Days leading up to 1997 Fall Address were no picnic

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Colorado State University President Albert C. Yates recognizes the CSU communities efforts recovering from the flood on campus during his 1997 Fall Address.
Former CSU President Albert Yates challenged the campus to emerge from the Spring Creek Flood of 1997 an even better place during his President’s Fall Address.

On July 28, 1997, perhaps the last thing anyone in Fort Collins was thinking about was a picnic.

That night, record rainfall hit the area, causing tiny Spring Creek to erupt from its banks. The resulting flash flood drowned five people and caused millions in damages, turning the city into a giant lake.

On campus, the damage was catastrophic, although no one was seriously injured. The Morgan Library and Lory Student Center were devastated, academic buildings like Eddy, Occupational Therapy and Gibbons were overwhelmed, and the historic Oval was an oversized pond.

Then-CSU President Albert Yates surveyed the damage and recognized the enormous rebuilding task that loomed. But Yates was undaunted – determined to get classes that fall started on time and getting the campus to as near normal as possible.

Even more impressive was the challenge issued by Yates to all on campus: Let’s not simply survive, but emerge from the crisis better than ever.

Disaster leads to triumph

And that’s what happened. So, when plans were being made for the annual President’s Fall Address, it was decided to turn the annual “state of the university” speech into a celebration. All of campus – students, faculty and staff – was invited to a post-address picnic, with food and drink provided.

Yates, a gifted speaker, delivered perhaps his most stirring and memorable addresses to the 2,000-plus attendees.

The flood offered many lessons, not the least of which is that we can be better than we’ve been. We have the opportunity to rebuild and improve upon what we had before – to seize this chance to transform Colorado State University into the kind of institution we all want it to be. Let’s use what we’ve learned and invented in these last several weeks to ensure that the University that emerges from this crisis is a better and stronger place – in all of its dimensions – than it was on the 27th of July. And please hear this: Only if we do this – only if we are better in the end – can we claim that our recovery efforts have been successful.
CSU President Albert Yates
Fall Address, 1997

Be part of the tradition

The event was so popular it became an annual celebration: “The President’s Fall Address and University Picnic.” This free event is set for 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 16, on the Oval.

CSU’s marching band will perform at 11:15, with President Tony Frank’s remarks following at 11:30.