Reimagining the library to serve a new generation of students: Now, it’s possible, thanks to a gift from a generous alumna.

Susie Burghart ’77, secretary of the Colorado College Board of Trustees, has pledged $5 million toward construction of a new state-of-the-art building that will house Tutt Library and the new Center for Immersive Learning and Engaged Teaching. Plans to expand and redesign the current structure will emphasize, at the heart of CC’s campus, our collective commitment to building the most vibrant, intensive, and passionate academic community in the country.

It’s no exaggeration to say that Burghart’s personal commitment to the college started when she was accepted as a student. Well, actually, it started even before then. As a senior in high school in Tulsa, Okla., Burghart knew that Colorado College was the only place for her. Graduating ninth in her class of 500, CC was the sole college to which she applied. And she didn’t get in! She quickly applied to Southern Methodist University in Dallas, and was accepted.

Never one to give up on her dreams, Burghart then re-applied to CC as a transfer student. This time, she was admitted. She moved to Colorado Springs in 1974 and majored in business administration at CC. She has devoted time, energy, and financial support to the college ever since.

“It’s ironic that I’ve been so deeply captivated by the emerging plans for the library,” she said. “After all, I’ll be the first to admit that I did not spend much time there as a student.”

In fact, the only time that she recalls doing research in Tutt Library was for an art history course. (Here’s to our art historians!) Instead, she was convinced
of the building’s promise through her board work.

“As a trustee, I’ve been hearing about the need for a new library for several years,” she said. “Once the plan came together, I decided to make it a philanthropic priority.”

During the Year of Planning, numerous exciting ideas emerged about how to reimagine a learning center that would respond both to the new challenges confronting students of the 21st century and to the particular form of learning that we engage in here at CC. Those ideas percolated up to the Special Project Team for the library, on which Burghart sits.

“I find it incredibly exciting to be part of a community that is reimagining how academic libraries can evolve as they expand their mission to serve the needs of a new generation of students,” Burghart said.

Eager to avoid the mistakes of some institutions, which prioritize how a building looks over what it actually does, Burghart has been impressed with the planning process at Colorado College, which demands, to paraphrase famed architect Louis Sullivan, that “form follow function.”

Whereas libraries for previous generations focused almost exclusively on providing quiet spaces for intensive individual research, our new facility will also be a bustling center for students to work with each other and their mentors. Diverse learning communities will be able to produce new kinds of knowledge, while accessing information together over coffee. In short, it will enable our entire community to think outside the proverbial box.

“I envision a new building that helps us take the immersive experience of learning that occurs within the classroom and have it stretch across time and space,” Burghart said.

“Who knows what kinds of questions might come forth in such a setting? What is teaching going to look like for the next generation of students? How will departments reimagine themselves in light of the challenges confronting education? Will traditional disciplines survive, or will interdisciplinarity rule the day? How will the Block Plan evolve to ensure the best kind of learning experiences? I am convinced that the reimagined library, in tandem with a new learning and teaching center, will serve as the nucleus for such exploration.”

The new building will symbolize in a concrete way what makes Colorado College so special. It is sure to be aesthetically captivating. As Burghart points out, with the removal of Tutt South, sight lines will highlight the new building’s location at the center of the campus. The quad will be restored, and we will have another structure on Cascade Avenue that makes a visual statement.

As is the case with so many of our alumni, Burghart has been extremely generous in support of many philanthropic organizations.  But as she puts it, to leave a legacy at Colorado College for all students, faculty, staff, and alumni for the next 50 years or more: “What could be more wonderful?”

Bryant “Tip” Ragan is a professor of history at CC. He chaired the Engaged Teaching and Learning Committee for the college’s strategic plan.