Celebrating career Milestones in a memorable year for CSU

Mary Ontiveros laughed when asked to look back 45 years to the day she started her first full-time job at Colorado State University.

“I was the assistant director of admissions, and I was hired to help recruit minority students to CSU,” she said. “I didn’t even know such a job existed. I guess I thought students just showed up on their own.”

Needless to say, much has changed since that day – for her and CSU. Ontiveros is now the University’s vice president for diversity and one of the most respected leaders on campus. She has launched numerous signature initiatives designed to create more opportunities for minority and first-generation students – like she was when she arrived on campus as an undergraduate – and provide the tools necessary for graduation.

“I’m proud of the work I’ve been able to do and happy to still be working in those areas,” she said.

Ontiveros is one of more than 570 CSU employees being honored for their service to the University via the annual Milestones celebration. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s celebration will be quite different from those of the past, but the achievements of the employees being honored for hitting 10 years of employment and beyond (in 5-year increments) are just as relevant as CSU celebrates its 150th birthday.

Four and a half decades

Milestones - campus countdown during Tom Sutherland's kidnapping

Eight employees celebrating 45 years at CSU have witnessed tremendous change and were on campus for historic events such as when CSU professor Tom Sutherland was kidnapped in Lebanon in 1985.

There are eight employees celebrating 45 years of working at CSU, and they have witnessed tremendous change since they collected their first paycheck in 1975 – including the size of the paycheck. Becky Tamlin, assistant to the dean of libraries, remembers making $425 per month when she first started in the accounting office of Housing and Dining Services.

“That was enough to pay the rent, buy groceries and put gas in the car,” she said with a laugh. “We were living pretty high.”

Consider these facts:

• Those eight employees have worked for seven University presidents, including the first African-American (Albert Yates) and the first woman (Joyce McConnell) leaders in CSU history.

• They were on campus when CSU professor Tom Sutherland was kidnapped in Lebanon in 1985, and were here to celebrate his return in 1991 (and mourn his passing in 2016).

• They witnessed the entirety of the Sonny Lubick era in football (six conference titles, nine bowl games) and the ongoing excellence of the Tom Hilbert era in volleyball (25 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances).

• They have seen enrollment nearly double, from just over 17,000 in 1975 to just shy of 35,000 today.

• They witnessed the inglorious end of College Days, the longstanding spring celebration that was permanently cancelled in 1987 when a large party turned into a riot.

• They have had a front-row seat (and endured a lot of detours) watching the greatest building boom in campus history, with $2.5 billion invested in new or renovated residence halls, classrooms, research facilities and a multipurpose on-campus stadium.

If you’re looking for an event that defines their first year at CSU, it would have to be the Rolling Stones concert on July 20 at Hughes Stadium. That’s when Elton John made a surprise appearance to play keyboard while wearing a Los Angeles Dodgers jacket and white cowboy hat.

The 39,000 fans in attendance were quite unruly and caused significant damage to the playing surface, and CSU and city officials decided that the Stones would be the final act at Hughes.

More memorable moments

Milestones - Annual Trial Gardens
Milestones, Behavioral Sciences Building, 2010

Those celebrating milestones ending in 0 and 5 have witnessed the opening of the Annual Trial Gardens as well as CSU becoming the first university in the world to achieve a STARS Platinum ranking.

In later milestone years – those ending in 0 and 5 – the campus witnessed numerous memorable moments. Keynote speakers included Gerald Ford (1985), Janet Reno and Mikhail Gorbachev (2005), while headlining performers Van Halen (1980) and Sheryl Crow and Dave Matthews (1995) played in Moby Arena.

CSU has long been associated with sustainability, so it’s no surprise that a pilot recycling program was launched in 1990 – long before recycling was commonplace. Years later, Colorado State became the first university in the world to achieve a STARS Platinum ranking.

And a city and campus icon – the Annual Trial Gardens –was built in 2000. It has become one of the five most visited sites in the city and a remarkable living laboratory serving gardeners throughout the Rocky Mountain region.

So, there is much to celebrate in this 150th year at CSU – especially for employees marking milestones in their tenure.

“We lose track of time, so it’s good that we take the time every year to celebrate these employees and these milestones,” Ontiveros said. “The campus and the town are so different from what they were when I first started, but I’m proud of what I see, proud of what we have become.”

Special thanks to Victoria Lopez-Terrill and Linda Meyer from CSU Libraries for their research.

Milestone Honorees are asked to order your gift if you have not done so already. Orders will be delivered to you via campus delivery once on-campus classes resume.