Class of 1971 inducted into the 50 Year Club, new award announced

Alumni Thaine Michie (left), Vivian Lee Kerr and Charles (Chuck) Sylvester, Jr. are being honored by the CSU Alumni Association and 50 Year Club Committee on Oct. 8.

Each year, the Colorado State University Alumni Association and 50 Year Club Committee recognize two alumni who graduated at least 50 years ago for career achievement and public service. If you’re counting, that’s the Class of 1971 and before.

An additional award is being presented this year: Exceptional Achievement for National Western Stock Show. This award acknowledges an alum who has been recognized as having made significant contributions to the National Western Stock Show and who has brought honor to Colorado State University and to themselves.

“Based on CSU’s long-standing relationship with the National Western Stock Show, the Alumni Association and the 50 Year Club Committee felt compelled to honor that legacy,” said Kristi Bohlender, the executive director of the Alumni Association. “We have a deserving alumnus in Chuck Sylvester, and we hope this award further strengthens CSU’s established partnership with this legendary event.”

Award nominations are reviewed by the 50 Year Club Committee, a group of alumni volunteers who all graduated 50 years ago or more. They meet year-round and oversee the nomination and selection process. They also assist with the 50 Year Club Luncheon, held during Homecoming and Family Weekend, where the awards are presented. This year’s Luncheon is being held Friday, Oct. 8. Click here for details and to register for the event.

Career Achievement – Thaine Michie (B.S., ’63)

Thaine Michie
Thaine Michie

Thaine Michie began his lifetime career in the electrical power industry when he worked part time and summers with Fort Collins Light and Power while earning his electrical engineering degree at CSU.

He held several positions in Northern Colorado’s power industry before joining the Platte River Power Authority in 1982 as the operations manager. In 1987, he became general manager/CEO. He was well known throughout the industry for his forward-thinking expertise and humble leadership, as well as his willingness to work with individuals at every level of the organization.

During Michie’s tenure at the PRPA, he transformed the company from primarily a generation and transmission development utility to an efficient, low-cost wholesale power provider, and it became the first utility in Colorado to offer utility-produced wind energy.

His career came with plenty of pressures and responsibilities, but Michie’s family remained a priority. He and his wife, Marilynn, raised three children and supported their participation in numerous sports and 4-H activities. Michie continues to be involved in the community by serving on the board of directors for the Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association.

Public Service – Vivian Lee Kerr (B.S., ’69; M.Ed., ’77)

Vivian Lee Kerr
Vivian Lee Kerr

When Vivian Lee Kerr left Newark, New Jersey, to attend Colorado State in 1965, she encountered a student body and faculty who were nearly all white, as well as racism on campus and in the community. Inspired by civil rights protests around the country, she and other Black students set out to change things.

In 1967, they formed the Black Student Alliance, and together with other organizations, worked to provide a more equitable educational environment for all students. The following year, Kerr helped create Project GO, a program designed to recruit and retain more minority students.

She married Floyd Kerr (B.S., ’69; M.Ed., ’76) in 1969 and they left Colorado following graduation, returning in 1974 when Floyd Kerr became CSU’s first Black assistant basketball coach. Vivian Kerr worked in Financial Aid, the first Black person to so. She was the founding director of Black Student Services and wrote the federal grant proposal for CSU’s Academic Advancement Program, then served as director of both programs for two years.

The Kerrs currently live in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where Vivian Kerr has been the director of the Southern University Museum of Art for 21 years. In 2018, she was presented the Trailblazer Award for her courage and determination to make CSU a better place for all.

Exceptional Achievement for National Western Stock Show – Charles (Chuck) Sylvester, Jr. (B.S., ’61; M.Agr., ’86)

Charles (Chuck) Sylvester, Jr.
Charles (Chuck) Sylvester, Jr.

Charles (Chuck) Sylvester, Jr. was raised on a fourth-generation family farm in LaSalle, Colorado. He actively participated in 4-H and credits that experience for his interest in livestock, which led to his career in animal agriculture.

In 1978, Sylvester became the general manager of the National Western Stock Show in Denver, where he served in that capacity for 25 years. Under his leadership, it became the largest agricultural show in the United States. He tripled the annual attendance to nearly 650,000 by adding days to the show and attracting urban newcomers with new programs and events.

Sylvester also served as the president of the North American Livestock Show and Rodeo Managers Association. During the 1990s, he was one of the first major livestock show managers in the country willing to proactively address the issue of livestock show ethics. He gave six years to CSU as an Extension agent and four years as the assistant manager of the Colorado State Fair, where he helped produce its centennial year celebration.

Among his many accomplishments, Sylvester has served as the president/co-chair of CSU’s Ag Day and is a charter member of the CSU Beef Club and CSU Wranglers, which provide scholarships for the College of Agricultural Sciences. He was inducted into the Colorado Agriculture Hall of Fame in 2004 and the Colorado 4-H Hall of Fame in 2011.

Learn more

To get more information and register for this year’s luncheon on Friday, Oct. 8, visit alumni.colostate.edu/50-year-club.