Bill Morgan, family honored with 2013 Founders Day medal as CSU looks forward 50 years

Former CSU President William Morgan family portrait

————This post was originally published in CSU Life’s February 2013 edition ——————

Last year’s Founders Day celebration recognized the 150 years the Morrill Land-Grant Act has been in existence. Signed by President Abraham Lincoln, the act granted federal land to each state to help subsidize colleges and further educate people in agriculture, engineering and home economics. The act gave Colorado State its start to becoming the great research university we are today.

This year, CSU’s Founders Day celebration will focus on the next 50 years and the university’s plans to continue providing high quality education to students across Colorado. As part of this focus, the university will honor former CSU President William E. Morgan and his family with the Founders Day Medal during this year’s ceremony. Morgan, who was born in 1909, became Colorado A&M’s eighth president in 1949, and managed the transition from Colorado A&M, an agriculture and engineering school, to Colorado State University, a diverse research institution comprising eight colleges.

During his tenure, Morgan oversaw a 15-fold expansion of campus facilities, including athletic facilities, an engineering center, chemistry annex, plant and animal sciences buildings, additions to the student center, faculty apartments, several residence hall and Eddy Hall. Morgan also played a key role in obtaining funds for a new library building, named in his honor when it opened in 1965. A bust of Morgan now sits inside the main entrance. In 1969, Morgan retired as president of CSU, and was awarded the distinction of President Emeritus by CSU’s governing board, then the State Board of Agriculture. The William Morgan Chair in the College of Liberal Arts and William E. Morgan Alumni Achievement Award also were named in his honor.

Morgan’s wife, Lilla Morgan, became a matriarch of the Fort Collins community who championed the fine arts, symphonies and theater performances. Coupled with President Morgan’s belief that the Land-Grant Act required CSU to provide a liberal – and “liberating”– arts education to the masses, the two became a cultural force in Fort Collins. The two first met on a blind date in 1929 and were married on New Year’s Eve in 1933. President Morgan always referred to Lilla as his co-president, and the two oversaw CSU for 20 years.

Lilla founded the first Fort Collins book club and led the charge to raise funds for the Lincoln Center, now Fort Collins’ major performing arts venue. Her love of the arts lives on in the Lilla B. Morgan Memorial Endowment, one of the most important funds for the arts at Colorado State. Founded in her honor by friends and family, the fund enriches artistic and cultural life on campus by providing funding to support projects in the fields of art, music,humanities, literature and the performing arts. Additionally, the William E. Morgan Society recognizes the generosity of donors who have supported the university with cumulative gifts of $100,000 to $999,999, or qualifying planned gifts.

Read about other Founders Day Medal Recipients

Celebrating higher education

On Monday, Feb. 11, CSU will honor the creation of the institution, the values that have sustained it, and its mission of service through teaching, research and engagement with a Founders Day celebration. Events will occur at both the state Capitol and on campus. Students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends are invited to join CAM the Ram on the plaza for CSU’s birthday celebration. The celebration on campus begins at 1:43 p.m. in honor of the 143 years CSU has been in existence. Birthday cupcakes will be served while supplies last. A special event in Denver also will honor the land-grant university and its dedication to providing higher education access to all. It will kick off at 8 a.m. in the West Foyer of the Capitol.

CAM’s birthday party

For a kid-friendly celebration, CSU students, faculty, staff and alumni can bring the family to CAM’s birthday party. Help CAM the Ram blow out the candles on another year at this free CSU Alumni Day, held both in Denver and Fort Collins. Pizza, cupcakes, games, bounce castles and other activities will be available for those in attendance. The Fort Collins celebration will be held 11 a.m.–2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 2, at Pump It Up, 1420 Riverside Ave. A Denver-area celebration is set for 11 a.m.–2 p.m. the following Saturday, Feb. 9, at Monkey Bizness, 9950 E. Easter Ave., Suite 200, in Centennial.