When Front Range Community College first opened its doors to students in the fall of 1968, it was as the first campus of the new Community College of Denver—eventually called the “North Campus” of CCD. More than 1,800 students crowded into two metal buildings with a very small faculty, and just a handful of program offerings.

Something from Nothing

The Colorado General Assembly passed a law in the fall of 1967 establishing a state system of community colleges. The newly appointed president of what would become CCD, Leland Luchsinger, had less than a year to build a “campus” and start classes at 62nd Avenue and Downing Street on the outskirts of Denver.

When CCD-North opened to students on Sept. 23, 1968, many considered it a minor miracle. A team managed to erect two large metal buildings—with almost 50,000 square feet of space—in less than three months. Luchsinger pulled together a faculty and administrative staff who created curricula for classes and secured materials, supplies and other equipment—all in less than nine months.

Humble Beginnings

Faculty and staff who were around in those days describe it as the “Wild West” of community colleges. There weren’t a lot of resources—limited classroom space, no technology to speak of, no college-owned parking lots—and there weren’t really procedures for how to do anything. As employees from that time period will tell you, “We just figured it out and made it work.”

It may not have looked like much, but when you walked in the door—as alumna Teri Sanchez gushes—“You were in COLLEGE.” Even all these years later, her eyes still light up when she talks about it.

Still, things weren’t perfect at CCD-North. In the fall of 1974, a student protest broke out over the nearby private parking lot raising its rates to 35 cents from a quarter. Many students boycotted the lot, choosing instead to park along neighboring streets and walk farther to the campus.

Growth Leads to a New Campus in Westminster

Over the first few years, enrollment at the fledgling CCD-North campus grew by leaps and bounds. The small campus at 62nd and Downing had always been considered a temporary site—but by 1971 it was clear that the campus could no longer house the growing student population. So in July, the college acquired 160 acres in Westminster for a new, permanent site—and college officials broke ground on the former farmland in 1974.

What would eventually be known as the Westminster Campus opened in the fall of 1977. The first semester at the new solar-heated and -cooled building brought in 4,838 students. At the time, it claimed the title as the country’s largest solar installation.

1977-CCD NC- Largest solar-heated building in the world

The new campus also offered a special “Center for the Physically Disadvantaged,” which gave many students the support system they needed to be successful in college. The college also featured a child-care facility in connection with its Early Childhood Education program.

The school officially became known as Front Range Community College in the summer of 1983. Two years later, FRCC became an independent institution when the CCD system was dissolved—leaving in its place the newly-autonomous FRCC, Red Rocks Community College, and Community College of Denver.

And Another Campus in Fort Collins…

In the summer of 1988, FRCC’s Larimer Campus opened in Fort Collins. After many months of planning, the Larimer County Vocational-Tec Center (LCVTC) merged with the college, which had been offering classes at various locations in Fort Collins for years. The campus grew, offering a full schedule of academic courses in addition to occupational and technical programs. (Look for a blog post specific to the history of the Larimer Campus in the coming months.)

Yet Another Campus in Longmont…

FRCC’s services in Boulder County evolved over the years, with many partner organizations. From 1983 to 2003, the college offered classes at several locations in both Boulder and Longmont—eventually opening campuses in both communities. The college’s current Boulder County Campus on Miller Drive in south Longmont opened in 2003. (Look for a blog post specific to the history of the Boulder County Campus in the coming months.)

We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

Things look different now that FRCC is the largest community college in Colorado. Today the college features:

  • Three campuses (plus several other locations for classes and labs).
  • A large selection of online courses.
  • Approximately 28,000 students.
  • More than 160 degrees and certificates.

FRCC is also the No. 1 transfer institution for Colorado State University, the University of Colorado-Boulder, the University of Northern Colorado, and other four-year colleges in the state.

This type of tremendous growth and improvement takes a lot of work. Over the past 50 years, many dedicated employees have helped make FRCC into what it is today. Thousands of hard-working students have walked through our doors since 1968, striving to enrich their lives, and going on to accomplish great things. We are excited to celebrate how FRCC’s efforts have changed people’s lives and the communities we serve.

Your Story is Part of Our Story

Throughout 2018, FRCC will be celebrating our anniversary with events and activities on each campus. FRCC has also published a new 50th anniversary website: www.frontrange.edu/50. On it, you can find:

We hope you will visit our 50th site and share stories of your successful lives and strong futures. And come back to campus for events in the fall to see old friends and people who inspired you. Together, our story is the story of FRCC—and we look forward to another tremendous 50 years of enriching lives through learning.

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