Light shines on new era at CMU

Windows that once graced the south wall of Houston Hall — but were covered during an earlier remodel — are back, reinstated in a more energy-efficient manner as part of a $15 million renovation of the first building constructed to serve what was then Mesa Junior College.

The renovation created a fitting mix of old and new at an institution that, as of today, officially has a new name — Colorado Mesa University. It has maintained important ties to its past even as it expands to meet future needs.

Inside Houston Hall, portions of the original marble floor remain, along with much of the original brickwork and the old brass railings that decorate the two main staircases.

But an addition and the remodeling of the existing structure, combined with a variety of technical upgrades and green technology, make it one of the most modern buildings in this community.

The original Houston Hall was constructed with a $180,000 bond overwhelmingly approved by Mesa County voters in the midst of the Great Depression — 1938. That money was supplemented with $135,000 from the Public Works Administration.

The latest renovation is being funded by a 2 percent tuition increase approved by the student body last year. Like this community more than 70 years earlier, the students agreed to pay more, even in difficult times, to obtain needed improvements.

Those who recall the Mesa State College campus of a decade ago, and visit CMU now, are likely to be astounded by the array of new and remodeled buildings. But it isn’t just the bricks and mortar that mark a new era at the local institution. Far from it.

Equally impressive are the broad range of academic pursuits and growing numbers of degrees available to students at CMU. From business to nursing, engineering to the arts — not to mention an abundance of skilled-career programs at Western Colorado Community College — Colorado Mesa University provides abundant opportunities for all types of students. And its expanding list of post-graduate degrees makes it possible for many people to continue their education here in the Grand Valley.

That’s no doubt why it has been growing rapidly, with a student population expected to exceed 8,500 this fall.

Still, CMU also remains an integral part of the Mesa County and Western Slope community. Beyond the direct economic impact, there are intangibles that must be considered.

They include cultural programs at the Moss Center for the Performing Arts, local gatherings at the College Center, a first-rate library, a Natural Resources and Land Policy Institute that has helped gather information for a variety of regional endeavors, and a multitude of partnerships with businesses and governments.

As it enters a new era, Colorado Mesa University deserves community support, just as it did in the late 1930s, when Mesa County residents voted to construct a new building to house their local junior college.


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