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Romer: MSU Denver is ‘a great thing…but we got more to do’

It’s been about five decades since then-state Representative Roy Romer chaired a legislative task force that recommended a new four-year college.

June 11, 2013

President Stephen Jordan (left) and Roy Romer chatted when the former governor visited MSU Denver on June 10. Credit: Trevor Davis
President Stephen Jordan (left) and Roy Romer chatted when the former governor visited MSU Denver on June 10. Credit: Trevor Davis

By Cliff Foster

It’s been about five decades since then-state Representative Roy Romer chaired a legislative task force that recommended a new four-year college for Colorado’s capital city, a school that would become Metropolitan State University of Denver.

And on Monday, Romer came to MSU Denver for a video-recorded interview conducted by Associate Professor of Sociology Sheldon Steinhauser that touched on the political battle to create the school, the challenges facing all levels of education today, digital learning and more.

The 39th governor of Colorado and former superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District is now an advisor to the College Board.  Romer is also among a group of students, faculty, staff, administrators, alumni and friends of MSU Denver who are being interviewed as a part of the History Committee’s preparation for the University’s 50th anniversary in 2015.

Steinhauser noted that Romer was one of the earliest promoters of a new publically supported college in Denver. “His commitment along with others led to the necessary research and legislative support to create what then became Metro State effective as of the fall term 1965.”

Steinhauser asked Romer his thoughts about how far MSU Denver has come since “those earliest days.”

“I’m very pleased about what has occurred here,” Romer said. “But also, I feel a challenge. This is the key to the good life and the economic life for a whole lot of young people and adults…So every time I see progress, I applaud it and I applaud this very loud, but also I have a similar reaction of we got more to do; how do we work together to get it done?”

Getting it done on the new college legislation in early 60s wasn’t easy. As chair of the education task force, Romer envisioned a four-year college that would be different from the University of Colorado and two-year junior colleges.

 It would be a place for students who wanted to continue their education, particularly those holding down jobs, but had not met the entrance requirements of the university, he said.  The institution he had in mind would “have a door for many kinds of people—for that guy who’s out there working and wants to come back, for the traditional student out of high school who doesn’t fit somewhere else,”  and for the person seeking to bone up on an academic skill.

But, as Romer recalled, “this was a real fight” in the legislature, with multiple attempts made to kill the institution.

Romer didn’t dwell on long-ago politics. Rather, he asked this rhetorical question: “Did we create an institution that enabled a bigger slice of America to get an opportunity to have a good education?”

“We’ve done that.”

“Metro is a great thing,” he added later. “It is a blessing that we have it. For those who are teaching here or those who are studying here, it can be even better than what it is now." So, the question, Romer said, is this: "How do we make it better?”

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