2021 commencement ceremony honors eight Golden Graduates

An outdoor commencement ceremony at UCCS in 1995
UCCS celebrates the 1995 spring Commencement ceremony on campus.

Since 2012, UCCS has honored Golden Graduates – alumni who graduated 50 years ago – and Silver Graduates – alumni who graduated 25 years ago – during Commencement ceremonies in May and December, respectively.

This year, UCCS will recognize eight Golden Graduates, each of whom graduated from UCCS in 1971, when the campus was still known as the Colorado Springs Center. The eight alumni hail from Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey and Minnesota.

Read stories from each of the Golden Grads below.

Les’s journey from high school to UCCS consisted of four years in the Air Force, then various jobs in Arkansas, Alabama, Oklahoma, Utah, Texas and finally, Colorado Springs. “After obtaining work at the then-newly established division of Hewlett-Packard Company, I applied to the VA for educational assistance, thence my enrollment at UCCS. My entire time at UCCS was as a rather atypical student; a working husband and father continuously attending night school.”

After graduating with a business degree in 1971, and still having some VA eligibility remaining, Les earned a psychology degree in 1973. He was the third person hired locally by HP in March  1962 and retired from the company 37 years later, in March 1999. “The various jobs I had with HP in materials, transportation and procurement were, for the most part, made possible and enhanced through my UCCS educational pursuits.”

Favorite UCCS memory: “The first class I ever took was, as I recall, in a room in a large house on North Nevada Avenue because the campus was not yet open for business. When we did get to have classes in the big building it was not uncommon to find bats in some of the rooms, especially on the top floor.”

“I am very proud to say that I am a UCCS Legacy Grandfather to one of my granddaughters, Alexis Bailey, who earned her MA in Curriculum and Instruction in December 2019. She was also named one of the College of Education’s Outstanding Graduates of the Year.”

Christina’s career spanned 35 years primarily as a Department of Defense civilian as a cost, budget, management, and program analyst in the United States and Germany.  She also worked for Trident Technical College in Charleston, S.C., as the Director of Research, gaining an appreciation for the role of 2-year colleges in the community.

Her marriage to Richard C. Brims (USAFA 1971) allowed her to travel the world. She is retired and “enjoying life to the fullest under the blue Colorado sky.”

She described UCCS as the best learning environment because of the campus’ small class size.  “Dr. Moore graciously agreed to spearhead the new Honors Program at UCCS and moved from the heights of the Boulder campus to the fledging Colorado Springs campus. Dr. Moore’s Honors courses provided an opportunity truly to listen and appreciate diverse opinions.”

“I have used my degree as the foundation for my career as a DoD financial manager.  The DoD taught me the technical aspects of my career. However, my coursework in sociology, the distributed social sciences, and education provided me the necessary understanding of people for the human aspects of my career.”

Favorite UCCS memory: “I would like to share an experience probably not recorded in the history of the UCCS student government.  Yet, it provides an insight into the early formation of that organization. In the fall of 1969, I was elected as vice-president of the UCCS student government.  Shortly thereafter, I assumed its presidency.  I decided, with the vice-president and treasurer, our goals would focus on paving the gravel parking lot adjacent to the “new” building and creating opportunities to build a student community on-campus.  We learned quickly that paving the parking was not a realistic goal.  It was an infrastructure decision held by authorities on the Boulder campus.

However, we could focus on creating a student community.  To learn what activities might be successful in building student life, we invited student government representatives from other campuses and colleges to share their ideas during a weekend conference.

The weekend was a disaster! Instead of focusing on our goals, the facilitators attacked the personalities of our student body leadership and some of our guests. The student government team never recovered from the weekend’s negative outcomes.

I recall this tragic incident because I carried its “lessons learned” into my career.  I learned to be involved more critically in the planning of events I sponsored, especially in the selection of facilitators and “experts.”  I also learned that my goals were the most important to meet, not those of a presenter.  Finally, I learned my authority could halt an injurious process by removing my colleagues and myself from a deleterious encounter and by refusing to participate in a toxic experience.”

After graduating from UCCS, Charles stayed on as a teaching assistant in the Psychology Department until moving to the biopsychology (neuroscience) PhD program (in Boulder).  After completing his PhD in 1978, Charles and his wife, Sandra, moved to Connecticut to launch his career at Yale. He is Professor of Neuroscience in the Departments of Neuroscience and Neurosurgery and Director of Yale's PhD program in neuroscience.

He has an active research lab and has trained eight PhD students and 15 postdoctoral fellows. Charles lectures in both medical school and graduate school courses in neuroscience. He has been invited to speak at universities and conferences throughout the world (feeding the couple’s passion for travel) and has an ongoing collaboration in Paris at the Pierre et Marie Curie Universite and at the Pasteur Institute.

“My first semester at Cragmor there were about 500 students enrolled, most taking classes in the evening.  The physical space left much to be desired - it was not uncommon to see an old hospital bed or related equipment in a room or hallway.  At one point, perhaps 1968 or 1969, the Colorado Board of Education was making plans to close the Colorado Springs campus.  Three of us, then heavily involved in student government, Randy Kouba, Jim Goss and I traveled to Denver to plead our case for keeping the campus open and continuing to invest in its growth.  The current campus with the exceptional resources, due in part to my friend Jim Gallogy, is a clear testament that UCCS was needed and valued by the community.  I know that since my time at Cragmor the faculty and peer students have gone on to many careers that have benefited them and society.  It was my honor to be part of those early days.”

“Cragmor set me on the right path and taught me that with commitment even if you are starting with minimal resources you can go wherever you wish.”  

“I can never repay Dr. Nichol’s confidence in me and the confidence he instilled in me.  Among his many interests were random thoughts - a difficult thing to assess since by definition you are thinking of it when you choose to assess it.  He needed something random that would be the trigger.  He scattered coins on the ground between the building the psychology department was in and what you now call Old Main.  Whenever he came across a coin he would record his thoughts at that moment.  Unfortunately, but to our amusement, many of the students learned about this strategy and kept adding more coins to the path that he usually took.  It was not long before his path was ‘paved with coins’ and he had to abandon that strategy.”

Favorite UCCS memory: “December 2016, when my wife and I were invited back as I was an honored alumnus and asked to deliver an address during the December graduation ceremonies.”

Leslie left Colorado for Philadelphia for almost a couple of years in the Navy.  “Always said I defended the cracked bell, they didn't move it while I was there. That is where I switched my interest from psych to ICU, what a shift!”

Leslie went to Florida for a stint and then to California, working at Stanford in the cardiovascular ICU, then moved back to the East Coast. Her career spanned work in the ICU, marketing, the union employee benefits department, an organ procurement organization and the kidney transplant program at SUNY Downstate in Brooklyn. She retired in 2016. She has traveled to all 50 states and hopes to begin traveling again soon.

Favorite UCCS memory: “Walking up to the Campbell's soup can.”

After graduating in 1971, Susan worked at Parkview Hospital in Pueblo as a Pediatric Nurse.  In 1974, she and classmate Trudy Carter moved to Denver, where she worked at Denver General Hospital from 1974 through 2006 as a Pediatric nurse and later as Nurse Manager on the Pediatric ward and PICU, and at the Westside Community Health Clinic as Clinical Manager.  During that time, she completed her BSN and MSN. She retired in 2006 to move to Colorado Springs and take care of her mother. “My brother and I enjoy making quilts on a long arm quilting machine. I stay active in church activities and getting together with friends.”

“When I applied for my first job after graduating from Beth-El, the Director of Nursing told me that the reputation of Beth-El was so good that she was hiring me on that information alone.  I am pleased to know that Beth-El has continued to have such a good reputation.”

“I remember the UCCS campus at Colorado Springs. It was in the old sanitarium buildings and the old metal bed frames were on the roof of the buildings. It has certainly changed and grown since then.  We traveled to the campus on Mondays for classes and then had all other classes at Beth-El School of Nursing.  Fridays we had clinical in Memorial Hospital.”

After graduating from Johnson Beth-El, Diana spent nine wonderful years in the USAF Nurse Corp. Her fourth and last assignment was at the USAFA Hospital, where she met her husband. She left to raise their children, and lived in multiple places anyway.

“Should have stayed in!," Diana said. "Every other move was back to Colorado, so we settled there permanently in 1998 in Monument. While there, I was active in the Beth-El Alumni Association and served as President for a few years.”

In 2016, she moved backed home to western Colorado and now lives in a remote cabin between Gunnison and Montrose. She is a First Responder for the small fire department and emergency services. “My hobbies are reading, sewing, and jigsaw puzzles, as well as Canasta with my sister.”

Diana has one son who lives in Alaska and four daughters and 10 grandkids. Daughter Tiffany is a NICU nurse at Memorial UC Health and 2016 Beth-El alumna.

“Back in 2005, two of my Beth-El friends, Maria Roberts Fitzgerald (1972) and Lily Bultema (2005) went with me to China where we volunteered for two weeks in an orphanage. What a memorable experience that was for all of us. Lily and I both have daughters from China.”

Favorite UCCS memory: “My memories of Beth-El are all very warm ones. We had some classes in the old sanitarium on the UCCS campus, riding back and forth every day on Flo, the old blue bus. Lots of good times!  What is hard to believe is that it has already been 50 years since we graduated. It seems like yesterday. My classmates and I have stayed close over the years and are my ‘Forever Friends.’”

Upon graduation from Beth-El, Maureen was commissioned an Ensign in the USNR Nurse Corps with an assignment to Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego. The final four months of her military experience, she had the rewarding experience of working with many of the POWS returning from captivity in Vietnam. After discharge from the Navy, she embarked on a career in critical care nursing working as a civilian staff nurse in the Trauma Unit in Balboa Hospital for the next nine years.

She returned to school at the University of San Diego to complete her BSN (83') and MSN (92') degrees. During those years, she was affiliated with the University of California San Diego Regional Poison Center as their education coordinator.

In 1992, she left California and moved to St. Paul, Minnesota. She enjoyed the challenges of home care nursing during her final 16 years of her professional career with an opportunity to pursue her interest in the care of geriatric patients.

As a retiree, she volunteered with her church providing services to the homeless population. Some of her favorite activities in the Twin Cities include visiting the many wonderful museums.

Favorite UCCS memory: “As I reflect upon the past 50 years since graduation, I remain very appreciative of the excellent education I received during my student years at Beth-El. I was very well prepared to begin a career as a Navy Nurse. In addition to wonderful classmates, I will always remember Ruth Gaston, RN, an instructor passionately devoted to the success of her students. Gloria Haughton, RN, MSN, director provided dynamic and inspiring leadership for the school. Physicians and nursing staff in Memorial Hospital were also instrumental in our individual achievements. Two additional memories remain for me personally; the great food in the hospital cafeteria AND skiing in Colorado.”

After graduation, Mike continued to work for Hewlett Packard until January 1999, including transfers to Pennsylvania, Baden-Württemberg Germany and Delaware. Since returning from three years in Germany, he and his family have lived for 27 years in Wilmington, Delaware. Both of their sons were born while they lived in Colorado Springs, and he now has three grandchildren. “My wife and I enjoy traveling (especially to Germany), playing bridge (where I earned Life Master in 2006), reading and gardening.”

“While I was studying at UCCS, the MBA students averaged 38 years old and it was fun to learn from their work experiences in a variety of industries and the US Air Force. The variety of business courses helped me with management positions at Hewlett Packard – budgeting, human resources, scheduling, planning, etc. In 2013, I received a BA in anthropology at the University of Delaware – what I learned at UCCS helped me start a nonprofit, Prekindergarten Reading Encouragement Project (PREP), that has provided literacy resources to low-income children for the last eight years.”