Posts from January, 2011

Get to Know: Chris Coulter

One might almost think that Chris Coulter, the new director of facilities services, was destined to work at Colorado College.

Coulter comes to CC from Academy School District 20, where he served as the former executive director for construction management and sustainability. On Coulter’s first day at the D-20 job, architect Antoine Predock was selected to design one of the district’s premiere schools, the Discovery Canyon Campus. Predock is the same architect who designed CC’s Edith Kinney Gaylord Cornerstone Arts Center. “It’s ironic that I should work at the two places in town that have Predock buildings,” Coulter says.

One of the first things Coulter plans to do at CC is both very easy and very difficult. He plans to do a lot of listening. “I want to hear what is being said. And I want to be sure that what I’m hearing is being integrated into what we are doing.

“I want to get to know people, the facilities staff, and the culture of the campus,” he said.

Working together is a theme that comes up often when talking with Coulter. He’s eager to work with the various departments on campus involved in CC’s sustainability initiatives. He also is eager to get started on the new Worner Center renovation, which begins the day students leave campus in May, and must be completed before their return in August.

During Coulter’s seven and a half year tenure at D-20, he oversaw construction management and sustainability at the district’s 19 elementary schools, six middle schools, and six high schools. While there, he supervised the completion of a $163 million bond issue and a construction program that finished early and $10 million under budget.  In addition, Coulter led the on-time and under-budget completion of The Classical Academy’s (TCA) new 80,000-square-foot-campus.  The project, which was completed a year and a half ago at a cost of $120 per square foot,  features a full-size soccer and football competitive synthetic turf playing field, parking lot, elementary school for nearly 650 children, space for a home-school program, and 10 classrooms for their on-site partner Pikes Peak Community College.  The campus is the first of its kind in the state and currently is viewed as a model for how partnerships can benefit all participants.

While Coulter may be new to CC, he is not new to Colorado Springs. His father currently is a District 20 Board of Education member and spent the majority of his Air Force career as a biology instructor at the Air Force Academy. Coulter is a graduate of Rampart High School and played on the school’s 1987 undefeated basketball state champion team.  While in college, Coulter was an ROTC cadet and commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the Air Force in May 1993. He earned a B.A. in pre-engineering from DePauw University and a B.S. in engineering from Purdue University, and went on to earn a master’s in civil engineering from the University of Colorado—Boulder while in the Air Force.

He spent eight years in the Air Force as a civil engineering officer in places such as Florida, Nevada, Korea, and Central America.  The Air Force was great training, as “you had to be the engineer, tradesman, equipment agent, everything. We were self-sustained, and you had to figure it out.” That training, he says, serves him well in his current position.

He admits, however, that he is poor at home construction projects. “I have to make 12-14 trips to Home Depot,” he says. “But I’ll do it as many times as I have to in order to get it right.” He admires his staff; in fact, he says he “is humbled” by their skills. “They get it right, quickly, and on budget.”

Coulter is the father of an 11-year-old son, J.C., and an 8-year-old daughter, Peyton. His wife, Sandi, is a second-grade teacher at Antelope Trails Elementary School in District 20. Coulter enjoys coaching youth sports, especially football and basketball, and has been coaching the same group of fifth-graders since they were in preschool.

He also is very active in the Knights of Heroes Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to sons who have lost their fathers in combat. The organization runs a summer camp just outside of Ward, Colo.  Coulter, who recently was named chief operating officer of the foundation, plans all the camp activities and, for the last five years, has served as a mentor to two boys.

Additionally, for the past two years, Coulter has run (and finished) the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., a fundraiser for the camp. Both times, the boys he mentors and their mothers were at the finish line, cheering him on.

Former CC Hockey Player Lee Sweatt Gets the Last Laugh on New Teammates

Former CC hockey star Lee Sweatt ’07 got the last laugh on his teammates in his debut NHL game.

Sweatt, 25, played his first game for the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday, Jan 26. The Canucks told him he was going to lead the team on the ice for pregame warm-ups, so Sweatt skated out on the ice – alone. His new teammates remained in the tunnel, leaving him to skate the first few laps by himself in front of the home crowd. “We thought it was pretty funny,” teammate Alexandre Burrows said of the joke they played on the rookie.

Fast forward three periods, and Sweatt fires in the winning goal with 7:29 left in the game, beating the Nashville Predators 2-1.

 “I was like, ‘I can’t believe I just did that,’ but it was a great pass and I pretty much just shot the puck,” Sweatt said.

“I was just happy to get on the ice and it was kind of just the icing on the cake with the cherry on top. I never would have thought I would score in my first game. It’s definitely a dream come true,” he said.

The Canucks remain five points ahead of Detroit in the Western Conference and tied with Philadelphia for the NHL lead with 71 points. Their next game is Tuesday, Feb. 1 in Dallas against the Stars, after the annual All-Star break.

Steven Hayward Publishes ‘Don’t be Afraid’

Steven Hayward, Colorado College assistant professor of English, has published “Don’t be Afraid,” a darkly comic novel of adolescent anxiety featuring Jim Morrison  – not the lead singer of The Doors who died in 1971, but a chubby 17-year-old living in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. This Jim Morrison was born days after the singer’s death, and Jimmy, as most people call him, has been living a largely invisible life, overshadowed by his older brother, and his stern and unyielding engineer father. When the older brother dies, the family’s suburban life is upended and any sense of normalcy is destroyed. The book features humor and energy, as Hayward weaves a story of the undercurrents of family life and the unpredictable ways lives can unfold. “Don’t be Afraid” is published by Knopf Canada.

Proposed 2011-12 Budget, Presidential Search Discussed at Town Meeting

CC faculty and staff attended a 40-minute town hall meeting on January 24 in Armstrong Hall to learn about the college’s proposed budget and get a brief update regarding the presidential search process.

Before the session got underway, President Dick Celeste asked several new members of the CC community to introduce themselves, including Chris Coulter, director of facilities, Shonda Graham, financial aid, Belinda Armstrong, admission office, and Pam Shipp, Boettcher Counseling Center.

Robert Moore then discussed the proposed 2011-12 budget, emphasizing that it was still a proposal and not a final budget. The budget committee will meet twice this Block to finalize recommendations to the president, who then will make the budget recommendation to the board of trustees when they meet during the last week of February. The budget is approved by the board of trustees.

He noted that CC is “in great shape financially relative to higher education,” but acknowledged that money “is still a little tight.” The endowment has been performing well; as of Dec. 31, 2010, the endowment was above $500 million and approaching the level it was three years ago. However, the payout from the endowment is based on its average value at the end of the previous 12 quarters, so the decline is still affecting the payout and will continue to do so for the next several years. Because of that, the payout CC is budgeting for the next fiscal year is about $3.1 million, or 12.5 percent, lower than the payout three years ago.

Mark Hatch reported that application numbers are strong (currently at 4,800), as is the quality of the applicant pool. The college is basing its budget on an estimated enrollment of 1,975 undergraduates. CC currently is serving more students than that, but does not want to construct a budget which requires a higher enrollment in order to be sustainable. One direct result of this will be an anticipated smaller entering freshmen class next year, Moore said.

The college also will hold down the comprehensive fee, reflecting a small increase in tuition, and no increase in room and board rates for the second year in a row. (The comprehensive fee is made up of the tuition rate, student fee, and room and board.) 

Financial aid remains the top budget priority, reflecting what the budget committee heard from campus members last spring. “There are a lot of great investments we could make for the college, but we invested in student financial aid,” Moore said. The proposal increases financial aid for entering students from $6 million to $6.5 million. Overall the financial aid budget is growing 8 percent while there is a 5 percent decline in endowment support, Moore said.

He also noted that the college believes it can maintain health insurance at a 80/20 cost allocation – 80 percent paid by the employer and 20 percent by the employee. CC is maintaining a generous benefits level, Moore said, “which is not the majority experience of most of our fellow citizens.”

Additionally, there is a small pool of $200,000 that can be allocated to those who are most in need of an increase in operating expenses.

The second part of the town hall meeting, led by Ginger Morgan and John Simons, dealt with the presidential search. They noted the search was still in process, and thus much of the information was confidential. Morgan did say the search was “vigorous and on track, the “candidate pool is rich,” and that CC “is gratified by the quality of the applicants and nominees.”

John Gould asked how the search committee was prioritizing the characteristics most desired in the presidential candidates, and was directed to the last paragraph of the prospectus on the presidential search committee website, which reads:
Colorado College seeks a visionary leader who appreciates the distinctive rhythms, challenges, and opportunities that characterize the Block Plan and champions the college’s unique pedagogy and mission within higher education. The ideal candidate will possess a record of:

  • Personal integrity, character, approachability, and a sense of humor
  • Distinguished intellectual achievement
  • Success as a senior administrator
  • Commitment to the highest standards of learning, teaching, and scholarship
  • Management that inspires confidence and demonstrates an ability to make difficult choices in an environment with multiple, competing demands
  • Strategic thinking and institutional innovation
  • Fundraising and financial management
  • Inspiring trust and building relationships with integrity across the full range of community constituents
  • Commitment to environmental sustainability
  • Commitment to diversity in all its forms
  • Exceptional communications skills.

Morgan also was asked when the new president will be announced. The answer? “When we know who it is, and they have accepted.”

The presidential search committee website is available at:

John Papuga wins Maintainer of the Year at Facilities Services’ Awards Presentation

John  Papuga  of the grounds crew won the Maintainer of the Year Award at the annual facilities services awards presentation and  chili cook-off. The event was held from 3-5 p.m. on Dec. 22 in the facilities services department in the Van Briggle building.

The Maintainer of the Year Award, created in 1983, recognizes a member of facilities services who significantly demonstrates a commitment to practicing the Colorado College mission core values and who significantly contributes to the success of the facilities services department in the past year. In order to be considered, Papuga’s nomination had to list his specific actions, or accomplishments, over the past year, and describe the ways in which his actions or accomplishments met the award’s criteria, which include:

Demonstrating exceptional leadership skill
Technical skill
Resource stewardship
Outstanding customer relations
Improving sustainability
Successful collaboration
Successful problem solving
Achieving an outstanding accomplishment or successfully meeting a unique or unusual challenge beyond normal or routine work experiences or expectations

Ryan Smith of HVAC received the Adam Valdez Excellence in Facilities Services Award, which was inaugurated in 2001. The Adam Valdez Award recognizes a member of facilities services who consistently and over at least a five-year period demonstrates a commitment to practicing the college’s mission core values and significantly contributes to the success of the department. Criteria for the award include:

Unselfish support of others – being a team player
Self-directed and motivator of others
Positive and constructive in communications with colleagues
Innovative and resourceful  — finding ways to get things done
Sets a good example  – productive and quality work

Smith also won the Radio Personality of the Year Award, an award that is subtitled “Most Time on Two-Way Radio for Work Orders.”

Other award winners are Lee Doughty, lock shop, who received the Customer Service Award and Mike Starr, set ups and events shop, who received the Pitch-In Award. Set ups/events shop received the Spic and Span Award for having the cleanest shop, with Nick Solano accepting the award on its behalf.

The awards ceremony was held in the carpenter’s shop, with the chili cook-off entries set up in the kitchen, along with other food. Winner of the best red chili was Pete Ordway, lock shop, and best green chili winner was Jerry Switzer, of grounds.

The history of the chili cook-off was detailed in an article written by Sally Eisentraut and published in the facilities’ TRADEWINDS January 2002 newsletter:

 “Our Grounds crew is nothing if not competitive.  An ongoing argument between Jerry (Switzer) and Cecelia (Gonzales) about who makes the BEST green chili sparked an idea to sponsor a chili cook-off – just to prove who was the best.  By mid-1996 they had come up with a plan.

The first week in December seemed an ideal time – cold enough to really enjoy the chili and a festive time to get together.  They decided to save their aluminum cans (and dumpster dive for other metals to recycle) to pay for it. They would need to collect enough to pay for two $25.00 gift certificates (one certificate for the best Red Chili and one for the best Green Chili), the tortillas, beer and dessert.  They then asked Chef Matt from Sodexho Marriott (now Bon Appetit) to judge the contest and he agreed.  They immediately passed out flyers to facilities to advertise the first annual cook-off.”


The Back Row Takes a Front Seat on Live TV

The Back Row, CC's all-male a cappella group, appears on live TV on Dec. 9, 2010, in advance of their Winter Concert.

Team-Taught Class Goes to Chile

Author Antonio Skármeta, Professors Pamela Tala and Salvino Bizzarro with their 33 students from CC enjoy a break during Block IV in Chile. Next to Skármeta (in the blue dress) is Miranda Bodenhofer, actress in the Academy Award Spanish entry in 2010 of Fernando Trueba's film, “The Dancer and the Thief.” Skármeta's book, "Il Postino," is the basis of the movie by the same name and the opera “El Cartero de Neruda” by Daniel Catán, which premiered with the Los Angeles Opera in September, 2010, and started Placido Domingo.