Former CSU President Albert Yates receives Founders Day Medal, reflects on land-grant legacy

Ravyn Cullor

President Tony Frank presented the Founders Day Medal for the last time to his mentor and former University President Albert Yates.

The ceremony fell on Colorado State University’s 149th anniversary celebration Monday.

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Yates served as CSU’s president from 1990 to 2003 and is remembered for re-emphasizing the University’s land-grant status in his efforts to make CSU a nationally recognized institution. During his tenure, Yates also supported the CSU football program, according to a video shown during the Founders Day ceremony.

“(In 1990) the goal was, simply speaking, to make CSU better, to transform what appeared at the time to be an institution which operated on the sidelines into a coherent institution that we could be proud to call a university,” Yates said. “Within a very short period of time, we were able to bring people together in a very significant way and I think that became the platform for what we really wanted to do.”

In his first year as president, enrollment increased by about 3,000 students, according to the office of Institutional Research, Planning and Effectiveness. During his tenure, the University saw an increase of 26 percent in enrollment.

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  • CSU President Tony Frank speaks before presenting the Founders Day Medal to former CSU President Albert Yates February 11. (Matt Tackett | Collegian)

  • CSU President Tony Frank and former CSU President Albert Yates finish their lunch before the presentation of the Founders Day Medal Feb. 11. (Matt Tackett | Collegian)

  • Former CSU President Albert Yates listens to President Tony Franks speech before being presented the Founders Day Medal Feb. 11. (Matt Tackett | Collegian)

  • Former CSU President Albert Yates speaks after being presented the Founders Day Medal Feb. 11. (Matt Tackett | Collegian)

  • Former CSU President Albert Yates speaks after being presented the Founders Day Medal Feb. 11. (Matt Tackett | Collegian)

  • Former CSU President Albert Yates speaks after being presented the Founders Day Medal Feb. 11. (Matt Tackett | Collegian)

  • Former CSU President Albert Yates poses for a photo with Vice President for Student Affairs, Dr. Blanche Hughes after being presented the Founders Day Medal Feb. 11. (Matt Tackett | Collegian)

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More than 80 people attended the Founders Day ceremony, including Yates’ family and a number of current and past leaders of CSU. Honoring individuals or families that have had a significant impact on CSU’s history, the Founders Day Medal was first awarded in 2010 to the Monfort family, followed by eight others including Pat Stryker and former President William Morgan. 

Frank said the award was created in 2010 as a way to rally the University around influential leaders during the Great Recession.  

During his speech, Frank said that, while he was honored to give awards to the former recipients, this year was different both because it was his final time presenting the award because he had worked with Yates personally.

“It’s my last time presenting this medal, and I’m more acutely aware of the special nature of these events,” Frank said. “It’s very special for me to present this to someone I’m so proud to call a friend.”

Frank said CSU’s land-grant status is centrally important to the Founders Day event and Yates’ legacy.

“It meant that we needed to own and be proud of our relationship to agriculture,” Yates said. “We needed to be proud of our relationship to business. We needed to take on the responsibility that the state expected us to, which was to focus on our undergraduate programs and make them as good as they possibly could be. We wanted to be able to educate, train and graduate students who could contribute to the economy of the state.”

Yates is also remembered at CSU by the Albert C. Yates Leadership Development Institute, which is run through the Black/African American Cultural Center. The video biographying his time at CSU said that his commitment to diversity was an important facet of his development of the school. 

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Reports on CSU’s enrollment data, including the diversity of the student body, did not begin until 2009, according to the office of Institutional Research, Planning and Effectiveness.

“It’s our responsibility to be a university for all people, no one should be excluded,” Yates said. “Anyone who’s able to come to this institution, study and be successful ought to be comfortable here.”

While accepting his award, Yates said he would not give a speech and instead thanked not only CSU, the faculty and staff but his wife, daughters, son-in-law and nine-month-old granddaughter.

“There are so many (proud moments at CSU), and most of it has to do with people,” Yates said. “People coming together as a true community.”

Ravyn Cullor can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @RCullor99.