Photo feature: First graduate leads St. Patrick’s Day parade, shares memories

Arnold Taylor, the first UCCS graduate, waves to the crowd from the backseat of a vintage Ford Mustang.

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.

Hundreds of faculty, staff, students, alumni and community boosters joined in the St. Patrick’s Day parade celebrating the UCCS 50th anniversary. From left, Susan Szpyrka, vice chancellor, Administration and Finance; John Szpyrka, alum, Venkat Reddy, dean, College of Business, Pam Shockley-Zalabak, chancellor, and Martin Wood, senior vice chancellor, University Advancement.
CU Regent and UCCS alum Steve Ludwig waves to the crowd.
UCCS students, staff and families rode a campus float during the St. Patrick’s Day parade.
86-year-old Arnold Taylor, center, celebrates UCCS with a group of current students.
UCCS students joined with faculty, staff and community members in a UCCS 50th anniversary-themed St. Patrick’s Day parade.
Anna Cordova, student, walks with Nick Martinez, accountant, Auxiliary Services, and his daughters, Akina and Amaya.


– Photos by Tom Kimmell

1 Comment on Photo feature: First graduate leads St. Patrick’s Day parade, shares memories

  1. First I would like to say that the above article was very nice, and I enjoyed reading about Mr. Taylor and his accomplishments. UCCS is a growing campus with a proud community and I think drawing attention to this was very important. The only complaint that I have is there was no mentioning, nor even a photo, of the UCCS Pep Band. The band was the primary applicant to be a part of the parade, the rest of the school followed after in their support. While a small group, the Mountain Lion Pep band still is a strong piece of the UCCS pride and it pains me to see that no credit was given. The band even received an award from the parade judges for their excellent performance and strong spirit. Again I mean not to question the importance of talking about Mr. Taylor, I just feel that it would have been very nice to include a picture of the band, even just one. Thank you for your time.

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