The first UCCS graduate didn’t get a lot of encouragement from workplace colleagues to earn a college degree. Instead, Arnold Taylor’s friends told him to take the boss fishing if he wanted a promotion.
Taylor, now 86, ignored the advice and worked toward his degree for eight years, taking classes at what was then called the CU Extension Center, while balancing a full-time job and fatherhood. When he participated in commencement exercises on the CU-Boulder campus in 1966, he became the first official UCCS graduate, earning a bachelor’s degree in business with honors.
“I’ve kept a spreadsheet of my income and donations since 1951,” Taylor said recently. “I can see there was a nice bump between 1966 and 1967. That’s what a college degree did for me.”
Taylor, his wife, Beth, and daughter, Denise, shared memories of Colorado Springs and UCCS during a weekend visit from suburban Kansas City, Mo. They led a UCCS 50th anniversary-themed St. Patrick’s Day parade, waving at the crowd from an era-appropriate Ford Mustang. Earlier, he proudly shared his business honorary fraternity pin, as well as copies of his commencement program, letters from former UCCS chancellors, and family photos.
For a young man from rural Missouri, earning a college degree was not top of mind, Taylor said. He traveled with the harvest, picking fruit or cutting corn or wheat. In the southwest Kansas town of Lakin he met his wife, Beth, and was offered a job working in the natural gas fields.
“As a farm worker, you slept on the banks of the Arkansas River,” Taylor explained. “But working for the gas company, I shared a room with one other fellow. We even had a toilet. I thought that was living high.”
He was promoted to the company headquarters in Colorado Springs and later to a position in Texas before moving into the then-new field of barcoding. Later, he started his own company specializing in helping libraries barcode books. Now retired, both Beth and Arnold Taylor remain active. They volunteer at hospital near their home two or three days a week with Arnold helping with technology challenges that stump those decades his junior.
Taylor took a brief campus tour and marveled at the campus as it has evolved, according to Brad Bayer, executive director, Student Life and Leadership. At a later time, he will record an audio history that will be available at the Kraemer Family Library.
– Photos by Tom Kimmell