Former Colo. State Rep. Robert E. Bowen Details Struggle to Start Metro State College in New Book

Author also was a student at the college in the late 1960s.

Denver, CO, May 13, 2015 –(– “They called us losers, slackers, hub cap thieves. They said our college was second-class and inferior. But, we proved how wrong they were,” said Robert E. Bowen at the reception launching his book: “The Vision, The Struggle: How Metropolitan State University of Denver Came to Be.”

The book is the first to tell the story of how Metropolitan State College of Denver, now a university, was created. Former Governor Roy Romer and Metropolitan State University (MSU) Denver President Stephen Jordan joined Bowen to launch the book on May 5th, the anniversary of the date Governor Love signed Romer’s bill that created Metro State in 1963. “This was the toughest battle of my political career,” Romer said. “It was a fierce battle because quite honestly, the University of Colorado did not want this college created and the Denver establishment was against it.” He pointed out that the Metro coalition was bi-partisan citing the efforts of Rep. Palmer Burch, Rep. Allan Dines, Rep. Mark Hogan, Rep. Frank Kemp, and Sen. Joe Shoemaker among others.

The book describes the vision for the first state-funded college in Denver which was designed to be a different kind of college entirely. It outlines the seven-year struggle to pass the legislation and get the institution funded so it could open in 1965. Then, it chronicles the first six years of the fledgling school as it grew from a one-room office in the State Capitol to an institution of 7,000 students by 1971.

Author Bowen is a Denver native who grew up near Auraria. He enrolled at Metro in 1967 and graduated with a degree in history and political science in 1971. As a student, he was president of the student body and sat on the advisory board of the Colorado Commission on Higher Education. He was a three-term state representative from Denver in the 1980s.

“If it weren’t for Metro State,” Bowen said, “I would not have received a college education. Thousands of others who have contributed so much to this community could not have gone to college either. Metro’s open door gave them a second chance. Its affordability, its proximity to jobs, and a faculty that helped students succeed, made a college education possible.” Since it opened, 80,000 have earned degrees thanks to that vision and struggle.

The college was born in the 1960s, an era of great change in society. The Civil Rights movement was at its height; the struggle of Chicanos for respect was beginning as was the battle by women for equality. A war was raging in Vietnam and a battle against that war was raging on the college campuses of the nation. The counterculture and Hippie movement were in full swing. The generation gap was changing family life. Young people questioned authority and their music and hair styles were changing as well.

Bowen tells this story in the context of what was going on in society and Denver at that time. The book explains the decisions that were made in the setting in which they were made.

“Winston Churchill said history will treat me well because I intend to write it,” Bowen said. “That is why I wrote this book. The history of this life-changing struggle has never been recorded; the stories of those responsible have not been told, especially the contributions of the students.”

Metropolitan State College was specifically created to be an urban-oriented college that would provide an educational opportunity for those who were previously left behind: students from middle income and poor families; minorities; women; married students who had to work while in school; working people who wanted an education to further their careers; and those who needed a second chance. Romer called them “late bloomers.”

“Metro was designed to be a college without any walls dividing it from the city,” Bowen said. “What happened in the city, happened in the college.”

Even though Metro was the newest and smallest college in the state, it was at the center of all the social change going on in Colorado in the 1960s. The anti-war movement for the entire state was organized at Metro; the Chicano student movement was centered at Metro; the African-American student movement was also centered at Metro, Bowen said.

The book is available in the Auraria Bookstore, online from the publisher’s website, and Amazon.
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Robert E Bowen
Laurie Anderson