, you know, yes,
I guess in a way they were. The newsletter, Bea Roeder was
my secretary for awhile, and Bea thought we ought to do a
little newsletter. I think it was Bea, and we just did a
little in-house xeroxed newsletter.
Which grew into--
When I came back before we got the grant, we started
that. The Aficionados program actually started because of
Barbara Yalich. I'd like to take credit for it.
We have the Friends of the Library, and Barbara Yalich
was then director of alumni, and Barbara asked me if I would
come over and talk to the Friends of the Library luncheon.
And I said "Okay, I would." And I talked to them about
Death Comes for the Archbishop. And everybody enjoyed that
so much. Barbara decided what the alumni ought to do is to
have a field trip to the southwest, with me leading the field
trip. And Wallie--Wallie and his wife both graduated from
Who are very active in Friends of the Library.
Very active in Friends of the Library--they were at
that time. Then he had a heart attack. God--that's
terrible, my mind.
I can't think of his name either. [Wallie and Harriet
Well, we'll both think of it. Wallie got very
interested in it, and he said, "Well, what we ought to do is
put together a little group of people and what will we call
I said, "We'll call them fans--aficionados." And so we
went on that field trip with about, oh, we probably had 30 or
40 folks, and it was just a tremendous success. So the
aficionados program really grew out of that.
I guess I was the one who came up and said, "Well, when
we're bringing up all these--when we got the grant, we're
bringing all these wonderful people in to teach at Colorado
College, let's just offer a lunch to this group of
aficionados, because it was obvious that a lot of people in
Colorado Springs were very fond of the Southwest and very
knowledgeable about the Southwest."
So that's how the Aficionados program started. You
know, I think at some of those lunches we'd have maybe 20 or
30 people. Now they have a luncheon, and they've always had-
Oh, 120 or -30.
So they've become very important.
And I noticed--God help us--oh, poor Suzanne Starr, one
of the loveliest women I've ever known, one of the Armstrong
girls, just died, and I noticed that she said in her little
obituary thing to leave any money that you'd want to donate
to the Southwest Studies Program.
I noticed that.
These friends. And of course when Nan [Ellsworth]
died, she did the same thing.
Right, right. Well, so the program was really going
great guns with that grant. You then established the Hulbert
Center, too, about that time. What was the relation of the
Hulbert Center to the whole program?
Well, we wanted--what I was very interested in doing,
since we had a regional studies program, was a tie to people
from the region, and when I was doing work back at the
Newberry one time, doing some, took a class back to the
Newberry Library using their materials on the west, one of,
the curator of the collection there and I got to be friends,
and he said, "I can remember old Hulbert coming in here and
Now this sounds terrible. "Hulbert," I says, "Who is
the hell is Hulbert?"
And he says, "Hulbert was one of the important
historians of the west."
And so I started, I said, "Well, would you bring some
of his books and let me look at them?"
And here I find out this gentleman is right here at
Colorado College, and associated with the Stewart family, and
Dorothy Bryson, and my god! The connections went on ad
infinitum from that point.
It just shows, in a way, I think, Judy, how little
attention the college has paid to its own past, and its own
Isn't that true?
Thomas Hornsby Ferril--I don't know whether the college
ever asked Ferril to come back down here and talk.
And there's one I missed--Frank Waters, I know they
never did. But I mean, every place you turn, some of the
most important writers have come from Colorado College,
nobody ever paid any attention to them.
It's just--it's always an indication, a little bit in
my mind, of the kind of inferiority complex about itself, and
always wanting to be a little Harvard. And gradually, I
think we are beginning to come through that now. Now that we
came in second in the hockey--[laughter]
I told the president the other day, I said, "Listen,
you should be happy. This is the one and only time you're
going to be first is with our hockey team." [laughter] I
don't think that went down too well.
But your establishment of the Hulbert Center certainly
did bring Archer Hulbert's works back into focus on the
Especially because people suddenly realized that
Dorothy Bryson had written half of them.
And they're so closely involved.
And that's one of the wonderful things that happened.
And the college began to recognize Dorothy as an important
part of its past.
So what exactly is the Hulbert Center? Is it mainly a
collection of documents?
No. The Hulbert Center is what we call the Southwest
Studies Program when I applied for the grant--the challenge
grant--I gave it that official name, again suggesting a
tradition of interest that in our stupidity that we had sort
of forgotten that it had always been here.
And then we find out other people around here who had
done monumental things in the Southwest, that nobody had ever
really paid any attention to. But it was here. And we began
to dig all that out.
So the Hulbert Center for Southwest Studies is the
official name of the program?
That's right, yes.
I see. Well, now, during this period when you had all
this wonderful money from the National Endowment for the
Humanities, you also got another grant from the Keck
Foundation, didn't you, right after that?
No, that was part of the match.
Oh, that was part of the match?
Now, see, the other thing that was happening at the
same time was the challenge process was going on for--what
was it? Gresham's big--
Oh, the big--
Fundraising thing, yeah.
Where we started off with $80,000,000 and then--
Capital Campaign was going on. So while I was
[laughter] trying to raise my challenge, the Capital Campaign
was going on. But that was all right, because anything that
I raised, could go to the Capital Campaign. It could go
toward the $40,000,000 we decided we were going to raise.
Well, where I really got lucky was that Barbara Yalich
and Margaret Hillman decided, "Well, we're going to keep
giving these dinners all over the place. Let's just take Joe
along, and let him talk about the Southwest Studies program."
I remember I was up in Boston on one dark and stormy
night up there where there must have been 300 people at the
Harvard Club or someplace where we were having a dinner, and
I started off my presentation, I said, "Welcome to you
newcomers, from Santa Fe, New Mexico, where we were a
government and a people long before you folks got over here."
And they allowed me to make plugs in New York,
Washington, Kansas City, St. Louis, I forget what other towns
I went to, for the Hulbert Center and fundraising for that.
In addition, Gresham always made his pitch for the Capital
One of the grants that we got from the Keck Foundation
and then director began to be called the W.M. Keck Foundation
Director of the Hulbert Center was the official title,
because they wanted recognition, somehow.
I see. So that grant stipulated that the name had to
be in the directorship?
Well, you were rolling in money, I guess.
Tell me about the Jackson Fellows program. Was that
related to some of the money that you had?
That was also part of the challenge. And that was
$300,000 from Helen Jackson, and I had developed a good
relationship with Bill Jackson, because of my interest in
Helen Hunt Jackson [laughter] his great-aunt--do you follow
And Helen Jackson was his aunt, and so when Helen died,
she left $300,000 to the college that Bill could stipulate
where he wanted it to go. And he said, "Give it to Colorado
College--I mean, give it to the Southwest Studies Program,
the Hulbert Center."
So that was another $300,000 in our match.
So that program gave released time to various faculty
for Southwest research?
That's right. That's right.
Was that the purpose of it?
It's essentially a block-release program that's awarded
through the dean. We just dove-tail it. We were able to
give, I think, ten blocks off a year to our faculty, instead
of applying to the dean, they applied to the Southwest
Studies Committee, and the committee makes the decision on
who will get the blocks of released time for their own
Then in addition to that, those people, instead of
writing a report to the college, as you do normally if you
get a regular block off, as you know, they would appear
before the other fellows monthly meeting and report on their
research to the fellows and give them a one-page piece of
paper that they were going to describe.
So that got people together. And then for our final
course for undergraduates, who were minoring in Southwest
Studies, which, by the way, we prefer rather than a major in
Southwest Studies, we have them attend this and read the
research that's being done by the fellows, so that they all
get involved, and try to get students and faculty involved in
doing common research.
That's a great cross-fertilization for ideas.
Yes. It's working out well.
Yes. Well, that's very interesting, Joe.
I think that there must have been some politics
involved now and then--I mean, you make it sound so smooth,
but there must have been a little bit of pushing here and
there, and jealousies, and so forth. I thought maybe you'd
be willing to share a little bit of that, now that it's all
water under the dam.
Yes. I hope it is.
Let me turn this tape over again, because it's running
SIDE ONE - TAPE TWO
This is side one of tape two, of my oral history
interview with Professor Joe Gordon on April the first, 1996.
Let's start this second tape, Joe, with a few tidbits
that you remember, influence of certain political pressures
upon your program and some of the problems that you might
have faced in getting things accomplished.
Yes. The first problem that we had, which really kind
of surprised me. One of the first minority faculty we
brought in, Pete Peterson helped a lot of this--he was
chairman of the Romance Language Department, as I mentioned.
A woman named Rowena Pierson, her name is now Rowena
Rivera. She was married; she was up at the University of
Colorado, and married a man named Pierson. When she divorced
him, she took her maiden name back, Rivera.
And Rowena and I were always close friends, but if you
recall, when Rowena first came, and God! She's just a great
She was about the only minority faculty here other than
Jim Coleman, and Jim never really sort of fit in too well. I
don't mean to say that--let me. He was always a little
But when Rowena came, all the minority students flocked
to her. I mean, you know, she was that kind of a person.
She had a house over here where summer session is now. I
forget what that house was. But you go in there day or
night, and there would be students in there all over the
place. And then she had to teach her classes, and all this
sort of thing.
Well, Rowena was very much in favor of what we were
doing. She was very much involved in it--was a member of the
Southwest Studies Committee.
But a few of the young radicals--some of them weren't
so young. Remember "Broadmoor" Joe--what was his name?
Broadmoor Joe, I want to say Gallegos--he was a bartender out
at the Broadmoor Hotel.
He was several years older, and subsequently was shot
in somebody else other than his wife's bed! [laughter] And
a guy named Josef Benevides.
Military guy. And all of them. And when we got one of
those grants, they said, "Well, we should control that money-
-not you. And we should control the program--not you." And
what they were trying to do was start a Chicano Studies
Well, Rowena was stuck. She had to support those
students, which I thought she should, if that was her job
under those circumstances. In other words, her priority
should have been to them, rather than to me. And she
realized that, too, but she stood with them.
And they said they were going to fight. They went--
they actually went to the National Endowment for the
Humanities when we applied for our second grant.
They got money from the college, from the president of
the college, to go to Washington, D.C., to fight our getting
the grant, saying that we were not giving them the money.
You know, we were doing our own thing, and of course,
the people at the National Endowment for the Humanities knew
what was going on, because they had appointed me to the Board
of National Consultants to the National Endowment for the
So I was there about every month, and traveling all
over the country for the National Endowment for the
Humanities starting Regional Studies Programs, or helping
Regional Studies programs.
And this was during--what administration would this
have been? I seem to think Nixon, and it was fairly
conservative. The gentleman who was the chairman of the
National Endowment for the Humanities and I knew each other
pretty well, and had traveled quite a bit together. And of
course, all the things they were saying, were in direct
opposition to what the National Endowment was trying to
In other words, they wanted strong curriculum; they
didn't want a lot of Chicano Studies courses, and so they
didn't get anyplace. But I thought it was really strange
that the college paid them fare to go back to--
Now would this have been when Lew Worner was president?
That's very interesting!
Yes, it is. I guess Lew was stuck, you know.
He was pressured, probably.
He was pressured. But at any rate, it didn't do any
good, and we got the grant, and that whole thing sort of
From that time on, we went out of our way--not that we
hadn't before--I don't think. We went out of our way to
encourage minority students to get involved in any way we
Did they sit in on any of the committees?
Oh, they sat in on all the committees. Oh, yes. And
they were--no, there was no problem there. Especially when
Rudy was director.
So it was a little bit of a problem having a white guy
be the director of the program. But the minority faculty
were in favor of that, because I got along well with all of
them; I gave them what they wanted, whenever they wanted it,
and although I think when I stepped down the next time, I
said again that I thought very definitely that we should have
one of our minority faculty take over.
The dean talked about opening it up for a nationwide
search, and in my estimation, I said, "I think that would be
wrong. We've got good faculty right here, who have been in
the program, who served the program and served the college."
So Doug Monroy took it over.
This was in 1994, when you finally left as director?
Yes, and Doug's doing a good job. So at any rate, that
was the first problem that we had.
The next problem that began to develop, and I guess was
always there, is that I was always fighting with Chairmen of
Departments, or Chairpersons of Departments, about allowing
faculty to teach in an interdisciplinary program.
And as you know, all departments think that their
curriculum that's listed, that came right on the backside of
the Ten Commandments!
And that would mean that So-and-so's gotta drop out of
teaching Biology 101, which we have to have, and so how can I
put them in a course on the geology and ecology of the
Southwest if they're going to teach Biology 101?
So that was a constant and on-going fight, and I'm sure
that I ruffled some feathers, I tried not to, with department
chairmen, about this thing. And that just always sort of
And there have always been faculty, you know, who
wondered about this whole thing. I think in a way they were
resistant to a regional studies program. My feeling was that
only by recognizing and being proud of where you are, and
flaunting that, can you ever really become a first-rate
Harvard did it, and Yale did it, and you know, their
regional literature, they made national literature. That was
Hawthorne and all the more regional writers when they started
And I think gradually, if anything, I've helped the
college understand better where it is, and to be proud of
where it is. And that I think has been a great help to the
college, and I notice now that things that come out from the
president's office or anything else, always talk about it.
The importance of being in the West. We are Colorado
College; we're not Grinnell or Carlton--fine institutions
that they are.
Yes. Well, I think the Southwest Studies Program has
definitely done that.
It's a good point.
So that was a problem that I had with a lot of the
faculty, too. I'd get a lot of you know, cheap shots.
I think it's hard to be an administrator in any
program. There are always people who resist whatever.
Well, that's true. And then if you've got ideas that
don't, you know, sort of fit in. Even though I tried it, I
explained before, make the program fit into what the
And I know I used to argue with that when I traveled
for the National Endowment, going to, you know, places all
over the country. And say the one thing it seems to me, you
need to understand is, what is the nature of your
institution? And then fit your program into what that is.
If you're trying to start a new program, that's
difficult enough, but if you're trying to start a new program
that re-directs the direction of your institution, you're in
trouble. You just can't do it.
Then the other--there's another problem that begins to
show up. See, one of the things that's happened in education
now, for good or bad, and I'm not exactly sure how I fit into
that--is the development of programs, cross-disciplinary.
Every special interest wants to have his program. Yes. So
when I started this, there were darn few regional studies
programs in the country. That's number one.
Number two; there weren't many interdisciplinary
programs anyplace around, for a lot of the problems and
difficulties that I've talked about before. But now--and
there were none at Colorado College.
But now, just go down and count all of the
interdisciplinary studies programs there at Colorado College,
and guess what they want? They all want the same thing that
Southwest Studies has. They want their own building; they
want a $2,000,000 endowment; they want secretarial
assistance; they want all the stuff.
And as I kid them, I laugh and say, "Well, I just got
to the trough before the rest of you. That's about the size
of it." And that is about the size of it.
But, you know, I was--Southwest Studies is the only
program that has a committee appointed by the Committee on
And just the year before I left, Women's Studies
attacked me on that pretty hard. And what they were--I don't
know whether they were trying to bring the Southwest Studies
down or trying to make a point about what should happen for
Women's Studies, but fortunately, they lost that battle.
But I can understand. Then I got involved in the last
year when the program was kinda going, I started the DIPS--
the Directors of Interdisciplinary Studies Committee to get
And so, you know, I got environmental studies, women's
studies, ethnic studies--I don't know, I can't even think of
them any more. Asian American studies, international
studies--you see what I mean?
Well, yes, and in a way it seems to me that it's a
reflection of the fact that the traditional disciplinary
separations of the old school, you know, humanities, social
sciences, natural sciences, that sort of thing is breaking
down. Knowledge has gotten too interrelated for that.
Well, especially, I think, Judy, on an undergraduate
level, where young men and women aren't ready yet to become
specialists in a certain area, as they will in graduate.
They want to see a broader spectrum; they want to talk
about issues from different points of view, and that's what
interdisciplinary studies does well. You know, as mad as I
would get at faculty over the years, and faculty can act
pretty stupid sometimes, including myself. All you've got to
do is go into a classroom and hear them, and you remember
what it's all about.
That's what's been wonderful about teaching in
interdisciplinary studies, because no matter how mad you can
get at some of the smallness of the faculty that you see
outside when you're sitting in a classroom, then you remember
what it's all about.
And I've always enjoyed it. You know, I'm teaching
again this summer, and the only reason I'm teaching is
because I'm going to get to teach with a geographer. I told
Bill [Hochman], "I'll teach this class for you if you'll let
me teach with a geographer, because I want to learn
So that kind of excitement, I think, has carried over,
and I can see where it happens in women's studies, and I can
see where it happens in environmental. Well, environmental
studies, how could you--you have to teach all these.
And we now have a major, for the first time.
For the first time. I think that's a mistake, but I
may be wrong. See, we never wanted to go for a major.
Well, at any rate, to make a long story longer than it
has already, I started getting a lot of static from all the
other directors of special interest programs, because they
figured somehow I had gotten all kinds of benefits that they
hadn't gotten. I don't think that's true. I think I got
there early, and I went out and helped raise the money. I
almost said I went out and raised the money--that isn't true;
we all worked together in raising the money. And that's what
they have to do.
That's what they have to do, right.
But see, the problem is, the bloom is off the rose,
because all of the things that I came up with were really
kind of new, and now it's just old stuff. In other words,
all of those programs do exactly what Southwest Studies does.
It's exactly the same process. Not that we were geniuses,
but we just saw the handwriting on the wall, and that's the
way it's going to work.
So--I got a lot of static from that, and I tried to get
these people together. I said, "Look. Here I've got money,
and I could use that money to help you. So I bring a Chicano
woman in here to teach a course in environmental studies and
I'm serving us all. We're all benefiting from this."
But at that point in their development, they were so
chauvinistic, I guess would be the way of putting it, they
didn't want to cooperate. That was a shame. We tried to get
a grant together where we would get money to say, "This is a
new direction of what's happening in colleges and
universities, and we have to find a way to fund these
programs properly, and intelligently."
But they weren't ready, and I don't know what's
happened to it since then--I got out of it.
That's real interesting. What you're saying here may
turn out, down the road, people listening to it 50 years from
now, may think, "Well, you know, this was the core of a major
shift in curriculum all over the country."
It may very well be.
You never know; you never know, because it's true.
And if we all cooperated, the DIPS, you know, on what
we were planning for the year, we could have helped each
other so many ways.
Right, right. But it's so hard for people to give up
their traditional narrow focus of what they think their
discipline is. Especially when they have to kind of think
somebody else is dipping into their discipline. So it makes
it very hard. And it creates--well, that's campus politics!
Well, it even got worse, because the next thing I'm
sure when we're finished here, to start talking about is the
Baca, and that's going to really hit the fan!
Yes, that's exactly the subject I was going to raise at
this point, so I'm glad you raised it, Joe.
The Baca Campus was a major decision for the college to
move to a whole new off-campus program which cost money and
was several hours away from Colorado College. It started in
1987. Can you just go through the whole gamut of the Baca
Campus and how it evolved?
Well, actually, the Baca area, on that first
Aficionados trip that we took, remember that I told you that
Barbara Yalich and I set up?
We stayed down at the old Baca Hotel, well, it wasn't
old, it was new then. Baca Hotel, and they were just
starting that whole development of the Baca. Maurice Strong
from Canada had moved in, and bought the Luis Maria de Baca
Land there, that large, wonderful ranch, 6,000 acres, that
runs from the Sand Dunes on the south to Crestone on the
And they were putting in golf courses, and townhouses,
and a hotel, tennis courts, airport. The whole thing. It
was going to be a full-service, destination resort area.
Maurice Strong, who was a Canadian gentleman involved
in all of this development, and other people, was on the
Board of Directors of the Aspen Institute.
The Aspen Institute was having problems with the City
of Aspen at that time, because there was no place for the
Aspen Institute to expand, and they wanted land to be given
by the city, arguing that, "Look, we've built all of this up.
You ought to help us out here. The taxes were getting too
And so there was a real rift between them. So Maurice
Strong said, "Well, look, I'll just give you--I'll give the
Aspen Institute 300 acres of the Luis Maria de Baca Land
Grant, and you can put up another Aspen Institute down in
Crestone, Colorado. [laughter] And that way, we'll just
kind of thumb our noses at the people in Aspen and show them
that we have other options."
You see what I mean?
So they went down there. And built the seminar
building that we have now, and the roads, and a lot of other
things. Then the development of townhouses continued again,
seeing this as a whole.
Well, the Aspen Institute didn't work out at Baca. It
never worked. The reason that I've heard from several
different people was that it was a wonderful experience, but
what do you do at night?
There's nothing going on at Crestone, Colorado.
Nothing going on, and you know, you can just hike so
much, and a lot of these people come from Chicago and New
York, and they were used to attending stimulating lectures
and music during the day, and then hitting the bars at night,
and having a good time [laughter] so you know, they were
going to talk to themselves down there.
So at any rate, I guess then they began to look around
to find out what they could do with that place, when nobody
wanted to go down there much any more. So they talked to
Gresham [Riley] and said, "Would you be interested?"
So in a conversation that Gresham and I and several
other people were having at a meeting about something else,
Gresham just all of a sudden said, "Hey, what do you know
about the Baca?"
And I says, "Well, it's a lovely place. It's just
He said, "Oh. Well, I want to talk to you about
And I guess he had just talked to Maurice Strong about
the possibility of the college looking it over, take it over.
Because the Aspen Institute couldn't use it.
I was on a field trip, summer institute down in Santa
Fe, and I got a call from Glenn Brooks, and Glenn said, "Joe,
can you get up to the Baca tomorrow, rent a car and just
drive on up there? We're all going to go down there.
They've offered us this thing for a three-year basis for $1 a
year. And let's look it over."
So we went up there, and I got in a car at 6:00 from
Santa Fe, and drove on up and met them. And we began to look
around, and you know, I was enthusiastic from the beginning.
It was marvelous.
Well, they must have thought of it from the very
beginning as associated with Southwest Studies. Obviously,
the location would lead to that.
That's why they called me.
And that's been part of the problem, even though it's
really not true, because they think that whole thing is
Southwest Studies. And we probably wouldn't have it if we
didn't have Southwest Studies, that's true, but it hasn't
worked out that way. It's used by more other courses than by
Right. But you were sort of the focus of it, I think.
So when you first saw the place, were you enthusiastic?
Well, I was enthusiastic when I first--I had seen it,
you know, going up to climb Crestone Peak and stuff like
Yes, I mean with Glenn and Gresham; the practical
aspects of it.
But when I began to look at it, you know, I didn't have
to worry about the practical aspect. The vice-president was
there, and the dean was there, and the president was there.
They had to worry about all that junk.
You know, I just said, "This is wonderful. If we can
get ahold of it, let's get it for three years for $1 a year.
What's it going to hurt?"
And boy! There was a lot of reluctance on all of this,
you know, how to work it out logistically and all that kind
of stuff. But finally, they said, "Okay. We'll go ahead and
accept it on that basis."
And I will admit that it was because of my obnoxious
persistence, probably, in a way, that they decided to go
ahead with the thing. The vice-president for business was
totally opposed to it, thought it was a bad idea.
Well, we worked out a deal with a woman named Sylvie
Nathessen, who is, her husband was one of the big shots in
owning theaters back in the thirties and forties and fifties,
in Canada. He was dead by the time I got involved in all
this, but he was a close friend of Maurice Strong--that
And Sylvie Nathessen, and really, several of Maurice
Strong's friends all bought those townhouses for $150,000
apiece when they put them up, fully furnished and everything.
They're really--well, not necessarily well-built, but well
Yes. They're nice.
They're attractive places. Well-thought out in terms
of the way they face this way and that way, and avoid the
crowds, and the restaurant was there, and all that.
So Sylvie Nathessen said--our problem was what would we
do with our students? She said she would give us three
townhouses that she owned at just cost, just to pay the
taxes, townhouse association fees and all that kind of stuff.
So she was going to donate these to you if you would
pay the taxes?
No, she would let us use them.
Loan them to you. Let you use them?
Let us use them, if we paid the expenses, was what it
boiled down to.
She said that she was not at that time prepared to give
them to us, because of certain cash flow problems that she
had. I don't know what they could have been; I visited her
twice in her apartment in New York--you know, on Park Avenue,
the whole bit, with Monets on the wall. [laughter]
She also has a place in Paris--she's from Paris,
herself. She has a place now up in Maine, on the coast.
We're talking mega-bucks, and you know, she still has that
$2,000,000 that she built down there that she wanted to give
us, too. They even talked about giving us the hotel, because
it had collapsed at that time.
But then we had to begin and look seriously at, you
know, what we could develop. I took the first class down
there, a seminar for English majors, in 1987, in February of
1987. And that was--you know, they grumbled, and they
moaned. And the course was called Wilderness in Literature
in Western Civilization.
And so I figured that there was a half-baked reason for
going down there, and so I said, "We're going to go."
And they said, "Well, I'm getting married, and we're
all seniors and this is the last semester, and one thing and
another." Ahhhh, they didn't want to go.
And I said, "You're going. That's it." We read the
Iliad, and I said, "You gotta also read the Odyssey and give
me a ten-page report on the relationship of the Iliad and the
Odyssey if you can't go."
So they all decided that they would go. And it was a
They loved it.
They loved it. They just had--snowball fights, you
know, in the middle of the night. It was just everything you
wanted to have happen in a class. And they were great. The
kids were absolutely great.
They came back and a young man named Owens, who just
sent me a manuscript, some short stories he's writing, came
back and wrote a big article in the Catalyst, on Baca.
And Judy, it just went from there.
Everybody wanted to go down.
Everybody wanted to go to the Baca. It just literally
went from there. I didn't encourage it. I mean, you know, I
tried to help work out the logistical details, because then
the college turned it over to Southwest Studies, just because
they didn't have anybody else--it was a new experience.
"What do you do with it?"
So they said, "Give it to Joe."
So the students started hassling the faculty about
taking them down there, and it just, you know, it's full all
the time. It's become, I think, one of the kind of, well, as
Tom Cronin said, "One of the gem experiences." For his
students at Colorado College.
And not only for students, but for alumni groups, and
all sorts of weekend retreats for various campus meetings and
even families, at times.
I'm going to be going down with the 50 Year Club, in
May. I've been down with two other 50 Year Clubs in the
past. More and more I think now, classes that are having
their 25th reunion want to go down and spend a couple of days
before they come up here.
We were with the first group, 1967, John Chalik and Tom
Wolf and that class down there where they have 25 people.
Then they came back up here to their class reunion.
They said the wonderful thing about the Baca is that we
actually got a chance to sit down and talk to each other.
Whereas here it's cocktail parties, and you're standing
around, "Well, how are your kids, you know?"
And I remember when I was with them down there, you
know, they'd sit at the table after dinner for two hours,
talking to each other.
That's what it encourages.
It's a great place.
Well, Joe, can you tell a little about the decision to
build the lodge, the dormitory space for students?
Okay. Now, what happened was Gresham came down with a
couple of bottles of good wine and we had a meeting with
Sylvie Nathessen [laughter], we were going to ply her with
drink and seduce her, if we possibly could. She's a woman of
about 85 years old, but so beautiful. She's just class;
she's just a wonderful gal; I love being around her.
But we couldn't do it. She said she just wished she
could do it, but she couldn't do it. But she would continue
to lease us those three at the same rate, which was really
pretty good. It worked out pretty well.
Then--it gets really kind of complicated, and I don't
know whether you want to hear it. It's kind of interesting
in a way. At the very last minute, after the third year,
when we were ready to take over, the Aspen Institute decided
that it was really short of funds, and that they really--that
somebody had offered them $100,000 for that property.
Three hundred acres?
Three hundred acres, with the building, the seminar
building and all that. Somebody had offered them $100,000.
And Gresham went to meet the president of the Aspen Institute
in a hotel, or in an airport someplace, because neither one
of them had any more time than that.
Said, "Wait a minute. You told us that you would give
us this after three years."
And he said, "Well, here's our problem. We just ran
out of money, and I guess you could go to court and all but I
don't know whether, how all of that would spin out."
And so Gresham came back and told me this, and I said,
"Let's sue them."
And he says, "Oh, we can't do that."
Guess who came up with $100 [sic] to match it?
Jerry McHugh, that's right. He was a trustee.
That's one of the things that I'd done is gotten Jerry
down there several times to the place, and he loved it, and
so did Annabel, his wife. So when push came to shove, good
old Jerry McHugh came up with $100,000.
Uh-hum. And how about the money for the Baca Lodge?
How did you get that?
Well, now, that's--
First you got the land, and the seminar building.
So that's all you really owned at that point?
Really, in a way--now, thinking back on it, I can see
why people were mad at me. It was devious. There's no two
ways about it, because I sucked Gresham in on this [laughter]
one step at a time. And it was really kind of like, you
know, Napoleon going into Russia. Although Gresham knew what
he was doing, there's no doubt about it.
But you know, the first thing I said after this, "Well,
now, Gresham, this is great, but what bothers me, we've got
the land, we've got to put these kids someplace. Where are
we going to put them?"
So we said, "Well, we've got Sylvie's places." That's
when we went and talked to Sylvie to see if she would give
them to us, and she said she just really couldn't do it.
So Gresham decided, "Well, we've obviously got to build
something. That's all there is to it. We've got to put
And of course, Barbara Yalich is hovering through all
of this. Barbara was very much in favor of it, and Barbara
talked to, and I talked to Edith Gaylord Harper about the
whole thing, and most of all explained to Edith how wonderful
the whole experience was for our students, and for our
faculty, to be down there.
Well, and so when Edith came up for one of the trustees
meetings, she got me and Barbara to come out to lunch, and
she said, "Okay. I will come up with $40,000 for
architectural designs for this, and land use and all that
sort of stuff, just to keep things going here."
And so then we got all the students, and we had a whole
series of meetings, and asking everybody what they wanted.
We wanted to replicate as best we could the family-like
quality of the townhouses, because that is what was really
That was the attraction?
Students liked that very much. So we wanted to be able
to keep that, but maybe make the buildings a little larger,
for economic reasons, so we figured 12 instead of nine we
could put in the townhouses, we could put 12 in the two
I want to turn this over, Joe.
SIDE TWO - TAPE TWO
This is side two of tape two of the Colorado College
Archives Oral History interview with Professor Joe Gordon.
Joe, you were talking about the plans for the lodges, the
student dormitories at Baca. Continue with what you were
Let me go back to one thing. I want to tell you this.
Guess who it was that offered the $100,000 for the property
that we had to outbid. Do you have any idea--I shouldn't do
this to you while--
No. I'm curious. The Aspen Institute said they had an
offer. Who was it from?
The Manitou Foundation, who was Hannah Strong's
Oh. Are you sure that wasn't a put-up job?
No. It wasn't a put-up job. I think what happened, to
be honest with you, that at the last minute, she just
couldn't give away, not her townhouse, but her seminar
building and all that stuff. And she realized that now the
college was moving in, that she and her husband were out. We
were going to be the major players in the area, she just came
up with that $100,000.
There are all kinds of other interesting ramifications
about that situation that I will not go into now, but it also
relates to him being the director of the United Nations
Environmental Program in Buenos Aires, okay?
And the AWDI [American Water Development Incorporated]
project, which got involved in all of this, which somebody
should sit down and maybe we ought to do this--or get
somebody else to do it, and talk about all of that.
Because that's important not only in the history of the
college, but the history of the San Luis Valley and the
history of the west. Because that's the last great aquifer
left in the west. So that's an interesting story.
Talk about politics.
Okay. At any rate, when, Gresham gave the go-ahead to
build--notice he used the word "dormitories." I would never
allow anyone to use that.
That's the wrong word, but for posterity's sake.
Lodges. They need to know what a lodge contains.
One time Gresham got mad at me, because he used the
word dormitories when he was talking to some donors, and I
And he said, and he looked at me and he said, "Well,
you always--what's the difference between a lodge and a
And I said "About $35 a square foot." [laughter]
So at any rate, we got students and faculty and
everybody involved, so we could replicate as best we possibly
could the spirit that had been so successful in the lodges.
And we didn't have any trouble raising the money.
I explained all this to Edith. Barbara and I went down
to see her in Oklahoma City and Edith said, "All right. If
it's worked out as well as you think it has. It seems to me
it's worked out that way. I will give you"--I want to be
careful here--she said, "I think I'll give you $250,000. And
that'll get you started."
And Edith always gives with a match, you know. And we
figured it was going to cost us half a million dollars to put
those lodges up. And she says, "I'll give you that."
Then I was asked to go to the Grounds Committee of the
Board of Trustees, or whatever it is. You know, the
Buildings and Grounds.
Buildings and Grounds, which Jerry McHugh was
[laughter] the chairman of at that time, so I had somebody on
the inside. And I went in and made my plea for all this.
And I had already talked to the Board of Trustees one night
at a dinner that they had here.
I got a note from Gresham and he said, "You could sell
ice boxes to Eskimos, Joe."
I really did. Well, I think you and Dave were there.
We were there! [laughter]
[laughter] I really laid it on heavy that night, I
admit. But it sold. They bought it.
And were you able to build it for the budget you
Well, this is the rest of the funny story. After the
Board of Trustees meeting, where Barbara chided me, she says,
"You cry like a baby--I was embarrassed."
The Board of Trustees went over for their final meeting
with a mock-up that I had given them of the Baca, and I said
I needed another $250,000.
And that's the one where [Thayer] Tutt and oh--who else
was it? It was young Tutt and--here I go again on the names.
I don't want to forget the names that [not clear] . The guy
who graduated from CC who's on the--
Director of the El Pomar Foundation?
Yes, Bill Hybl, yes, graduated with you and Diane,
didn't he? Somewhere in there.
Well, at any rate, Dave must have been at the Board of
Trustees meeting. These two guys get up--I wasn't there;
this is the story I heard. They took the model and they went
out into the hall and they were out there for about ten
minutes, while the rest of the Board of Trustees were sitting
They came back in; they said, "We've decided that this
is exactly the kind of thing that Russell and Thayer Tutt
would have approved of, so we'll give you the other
That was nice!
So--we had our $500,000. And now--
You can sell ice boxes to Eskimos, Joe!
Well, what was funny, now, is here's is where the
faculty became to get involved. Here comes my next big
controversy with them. Because you know, they argued that
money should have been used to pay for faculty and etc.,
All of which may be true, but you've been involved with
the administration as long as I have, you realize we wouldn't
have gotten the money for that.
You have to take the money for what they'll give you.
And what you have to do is to try to provide what you think
is in your estimation the thing that is best for the college,
which is a guess, and say, "Will you support this?"
And so the faculty that got on my case about it, and I
know a lot of them were--they're still friendly, but a lot of
them really resented that fact. You know, who is this? Who
is this Southwest Studies Program, or what is the Southwest
Studies Program, that they're able to do all this.
Well, as we said, "It's not the Southwest Studies
Program's special province. Everybody uses the Baca."
So I would say that was, when you've got something as
good as that, it's easy to raise money for it. That's part
of the problem, I guess.
Well, now something like 1,000 students a year use the
place. Isn't that true?
I don't know. I haven't been involved here lately, but
I know that it's almost impossible to get a reservation down
there, unless you apply a year ahead of time or something
Well, it's certainly turned out, I think--at least in
my mind to be as close to heaven as you can get on this
I think so.
And Joe, I know you must feel an extreme sense of
satisfaction, in spite of some of the frustrations you've
Are there any ways in which the objectives of the whole
program have not been met? You obviously are out of it now,
but is there anything that you think they ought to work more
towards in the future?
I would hope that the Regional Studies Program, the
Southwest Studies Program, would find new and creative ways
to situate Colorado College in the west. And to really
pursue through faculty and student involvement in the great
tradition of Colorado College. The leading position Colorado
College plays in the west, and I find myself, in, for
example, the whole area of natural history.
Now getting Ann Zwinger, you know, to come aboard, and
join us, and participate in all this. And now young Tom Wolf
is teaching here, just did a book on the Sangre de Cristos.
And Russ Martin is teaching here, and Russ Martin did a book
on the grand canyon.
You know, when you stop to think about three of the
great books written on the Grand Canyon have been written by
people associated with the college--Ann Zwinger, Russ Martin
and Frank Waters.
And if we could begin to pursue that--not--let the
college--you know, not say--I want the college to go on and
grow and become an international institution, as well as
everybody else does. But one part of the college, just
really developing in a very intelligent way, what a wonderful
connection in terms of people and history it is in the west,
I think that will strengthen rather than weaken our position
as a national institution.
That's what I would really like to see happen. We'll
see some of that naturally occur.
The other thing I would like to see occur is that we
begin to recruit minority faculty and students. Primarily
through our associations with the southwest. Because it
makes more sense to do that--to bring a young Chicano kid
from Albuquerque through the Baca to Colorado College makes
more sense that to bring a black kid from Philadelphia here.
Not that I want to deny the black kid from Philadelphia--
please don't misunderstand.
But what I want to try to do is to create an
environment that ensures success rather than failure. And I
think we have a better chance with those kids--and faculty
too, coming out of the southwest. Most of our minority
faculty are Chicanos, and they have come through that area,
because they feel at home here.
So those are the two areas that I would like to see
Okay. Well, I think we'll close this tape off, unless
you have something else you want to bring up, Joe. I mean,
we can't cover everything in these two hours.
But maybe you would just give a few closing words on
what your career at Colorado College has meant to you
Well--it's been very satisfying. When I traveled a lot
for the National Endowment for the Humanities--any time you
deal with this kind of group of high-powered people that you
have with faculty, most of whom are, as I said, really
brilliant within their classroom.
But sometimes, you know, they don't have much power
outside the classroom, so they get disgruntled about some
pretty ridiculous stuff, it seems to me. And I've done it
too, I'm not just saying that. But any time you have to work
with a great group of people like that, it's satisfying.
Especially when you get a chance to teach with them.
But when I--the English department had a little sort of
afternoon beer bust for me as a retirement party, and I said
the one thing that I really enjoy about the college is that
when I traveled for the National Endowment, all the
institutions that I saw, you know, from small liberal arts
colleges in Maine to big universities in California and the
South, no matter how aggravated I would get with faculty and
administration at Colorado College, I was so happy to get
back to this place, after I saw the baloney that they had to
put up with at big public institutions.
I said, I have never been asked by any member of the
faculty or administration when I didn't hold a class because
I was going to do some work in Maine or someplace for the
National Endowment--never asked.
The assumption is that I would take care of that with
my own students in a responsible fashion. I said, "Boy!
That's a kind of freedom that you just don't find many
And the other thing was that if you had a good idea,
and you were willing to fight for it, at Colorado College,
you had a chance of making it. That people were fair enough,
and the administration was open enough, to say "Okay. Go see
what you can do."
You can't do that in big universities much because
there's just too much inertia out there working against you.
So as far as a place where you can really build on your
dreams, Colorado College, it seems to me, is remarkably good.
Yes. Well, you've left quite a legacy, and I
appreciate having the opportunity to talk to you about it
today, Joe. Thank you very much.
Thank you, Judy.