By Laurie Laker ’12
Arriving at Colorado College in 1993, Kathryn Mohrman embarked on her landmark tenure as president. The first female president in the history of the college, Mohrman laid out her vision for CC in her inaugural address. She reinforced the college’s liberal arts mission as a “community of learning and discovery” and “an institution committed to understanding the human condition in all its richness and complexity.” With that address, Mohrman set the tone for her tenure and nine years of relentless progress.
Mohrman took the reins from Acting President Michael Grace. Prior to arriving at Colorado College, Mohrman was dean for undergraduate studies at the University of Maryland at College Park from 1988 to 1993. She had also served as associate dean of the undergraduate college at Brown University, director of national affairs at the Association of American Colleges, and guest scholar at the Brookings Institution. A prolific author and scholar, Mohrman taught public policy and higher education policy courses at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Sichuan University in Chengdu, China, Colorado College, University of Maryland, Georgetown University, The George Washington University, Arizona State University, and Brown University.
Her impact on Colorado College was profound; hers is a presidency that continues to affect and shape the college today, more than a decade since she stepped down. The early years of her presidency were marked by evaluation and institutional changes. Under her, the college issued its first strategic planning report, addressed the status of the college’s athletics programs, and resolved the conflicted issues facing the Greek system on campus.
At the heart of Mohrman’s aims was the idea that the college should remain true to its undergraduate, liberal arts core. In order to achieve this goal, and to expand the already impressive educational capacity of the Block Plan, the college raised nearly $100 million during her time as president. With expanded resources, the college grew from strength to strength. A near-constant rise up the national rankings sparked increased selectivity in the admissions process. At the start of the 1994-95 academic year, students were permitted to double major. In April 1999, the First-Year Experience programming was adopted. Now the foundation of the Colorado College student experience, the FYE was designed to encourage discussion in a small-format class environment, bringing new students into the liberal arts fold efficiently and inclusively. Further expansions to the CC academic landscape included both Asian Studies and Environmental Studies, the latter of which has since become the Environmental Program, encompassing two of CC’s most popular majors.
Implementing the Breaking Bread program (now one of the college’s hallmark experiences) in the week following her inauguration, Mohrman’s commitment to inclusivity, diversity, and advancement at Colorado College began as it would continue — with swift, decisive, and declarative action. Further commitments were made during the 1994-95 academic year, when the Colorado College Council on Diversity was appointed to advise the president and foster communication and cooperation among programs that encouraged and supported the richness of CC’s growing community.
The face of residential life on campus changed drastically under Mohrman’s leadership. In the fall of 2001, the Western Ridge Apartments opened, providing juniors and seniors with first-class views of the playing fields and Pikes Peak beyond, while also offering the amenities of independent living in a campus community. The Western Ridge Apartments could not have been built without the consolidation of the Greek houses into a single area on the east side of campus, where they still reside today. The repurposing of a vacated fraternity house on the east side of campus brought new focus to Mohrman’s diversity aims. The Glass House promoted inclusivity, and was open to members of minority student groups and non-minority students interested in furthering the goals of diversity at CC.
A strong advocate for gender equity across the college’s athletics programs, Mohrman committed to leveling the number of male and female sports for the NCAA Division III level, as well as retaining the NCAA Division I sports — men’s ice hockey and women’s soccer. Further athletics strides were made when the new Colorado Springs World Arena (now Broadmoor World Arena) opened. Mohrman dropped the ceremonial first puck at the 7,000-seat venue at the arena’s inaugural CC Tiger hockey game in January 1998.
With Mohrman’s assured leadership, Colorado College was able to navigate the turn of the century smoothly. When tragedy struck the United States on September 11, 2001, it was Mohrman’s administration that rallied the college community to care for itself and those around it. In a letter to the college after the harrowing events, Mohrman wrote, “In times like this, a liberal arts education is more relevant than ever before.”
Following her departure from Colorado College at the conclusion of the 2001-02 academic year, Mohrman accepted a Fulbright Fellowship at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, followed by significant positions at Johns Hopkins and Arizona State Universities. Announcing her departure from Colorado College, Mohrman noted that she considers herself “a Tiger for life.” Given the tireless effort she put into growing and developing the college over her nine years as president, it’s with great affection, gratitude, and pride that we honor her today.
It is a testament to Kathryn Mohrman’s commitment to the liberal arts that she taught a Block 8 class during the spring term of 1993 before becoming the college’s 11th president. Familiar with the liberal arts from a young age, Kathryn grew up on Knox College’s campus. Her father, Elmer Jagow, became the president of Hiram College in Ohio for nearly two decades; he and Kathryn form one of the few father-daughter college president pairs in higher education. Mohrman’s commitment to the liberal arts was furthered as a student at Grinnell College. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Grinnell in 1967 with a degree in history, she completed her master’s in American history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1969, and then her doctorate in public policy at George Washington University in 1982.
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