Don Siek Interview With Larry Gurreri in 1998
Q (question Larry Gurreri)
DS (response from Don Sieck)
(Interview was taken on an audio cassette transcribed by student staff August 23, 2006)
(Transcribed by Jack Cash, 8/23/06)
Q – You started when?
DS – My contract started in October 1968. Prior to that Dr. Hatten asked me come up in Sept. and write the first budget for the college which I did.
Q – What was your position then?
DS – I forgotten what I was called. I guess Director of Administrative Services was the first title I had.
Q – I’d like to know about the early years Don. Any anecdote, anything you can remember (that is positive)?
DS – Well, I guess the college was immediately popular. In the fall of 1969 we had 980 some students – first day. Well, we had three buildings over on the West side.
Q – That’s what I was wondering. It was at the Safeway building, the library, you could see where you parked your car – you could see it outside there – three buildings.
DS – They only had three buildings at that time. By the time we left there in 1978, when we moved out here I had twenty three buildings and thirteen landlords.
Q – Wow
DS – We pretty well covered the West side at that point in time. Well I would think so!
Q – I understand the old campus was called, was it Safeway U or Safeway Tech?
DS – Both. That was a nickname given to it by the students.
Q – Was it also called Highway Tech?
DS – I have not heard that term.
Q – But Safeway – old Safeway building.
DS – Yes.
Q – Do you remember the first graduation? How many people were there?
DS – Well, we didn’t have graduation for a number of years after we formed.
Q – Well, didn’t they go to a restaurant for commencement? No graduation – no formal graduation?
DS – No formal graduation during the first few years. I think it was, and I can’t remember for sure, but I think it was probably five or six years.
Q - What did they do? They didn’t do anything those first few years?
DS – They didn’t do anything – they handed out diplomas.
Q – Did they go out to eat, like maybe go to a restaurant?
DS – Not to the best of my knowledge.
Q – Fred gave me a kind of capitulation of the community college movement in Florida and other places and how we fit in on that. But I knew that you would have a lot of ideas – do you remember the administrative offices at 5 W. Las Vegas?
DS – Yes, I do.
Q – I understand there were some meeting help there?
DS – Yes. A lot of meetings held there. For the first nine months that the college was in existence that was the only facility we had. Of course, we were remodeling facilities out on the West side for classes the following fall.
Q – You didn’t have classes there?
DS – No. There was a conference room there and that’s all (along with the offices). And who was there? Before we left there and moved out to the campus. Dr. Hatten, Wilmer Newcomer was registrar; Frank Ross was director of student services, myself, Betty Fisk and Carol Van Lu, Leonard Smith and Fred Struthers, Beverly Baker.
Q – Lou Cortez?
DS – No, Lou wasn’t there.
Q – He said he was there at the beginning – his name was mentioned in the first catalog.
DS – Well, he was there when classes opened. He was hired for the first fall. But this was the year before classes opened.
Q – Can you tell me about the planning and what the room was like – tables, chairs, anything about the walls, blackboard? Do you remember anything like that?
DS – Where at?
Q – 5 West Las Vegas.
DS - 5 West Las Vegas?
Q – What it looked like.
DS – Well, it’s a 4 story building I believe.
Q – I’ve seen the building.
DS – The FBI was on the fourth floor.
Q – Ha – to keep an eye on us?
DS – We had most of the first and second floor. And right in the middle of the building was a large room which we used for a conference room. It was all glass on the south side – looking out towards the mountains. Very nice facility really.
Q – You could see the mountains?
DS – Yes.
DS – We had half of the first floor, that’s where the president’s office was. At one time my office and Don Cortier was there for awhile.
Q – What was Don Courtier’s title?
DS – He was our business manager.
Q – Business manager – I think I remember Don, yep.
DS – He been gone quite a while now, he lives in North Carolina.
Q – So you’ve described the room – do you remember the table, the chairs, the color of the walls?
DS – I don’t remember the color of the walls. I can remember the table and chairs. The chairs were somewhat similar to these. The tables were just big, conference room type tables.
Q – Oak?
DS – Oak veneer.
Q – This type chair?
DS – Yes, and they had metal/steel legs. I suppose they were chrome or brushed steel, or something of that nature. All of the furniture originally was, I forgot the brand – like steel case furniture and it was all steel desks and walnut tops.
Q – Did we have file cabinets?
DS – Oh yeah. File cabinets, same color – it was an ugly green color.
Q – Is that called olive drab, like the army?
DS – No, it was a brighter green than that – not quite as ugly as the army.
Q – How were the classes arranged on the wall? I understand - we didn’t have computers in those days, but classes were arranged on a blackboard or something?
DS – Yes, that was Fred Struthers idea. As I remember, he did it with magnet clips and had a big magnet board they used to arrange the classes on. At the top, as I remember it, they had the times of the day and on the side was the rooms that were available and they just plugged them in and that way they didn’t have any problem with duplication.
Q – Those must have been exciting, heady days ‘cause you were starting a new venture.
DS – Yes, it was exciting, it really was. It went awful fast because in nine months we had to have those buildings rented, remodeled, and furnished and ready for classes.
Q – The ones on Bott?
DS – Yes.
Q – Do you remember the – I don’t know how much of this I’ll use, but the beginnings of the faculty association, because I hear that Lloyd Evans, Jim Green, and so on wanted to organize the faculty?
DS – And they did. That happened rather early in our history. John Huff was a big mover in that organization too. Oh, I can’t name the people – there was a fellow by the name of Bob Leonard who you may remember.
Q – Yes, I do. I don’t know if Roxanne was there in those years.
DS – Roxanne was there.
Q – Jim Green.
DS – Jim, yes.
Q – Now Jim Green tells me that, whether or not it had anything to do with… the history faculty was fired at one time, the entire faculty.
DS – Didn’t happen, but it was suggested. It was suggested – drop history out of the curriculum.
Q – That what?
DS – Drop history out of the curriculum.
Q – Whats interesting is Dr. Hatten was a history major.
DS – That’s true, that’s true.
Q – And the statement I heard was we don’t need history at this college.
DS – Well, obviously, it would have been similar to that because it was his recommendation.
Q – And then didn’t Jim Green and some people go on TV and radio and cause some kind of a flack?
DS – I wouldn’t be surprised, there were a lot of things of that nature that happened in that timespan.
Q – Well, we still have almost thirty years, twenty-five, twenty-six years later still have a faculty association connected with CEA and NEA. How strong or viable we are I don’t know. Because we’re down to about 45…
DS – Well, anyway, it must be a worthwhile organization if it lasts that long.
Q – Well, well, we’re backed up by CEA and NEA, and it gives the faculty – protects them from capricious letting go – being let go. We’re still there. And at one time, and I think Fred remembered this, there was an attempt to do collective bargaining throughout the state. That did not go – that failed.
DS – The legislature would not put up with that.
Q – We still don’t have it.
DS – We still don’t have it. That’s right.
Q – Well, this is that classic class almost between administration and faculty. I think you’ve always had it – there is a commonality, you know we are here for students, but you are not going to have full agreement.
DS – We should all be on the same team, obviously. But there are elements that tend to divide, too. The faculty always wants more power, more say in whats going on, and often times from my experience as an administrator that’s not very practical because they don’t know whats going on and there is no way to disseminate the information that is necessary for that type of thing.
Q – So, so, the faculty probably believes that the president serves at their pleasure and then vice versa.
DS – I guess that’s true.
Q – Well, that’s very interesting, anything else you remember about the early days?
DS – Well, the remodeling was a very interesting thing – one of our first buildings was a storefront at 2500 West Colorado Avenue and that’s an L shaped storefront with two levels and a full basement and our first science lab was in the basement.
Q – Do you think this is allowed, or is it the other side? It goes like that - that should be allowed, shouldn’t it?
DS – I don’t have any idea.
Q – Yeah, I would think so, I would think so. So, this was on, this wasn’t 5 Las Vegas, this was what?
DS – West Colorado Avenue, 2500 – it was called the old town center.
Q – Oh, oh, that’s the Bott, what I call the Bott building?
DS – No.
Q - Safeway, or was this another one?
DS – Safeway is on Bott St. This was north of Highway 24.
Q – Now what, were classes given there?
DS – Yep, yep – we had our data processing labs there, we had our science and math department there, and generally speaking a great part of our regular classrooms were in that building.
Q – We didn’t divide in those days academic versus occupational?
DS – Ah, yes we did – we sure did. In the Safeway store, primarily that was occupational classes. Electronics was there, police science was there, the nursing department was there.
Q – Fire science?
DS – Probably fire science. I can’t remember when fire science came into the curriculum, but the library was there, our central switchboard was there, our bookstore was there.
Q – Yes, I remember the bookstore. Do you remember the first librarian, Brokley Larson – he was the first librarian.
DS – Yes, and Phyllis Smith worked for him as a secretary.
Q – Okay, I didn’t know that.
DS – Yep, she came down here from Montana – four little bity kids and a new divorce. She went to work for Berkley and they were there, I think they were hired in June 1969, before the college opened, so they were at 5 West Las Vegas also.
Q – Wonderful. I work with Berkley and Bergeson was there, and then at one time when Janile came in, Carise as a dean, an associate dean, Berkley and I switched places, references, and I was in technical services and Berkley was in reference and we just changed places at the discretion of…
Q – Did you hire him, Janile?
DS – No, no.
Q – Oh, I think Fred did.
DS – Fred probably did – I can’t remember what year Janile came here
Q – Oh, oh, well we have it down. Trailor, Dale Trailor, did you hire him?
DS – I was a part of that hiring, yes. He was hired by the president.
Q – He retired and he is in town here.
DS – Yep, I see Dale once or twice a week – we play golf together a lot.
Q – Oh, wonderful – how was he since he lost his leg.
DS – Well, he is doing fine. He has done quite a lot of traveling since Mary’s been gone. He just got back this past week from a cruise through the Panama canal.
Q – Oh my gosh, how wonderful.
DS – He really had a good time. I’ll see him tomorrow, we belong to the same Lions club.
Q – Tell him I said “hello” and I might want to talk to him, too. I have fond memories of him. He is the one who called me, I mentioned Neal at San Francisco at an ALA – some months later Dale Trailor called me, I’ll never forget it, and offered me the job of technical services.
DS – Oh, is that right?
Q – Yes, Dale hired me.
DS – Well, Dale is doing okay. We belong to the same Lions club, we’ll be together tomorrow.
Q – And you said you see McGinnis?
DS – Yep, yep. He was here last summer, his son Mark still lives here in town. Mark was remarried last July and Don and Shirley were here for the wedding – talked to him at that time.
Q – You don’t see Dr. Grove that often?
DS – No, I have never seen Dr. Grove since he left.
Q – Have you ever met him?
DS – Oh yes. He was here before I retired, not very long, probably a year or a year and a half, something of that nature.
Q – Remember Helen Anderson?
DS – Oh yes. Helen was out here, we came out for this stage production.
Q – Oh, Diary of Ann Frank.
DS – Yes, Diary of Ann Frank. They invited some alumni, some ex-employees out here and we came out and saw that show, Helen and her husband were there.
Q – I have been trying to get ahold of Buzz Wilder, and he will talk to me.
DS – Yes, I see him quite often.
Q – We’ve had to postpone a couple times but I will be seeing him shortly. And there was another legislator that I need to get ahold of – Plethcer, Norm Pletcher?
DS – I saw Norm very recently – he spends a great deal of time out at his ranch which is clear out by Wilkerson Pass.
Q – How far is that from you?
DS – Oh, probably 40-50 miles.
Q – Okay, so he is retired?
DS – Yes. I saw him downtown recently in a restaurant and just happened to run into him. Another guy you should talk to if you want to talk to a board member is Bill Marshall.
Q – Bill Marshall – when we leave I would like some phone numbers or how to get ahold of Bill Marshall and Norm Pletcher.
DS – Bill probably worked harder for this college than any other one person.
Q – Say that again, worked harder?
DS – Worked harder for this college than any other one person outside the college.
Q – Even today?
DS – Even today.
Q – What is his function, his title?
DS – Well, he is retired, he is getting quite elderly.
Q – But he still cares for the college?
DS – He still cares for the college – he put a lot of money into the foundation. I have no idea how much but he supported it very heavily.
Q – Ah, was he a state legislator or was he with the city.
DS – No, he was an insurance agent here in town. The only legislator who I remember was Buzz.
Q – State legislator?
DS – Yes, he was a state legislator.
Q – These advisory committees, seems like we have always had a connection with the community with the advisory committees.
DS – The legislator, when they passed the community college law, they felt very strongly about that. They put it in and apparently it was a good idea because we still have them.
Q – Oh, yes.
DS – And I think it was a good idea. Although they have had trouble at times because essentially they have no authority. The state board has all the authority and all they could do was recommend things. Well, like when Dr. Hatton was dropped out – there was a big fight over that between the state board and the local council.
Q – Concerning?
DS – Well, whether or not he was to be fired.
Q – Who was to be fired?
DS – Dr. Hatton
Q – Oh, okay, I know he was fired. Mrs. Hatton is still in town.
DS – No, her son is still here and she is here on occasion but she still lives in Michigan as far as I know. And their daughter still lives in Fort Collins.
Q – You wonder what Mrs. Hatton would remember of the college.
DS – Well, she would remember a lot of things, for sure. You know when we first started they used to entertain the group a lot – there were only a few of us. So we got to know them real well as a family. Those kind of things aren’t possible anymore.
Q – Is she in her 80s, 90s?
DS – Well, I suspect she is getting close to 80. The only person I know who has any contact with her, unless it is just incidental, is Carol Van Lu. They stay in contact.
Q – I intend to see Carol, probably in Denver. Do you know that a group of retiree’s get together at the Antlers about once a month, well maybe not always at the Antlers. I went there a month ago and Donna Donahue was there, she’s retired. A councilor, a lady councilor who was very good on women’s issues.
DS – Oh, Marilyn Castel.
Q – Carolyn Castel.
DS – Marilyn Castel.
Q – Marilyn Castel was there, Helen Anderson who is now his roadie – the two seem very happy. A number of people were there and they found out I was doing this history and so I asked if I could come and they invited me down there.
DS – Now Betty Fisk is moving to Lincoln, Nebraska right away.
Q – Who is that?
DS – Betty Fisk. She used to go to all these meetings is the reason I mentioned her.
Q – How do you spell that last name?
DS – Fisk.
DS – She was my first secretary. Lets see, who else, Joan Burton, whats her name now? She usually shows up at those meetings.
Q – I talked to a lady here who was here at the beginning, her husband is a dentist.
DS – Oh, ah, she heads up the math and science departments.
Q – Yes, yes, I talked to her, she is very helpful.
DS – She is a good gal.
Q – Yeah, she gave me a lot of time!
Q – Okay, now, let me ask you this. I talked to Mary Jane Paulson, and she would like to emphasize three things in my history – of course I have my own voice, but she is interested in student success, which I understand – care for the institutional family, and reaching out to the community including business contacts. I have talked to people that have told me that student success was a function right from the very beginning – that we wanted our students to be successful. Can you tell me about that?
DS – Well, that was my impression. The initial meetings of the initial staff, Fred Struthers, Leonard Smith, Dr. Hatton, and myself surrounding this – A #1 priority is the students.
Q – It still is.
DS – It stayed that way as I understand it – of course, I have been gone along time now.
Q – Obviously, that emphasis, thrust, is still there.
DS – Now I had a part in student success in that the institution got their first north central accreditation when I was president in 1974.
Q – That was the first accreditation?
DS – Yes. Now they had a temporary accreditation, this was the first permanent accreditation.
Q – And how long, was that for five years.
DS – That was for three years. People back in Chicago were concerned because we were operating without a permanent president, some of those kinds of things. And they didn’t like the governance in Colorado, and I forgotten what their problems were, but anyway, we only got three years the first go around.
Q – We are doing very well because I think our last one was a ten year accreditation.
DS – Yes, it was. I read that someplace.
Q – You get the newsletter?
DS – Yes.
Q – Oh, okay, because I could get you on the list.
DS – No, I am on the list.
Q – Find out what is going on on campus.
DS – Yes, yes, find out what you guys are doing right and wrong out there.
Q – Yes, see if we are still on the right track – see if we move from your principles.
DS – Well, one of the things I said when I left here was I would never live long enough to see the state of Colorado build another campus – I was sure wrong about that.
Q – Yeah – we are really reaching out with Rampart Range, which Dr. Paulson can be proud of. Don, could you have anticipated the downtown studio?
DS – Well, I helped with that, so yes.
Q – What about Rampart High School?
DS – I was in on that also. All of those things happened before I left.
Q – What about care for the institutional family? Our closeness to each other. The old campus, made that…the Safeway store, those three buildings, we felt close to one another.
DS – Yes, yes, it was very much a family affair you know in the first years. I really felt like we lost a lot of that as the years went along. You get big, you get bureaucratic and it is very hard to have that closeness. However, like a large church people begin to congregate in large groups. I think that’s what happens here – you’ve got your departments, both administrative departments and instructional departments, and they become close. But for an overall institutional care type thing, I don’t think it exists to a great degree.
Q – Well, hopefully, in the sense that with our email, whenever we lose someone, husband, wife, or a member of the institutional family, its on the email and that person gets loads of cards, so that is a closeness and people remember these. Now that to me shows that people care when we lose a member or a member’s family, that it is on email and goes to everybody.
DS – Yes. First few years we used to have a breakfast each fall when the faculty came back for everybody.
Q – We could do that then, huh?
DS – Yeah. It was small enough, you know we went downtown someplace and had a big breakfast for everybody on the staff.
Q – How many people? 20?
DS – Twenty or thirty I suppose. I really can’t remember.
Q – Well, we do have Don free lunch the first week.
DS – Oh, do you?
Q – Instructional services? IP? Anyway, the first week we come back at the last of August, we get together, Dr. Paulson welcomes us back, we have everybody, every staff member goes to a lunch here and is taken care of. Then there are meetings and workshops and we also do the same thing, interestingly enough, in the spring.
DS – Well, I think that is a great effort. Those kind of things are really important.
Q – Yeah, we feed everybody – we feed them in here. More than 30 people. And everybody comes and it brings us together. Do you remember the Breckenridge, were you here when the Breckenridge Inn was here?
DS – Yes, yes, that started when the building opened.
Q – Okay, well that was a place where people would get together for coffee and discuss and it was unfortunately some time ago that was turned into conference rooms. So, ah, we don’t see each other as often as we should. I thought that was…, I miss it and so do many of us here.
DS – I miss it because I used to come out here and see people I hadn’t seen for awhile. I really do miss it, I agree with you.
Q – I miss it, in fact when I retire I’d like to come back but if you come back here you might see someone but the Breckenridge was a good hangout, almost like a faculty, administrative staff lounge. For some reason, I don’t know if it wasn’t making money or whatever…
DS – I was real disappointed when it closed.
Q – Oh, good, I hope you told the powers that be.
DS – Well, I don’t know as I said anything to anybody about it.
Q – But you were disappointed?
DS – I really was.
Q – What about reaching out to the community? Did we do that from the beginning?
DS – Yes. Probably not as well or as significantly as they do today. Really, the first person that I knew that really took the bull by the horns and did a lot of that was Cecil Groves. And Mary Jane has followed right in those footsteps – she is doing a super job. I spend, I am a member of an organization, I spend a lot of time down at the chamber of commerce and the college is very, very well thought of down there. That wasn’t true in the first days. When we came to Colorado Springs we were very, very unpopular – in Colorado Springs.
Q – Oh, even down there on the West side?
DS – Yes.
Q – Why were we unpopular?
DS – The people in Colorado Sprints, including the newspapers, had this to say – that we had no need for another college in this town. They were not at all enthused about the community college concept, not at all.
Q – Including the press?
DS – That’s right.
Q – And the powers that be – the movers and shakers?
DS – That’s right – and we fought every step of the way to gain that acceptance in the community.
Q – You are the first one who has told me that. I went down to local history at Penrose and I have early clippings of Governor Love came down to the dedication.
DS – Yes, we did that at 5 West Las Vegas.
Q – So, when he came did that make us a little more legitimate?
DS – Well, all of that helped and we worked hard to get things like that going. Kind of a silly thing, that ribbon cutting down at 5 West Las Vegas you know, we just went out in the parking lot and had a yellow ribbon and cut it in two.
Q – We didn’t have the buildings over on Bott yet?
DS – No. We did that when we were just one office downtown.
Q – So, the governor came down?
DS – Well, see, the governor supported this and apparently the legislature did because they passed the community college bill. But as far as the movers and shakers in Colorado Springs – they didn’t care about it. Now, Pueblo has always been a good community college town. They had one of the best community colleges in the nation and turned it into a four year college, found out they still need a community college and now they have another one. But anyway, that was the situation as we started. We had a really tough time getting support for the college. And it really blossomed, as I say, when Cecil got here.
Q – Oh, ah, reached out to the community. He’s been called a visionary.
DS – Well, I guess I could agree with that in a way. Some of his ideas were not very popular but he was a visionary, he sure was.
Q – And then when Grove left Texas he took a couple of our people with him.
DS – Yes, Goodwin and Marlboro and the other two guys are back in the state. I don’t know where Cecil is, Steve Marlboro is back in the state, too.
Q – Not heading a college anywhere.
DS – No. I don’t know where he is now. Don Goodwin told me and I’ve forgotten where he is at.
Q – Is Cecil supposed to have gotten to North Carolina, and I thought he was working at some small institution but I can’t say for sure.
DS – Well, I don’t know. Don Goodwin could probably tell you where he is at – I am sure they stay in contact.
Q – And where is Goodwin so if I wanted to talk to him?
DS – He is, and I have forgotten what they call that college – the state board started some sort of a technical college out at Lowry Air Force Base. You could find out at the state board office where he is.
Q – And they could tell me, huh?
DS – Yes. I am sure they would know.
Q – But he really enjoyed Colorado, came back.
DS – Yes, he is a Colorado person you know.
Q – We have lots of contact with the community, as you said Dr. Paulson has continued with the tradition of Dr. Grove. You probably know from the newsletter our international education efforts, great effort, with Jim Hurley with the approbation of the president and the vice president. We won an award some years ago for what we have done. We have gotten a number of grants, title 6A, title 6B. Our reputation is such that we have even gone out to other schools to show them how to do it. I know we have sent people to Russia, China.
DS – That’s all interesting, because back in the 70s, about the time you came here we had an effort to send classes to Germany for the military.
Q – Oh.
DS – And that failed primarily, in my opinion, because of lack of support from the state. The legislature flat didn’t want us spending any money outside of the state of Colorado.
Q – So, we wanted to have classes in Germany?
DS – We did, for awhile.
Q – We did? For the military?
DS – Yes, Dale Trailor could tell you about that. He was one of the prime movers in that effort and went over there.
Q – Do you know that we are considering classes in Antarctica at the moment?
DS – Is that right? Doesn’t surprise me, no.
Q – We have proposed, I saw some state board minutes since we have a faculty member on the state board, and I would not be surprised if it would go through.
DS – I think that is great – good for the college.
Q – So things have turned around as far as international education. We are a national leader.
DS – Well, we were kind of an international leader at that time too, but we sure didn’t have any backing to do it. We were really kind of out on our own on that one.
Q – I see.
DS – It just didn’t work, it fell apart on us.
Q – I found out some new things from you, that we had, primarily that we had a hard time getting established here.
DS – Yes. That was true. That was very true. And I suppose from a lot of people would deny that, but it was true, no two ways about it.
Q – Now with our successes and our multi campuses, it seems to me that they might be a little embarrassed.
DS – Well, probably the people that were in the leadership roles at that time are no longer around. At least the city council and the mayors and so on – turnover. And that does my heart good, I am really delighted to see it.
Q – But when you have an enrollment of 7,000 students, we rival, if not beat, like UCCS and some of these other institutions – I don’t know about the Air Force Academy, that’s a lot of students.
DS – Well, you’re larger than the Air Force Academy, they limit their’s to 2,400.
Q – Each class?
DS – Each class.
Q – Oh, I see – very elite.
Q – What can you tell me about skills programs and open enrollment for one thing and then what we are doing for people who are coming back to school – they used to call them displaced homemakers, but not…divorcees – separated people who come back, did we have that at the beginning Don?
DS – Yes. The skills program or whatever you want to call it was probably emphasized as much or more – day one – than it is now.
Q – As much or more?
DS – Yes. Dr. Hathaway was an extremely strong believer in skills education and we had a full scale skills program from day one.
Q – What about transfer programs in those days?
DS – Tough – very tough. Again, community colleges did not have a good reputation, not only in this town but in the state. The Universities were of the elitist type.
Q – Sure.
DS – It was a long, hard fight to really get accepted. I think it was after I left before they finally got to the point where USC would take any of our graduates, without question. I don’t remember about UCCS, but it was at least that long.
Q – Well now we have something called the University connection where we actually cooperate with UCCS, which is now called UC the Springs, University of Colorado, the Springs. A student, if they know they are going to go to a University can gear their program so they have those courses so as many of them, if not all, can be transferred.
DS – It’s a great thing that its happened, but it took many years of hard work to make that happen. Fred and uh…
Q – Do you know who might have been responsible for some of that?
DS – I think the state board staff probably was very very instrumental in that through their work with the commission on higher education. I think a lot of that happened at the state level, with the support of the various colleges. That was probably a tough a nut to crack as we dealt with in all those years. It was very, very frustrating to send a kid from here to Pueblo and he has to take a half dozen courses down there before they will make him a junior. It was a bunch of silliness as far as I’m concerned but that’s the way it was. You lived with it.
Q – Any interesting anecdotes, whatever, that stand out in your mind that would be interesting during your tenure here?
DS – Probably the toughest job I had to deal with was the construction of this campus.
Q – This campus? Tell me about that.
DS – It was a real toughy, we were given a piece of land.
Q – Right, by the armed services
DS – Yes, a very, very worthless piece of land. The soil conditions here were some of the worst in Colorado. This front building, still call it the Aspen building?
Q – Yes, yes, this is the Aspen building – oh no, no, Aspen is the main building.
DS – And this is the Breckenridge?
Q – Yes, or B.
DS – Anyway, B building is sitting on 36” piers and they carry as much as half a million pounds of weight. The reason being so that when the soils wets it doesn’t push it right out of the ground. And the grade beams, what most people call the foundation on the building, never touch the ground. When they poured those, they put some sort of a cardboard box in the bottom of the forms and then the grade beams, or the foundation rest on these piers. This building, that wasn’t a practical matter because of all the weight from the shops and one thing and another. So, they hauled in four feet of imported sand, or you know, very usable soil, on top of what was underneath.
Q – Where did they import that from?
DS – Wherever they could get it around town, there’s lots of good soil around, although this dirt, what do they call it, ah, perishayle, I believe – its not even real good dirt as a matter of fact. Anyway, this did not work completely. Over there by the mailroom, remember where the mailroom door was and where you walked through the building there?
Q – Yes, its still there.
DS – Its got a big crack in there from the building shifting.
Q – Mailroom and campus safety?
DS – Yeah, from the corridor going through the building into the mailroom – there was a big crack there and there are others that I could show you that I’m sure are still there – so it was a tremendous problem, we spent probably 2 million dollars out of the sixteen million dollars spent on this campus controlling soil conditions. The other very exiting things was the governor decreed that we would use non-conventional fuel here, this building was planned in the early 70s when we had the big fuel scare, gas shortages and so on and so forth. Well, I don’t know why coal was considered non-conventional but it was. So, it was planned for coal power. They used traditional stokers in there but date clear back to 1910 or something like that and then tried to hook modern controls to it. We had the rockiest shakedown I ever saw in my life with anything. Nothing worked around here for literally months! You probably remember some of the cold rooms and so on we had the first two or three years. I held a meeting with the contractors one day in the conference room of the presidents office – was 55 in their that day. Boy did I have fun because that’s what we were talking about, what was the matter with that heating system around here!
Q – I see.
DS – All kinds of problems like that. They put in an ash conveyor down there with an auger that ran from down under the floor clear up to the top and into a clamshell bucket that opened up so that you could dump the ashes into a truck. Well, apparently nobody new that ashes were so darned abrasive that in just a matter of weeks it would wear that auger out, maybe a ¼” – and then all that flash would run down the bottom and plug it up, it wouldn’t work. So, that grain type elevator over on the south side there that takes the ashes out was designed by myself and the boiler man down there – what we did was went and bought a heavy type grain elevator which we put up through the floor, and that worked. But, you know, I could talk to you for two hours about the problems we had with the crazy building.
Q – C building – did you have something to do with the building of C building?
DS – Yes, it was built almost simultaneously. It may have started a nearly a year after this one did.
Q – What year are we talking?
DS – Well, this building started construction in 1976. It was about a two year project. And that building started probably in 1977, and it was finished about the same time. It all opened in the fall of 78.
Q – I remember the dedication out here in front of A building. So, a lot of difficulties here. So, there was nothing out here, as you said, “worthless”?
DS – Well, the problem with the soil is that it is swelling and when it is wet it will lift anything – and the wetting pressure of that soil is 52,000 lbs. per square inch. You can imagine, that kind of pressure will literally lift a building right out of the ground, and that’s what happens.
Q – Even with the shops and all that?
DS – Yes, now these floors are what they call floating floors so that they can come up and down slightly with the expansion and contraction of the soil. Even with four feet of –
END SIDE ONE OF TAPE
DS – Another interesting experience that you probably won’t remember. Do you remember when what we call the Cleaver building over on the West side was built? The big classroom building?
Q – Ah, what street was that?
DS – Over there on Bott street.
Q – Oh, okay, no I don’t recall that being built.
DS – Anyway, the summer we built that building we had a big room built in the middle of it that we could use as an assembly room. And rolling doors to be divided into 4 classrooms – so about the same theory we on the theatre down here. Not near as complicated as this is. But, anyway, Sunday, the day before the building opened, I was over there with the contractor, we had no lights, no carpet, no furniture in that room and we were scheduled for 8 o’clock Monday morning for an all staff meeting for the beginning of school.
Q – In this building?
DS – No. The building over on the West side, it’s the one that, oh, what college was in there – Regis. By Monday morning we had lights, we had carpet, and we had furniture – it was ready for use.
Q – How was that accomplished?
DS – Just one whale of a lot of men working.
Q – Wow, classes Monday morning.
DS – Yep – we had an all school assembly of all the faculty and staff on Monday morning in that room.
Q – You know, here at the LRC ever since I have been here we’ve had trouble with leaking when it snows or rains – lots of leakage problems. Does that have to do with the soil problem you are talking about?
DS – No. I don’t think so. Where…
Q – Up on the second floor there we have that long large ceiling and well, when we go back in the LRC I could show you, but there is a lot of – hopefully now they have taken care of it, but for years and years there was leakage in the glass up there.
DS – That’s just a roof problem. One of the things that did happen at the LRC during building was the building was about completed and we had what they said was 90 mile an hour winds that night, and the vacuum in side that building was so great that it lifted the roof on the LRC and split about 40 feet of that roofing on there. Unbelievable because they are pre-stressed concrete beams on that roof – lifted those things right up and tore that roofing.
Q – Forty feet?
DS – Forty feet of it.
Q – Maybe that’s where the leakage comes from.
DS – Well, that was fixed at the time but its hard to tell at this point, you know, that was several years ago.
Q – So did that happen before we opened?
DS – That’s right, before we opened.
Q – If anybody could have been in there it could have been dangerous?
DS – Probably not, who knows? With that type of pressure it can pop out windows. I was in a dormitory up in Boulder, at CU one time up on the sixth floor with a similar wind and we walked into a room and windows were popping out and dropping out on the pavement 60 feet below.
Q – They popped whole? Then when they fell to the pavement they would shatter?
DS – Yes, yes.
Q – Wow!
DS – Unbelievable! Its scary, I’ll tell you. So, a lot of stories to be told. Well, what else can I do for you Larry?
Q – Well, I think you have answered all my questions and I think I’ve got – I don’t know. You’ve talked about the difficulties with this building. Unless you have anything else?
DS – Oh, I can’t think of anything else right now.
Q – I can’t either.
DS – I don’t – little hard for me to get a feel for what you are trying to do here, but..
Q – Sure
DS – That’s a little bit of the history of this place.
Archive Oral History Don Siek Interview transcribed August 23, 2006