May 8, 2020

Happy Friday Evening, Everyone,

I’ve heard from some of you that you interrupt your much-deserved and much-needed down time every time a message from me comes through. I appreciate that. This message is thoughtful but not urgent. Please, don’t interrupt your weekend for this message; just read and reflect on it when you have time.


Fifty years ago tonight, the first academic building on our campus, Old Main, was on fire.

It had been a day of campus marches and protests against the Vietnam War. Some students advocated a strike—others opposed it. It was a time of deep division in our nation, even here at CSU. But when the flames became visible, and before the Fort Collins Fire Department could even reach the scene, those divided students came together with a single, common purpose: to help in any way they could. Faculty and community members soon joined them.

Some ran toward the flames. Between 50 and 100 students assisted firefighters with the hoses. Others joined campus police as student marshals to assist with crowd control and guard other buildings through the night.

By morning, the building was little more than a smoldering ruin. But the students were still there, some cleaning bricks from collapsed portions of the building to preserve them for a memorial.

In the face of an unexpected challenge, the CSU community came together. They stepped up and did what was needed. It was a historic moment.

I think that’s an amazing metaphor for what’s happening today with COVID-19. We’re facing a much larger challenge and its impact is being felt on a global scale. But CSU is here, doing what’s needed and making a difference.

Right now, CSU researchers are making good progress on COVID-19 vaccine development and have some early and exciting indications of candidate vaccine efficacy in pre-clinical models.

They’re also starting to evaluate plasma from recovered COVID patients for neutralizing antibodies of protection, which provides us with important information for potential use as a therapeutic treatment for those currently suffering with the disease.

Another cross-disciplinary CSU team includes infectious disease researchers, computer data modelers, and graduate students. They are leading an effort to identify “silent carriers” among healthcare workers—those who are infected with the virus but show no symptoms—in order to minimize the chance they will unwittingly infect vulnerable residents of long-term care communities and facilities.

CSU Extension continues to do what they do best—empowering the people of Colorado through engagement, education, and opportunity—but at a safe distance. They’re working in local communities to address immediate needs like mask-making for hospitals and public distribution and assisting food pantries, while sparking national efforts like the Victory Garden: Grow and Give initiative that updates and modernizes the World War II Extension-developed idea.

CSU engineers partnered with Fort Collins-based Woodward, Inc., to develop a low-cost, durable ventilator that could be quickly manufactured and deployed if the state faced shortages. They used a natural gas fuel injector as a key component and earned a shout-out from Governor Polis last week as “a great example of Colorado innovation and ingenuity.” The project, currently in the clinical testing stage, also received a $100,000 award from the U.S. Army.

There’s more, a lot more than I can tell you about in what’s supposed to be a relatively short, end-of the week message!

But fifty years from now, others will be looking back at this historic moment and how the CSU community came together to respond in so many different ways. It’s an extraordinary thing to see, but in many ways it’s business-as-usual for Colorado State University, a place where meeting the challenges and improving people’s lives is really why we’re here. And to be a part of that makes me so proud.

So we end the week with a short history lesson and a look at some of the terrific work happening right now. Today marks the end of this semester’s academic instruction and our students and faculty are turning their attention to final exams. At the beginning of the week, I’ll be back to talk about some of what comes next.

Meanwhile, stay safe, stay healthy and have a wonderful weekend!