1968 – Watershed for Change

Photograph from CCD Catalog 1969-1970, pg. 14, FRCC Archive Collection, College Hill Library, Westminster, CO

Assassins took the lives of political revolutionaries Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy.

Protests emerged in nearly every major city of the United States to draw attention to racial, gender, and political issues.

Two black athletes were expelled from the Olympic Games for raising their fists as a salute for equality and human rights.

The American government struggled with how to win a war in Vietnam against guerrilla regimes. The “body count” became a strategy for gaining public support of a televised war.

Popular culture brought society toward a colorful and more diverse future. Television, fondly called “The Tube,” brought music and laughter amidst the reports of war in Vietnam or protests in the streets. “Hair” debuted on Broadway, “Laugh In” debuted on television, and the popular series “Star Trek” made history by airing one of the first scripted interracial kisses on television.

Colorado was a magnet for artists, counter-culture enthusiasts, and music. Led Zeppelin made their American debut in Denver.

This is just a glimpse of American life in 1968.

A College for a Community

1968 was a pivotal year not only for American society, but also for education in Colorado.

In 1967 Colorado passed House Bills 1448, 1449, and 1450; laws that eventually led to the creation of a Community College of Denver (for more information on the transition from CCD to FRCC, see FRCC Is Turning 50 Years Old!).

As the nation grieved the losses of King and Kennedy and faced challenging times of riots and protests, Denver leaders prepared to move communities forward through education. In preparation for the building of a new college, college leaders met with the Denver community in August 1968 to discuss the needs of the populations and the vision for the future college. Former FRCC history professor John Robinson claimed that the scene was reflective of the political and social changes of 1968, with representation from many diverse backgrounds. Though attendees shared what was important to their own groups, one thing was clear – the college needed to create an inclusive space that met the needs of the local populations in an ever-changing nation. For more information, see FRCC History – Personal as the People Who Lived It.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Faculty and administrators worked to get the word out and make the college a welcoming space for students, and though they projected about a thousand students for the first year, 1,861 students enrolled by September 1968. Of those students, about two-thirds were male, 50 percent were married, and 15 percent received veteran benefits.

An unsightly string of prefabricated steel buildings on 62nd Avenue did not deter students or employees; they were eager for knowledge and opportunity. Enrollment rose in the second term, making the college the highest enrolled two-year college in the state.

Though the temporary facilities were cramped and noisy, and many classrooms lacked basic needs like chairs, the faculty described the atmosphere with a sense of closeness, community, and general willingness to help. The college quickly expanded its offerings at satellite locations including, schools, banks, hospitals, and other colleges.

Hello, Goodbye

As some students may have ventured out to see the 1968 film The Graduate, many students just wanted to graduate – from CCDN that is. At the end of just one year of operation, the college awarded 123 Certificates of Completion, four Certificates of Achievement, and one Associate of Arts degree. The Beatles topped the charts in the U.S. and the UK with “Hello, Goodbye,” and it could have been used as a theme song of college employees who led students to accomplishment only to see them “go, go, go” on to personal success in their communities.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cecilia Gowdy-Wygant , Ph.D., is a history faculty member both online and at the Westminster Campus of Front Range Community College. She is the author of Cultivating Victory: The Women’s Land Army and Victory Garden Movements and screenwriter of Women Warriors: A Vision of Valor.