The People: David Skougstad

Eric Skougstad remembers his father, David, who taught accounting at MSU Denver.

Publish Date: October 24, 2014

Eric, left, with his father, David Skougstad. Photo: Courtesy of Eric Skougstad

David Skougstad loved Metro.

He taught accounting at Metro for more than 30 years, and had friendships with students and alumni from all fields of study.

David Skougstad was my dad, and he passed away on Feb. 11 this year. Ten days after his 70th birthday.

Early in his life, dad joined the Peace Corps and was sent to Kenya. There he was assigned to a ranchers and farmers co-op. At fiscal year end, he watched as the accounting equations, methods and practices he had put in place affected the villagers. That helped him understand the power of accounting. He wanted to preach the power of accounting to anyone who would listen.

Dad was working at Metro on and off in the early- to mid-70s. When I was born in 1979, he wanted more stability and took a full-time position. He stayed for over 30 years, until prostate cancer forced him into retirement. He idolized Rocky Mountain News columnist Gene Amole, who continued coming to work even after his terminal diagnosis. A co-worker said, “I couldn’t even call in sick if I thought I had the flu, Gene was dying and kept coming!” After dad’s diagnosis, he continued at Metro as long as he could. Metro was his therapy and his oasis.

He taught beginning accounting classes the entire time he was there. I heard people ask him, “Why don’t you challenge yourself with upper level classes?” He would reply, “The Intro students are always the challenge. I want to show them what accounting can do. Not just teach them mathematical equations, but show them how accounting works, by connecting it to the real world.”

One faculty member wrote in her sympathy card following dad’s passing that she had failed accounting a few times before taking dad’s class.

“David worked with me to help me understand,” she said.

Remember the teacher who always stayed after class to help students? That was dad. He always talked about the “A-ha Moment:” the moment accounting made sense to a student. He loved those moments. I saw that in our family life, too. He was born to be a teacher. I think he was more excited than I was about some of my accomplishments, like when I learned to ride a bicycle. I always imagined he taught that way. That he was excited for his students, as though he was learning accounting for the first time with the class.

Later in life, when we’d be out together, dad would be approached by people who appeared to be strangers until they said, “Professor Skougstad?” Dad would reply, “Hello …” and then say their first and last name. The students were always amazed dad remembered them. Dad would follow up by telling them where they sat in his class.

I never understood that talent of his. That was a skill based entirely on doing something for which he had a passion.

Dad taught at Metro for quite a while. He remembered when the library was built. He remembered the historic preservation that brought displaced historic homes to the Auraria campus, forming the Ninth Street Historic District.

He celebrated his 40th birthday at the Faculty Club, part of that district. He was quite a history nerd. He didn’t know what the plaques in front of the houses said, but he had about 15 minutes worth of history regarding each house.

When I worked for Metro’s student paper, dad helped me research various things, including the shooting of a Father Leo Heinricks at St. Elizabeth Church almost 100 years earlier. He helped me research Jefferson Randolph “Soapy” Smith, a con-man who operated out of the Tivoli. It was only later that we learned Soapy’s Tivoli was in LoDo, not on the Auraria campus.

Outside of his work at Metro, dad was a competitive cyclist and outdoorsman.  He hiked the 210-mile John Muir Trail solo, and competed in bicycle road races also doing charity rides. He hiked Long’s Peak at least once every decade since the 1970s.

He fell down a flight of stairs in 2006 and broke his hip, which, he learned, broke easily because he had prostate cancer that had metastasized to his hip. He had to give up teaching some classes, which was really hard for him. Even when his mother had died, he didn’t take any time off. Metro was his therapy.

While he was in the hospital, he sent me to retrieve his mid-term papers, telling me, “Just because I’m hurt, they still need to be graded!” I walked into the Accounting Department to find two attractive coeds tending the desk. I told them I was there to pick up some papers for David Skougstad. One of them asked, “David Skougstad?” The other one replied, “You know him! He teaches accounting! He competes in road bike races and goes backpacking in the winter in the snow. He’s dreamy.”

I attended Metro and majored in journalism with a minor in graphic design. I never really “got” accounting. But it was wonderful for me to be able to visit dad in his office and eat with him at the Faculty Club. It wasn’t until then that I realized the network he had built there, and how much Metro really meant to him. He and I enjoyed many bicycle rides, backpacking and camping trips together during that time, also. I was also privileged enough to go to France with him and some of the other accounting faculty.

He was the best dad I ever could have asked for. I was very happy to see so many messages and letters come to us from his friends, co-workers and former students at Metro. It means everything that he meant as much to Metro as Metro meant to him.

And a special “thank you” to Renee Ruderman. After I told her about dad’s passing, she passed the word on to everyone at Metro who would want to know. Thanks, Renee!