Colorado State University System Turns 151

Today, the Colorado State University System celebrates 151 years of service to Colorado. A System with three distinct universities (CSU Fort Collins, CSU Pueblo, and CSU Global), the CSU System is unified by its community focus, statewide engagement, and global impact. The campuses each focus on access to education, and each has a different area of focus, allowing the CSU System to meet the needs of all types of learners across the state. 

As part of this year’s celebration, the flagship Fort Collins campus will award its Founders Day Medal to Professor Emeritus John Matshushima, a man whose science revolutionized the global cattle industry and just recently celebrated his 100th birthday.

“When we celebrate Founders Day, we’re celebrating 151 years of providing life-changing education, world-leading research, and exceptional service to the people of Colorado, true to Abraham Lincoln’s original vision of promise and opportunity,” CSU System Chancellor Tony Frank said. 

CSU Fort Collins became the state’s land grant university on February 11, 1870, thanks to Lincoln’s earlier signing of the Morrill Act creating a system of universities nationwide that focused on accessible education and societally important research. CSU Pueblo has been serving the state since 1933, and today is a federally designated Hispanic Serving Institution with a regional focus on preparing students for work in economically important industries. CSU Global joined the CSU family of universities in 2007 — the first fully accredited, fully online state university in the country. The System continues to build out what a land grant mission looks like in the 21st Century, bringing large-scale initiatives to life throughout the state and internationally.

Earlier this week, the CSU System released its first-ever economic impact report, quantifying how the three campuses contribute to the state and beyond, including the following: 

  • 60,000+ students each year enroll at a CSU System university
  • CSU operations and student activities support more than 23,000 Colorado jobs
  • 112,250 alumni in Colorado’s current workforce contribute about 3% of the state’s total tax revenues
  • CSU System students spend more than $435 million on goods and services in local Colorado communities every year
  • CSU System alumni are leaders worldwide – there are nearly 300,000 living alumni from CSU universities

Founders Day Medal Recipient

Each year, the CSU Fort Collins campus awards a Founders Day Medal to someone who has had a transformative and lasting impact on the University and its success. The 2021 Founders Day Medal recipient is Professor Emeritus John Matsushima, a legendary scientist in beef-cattle nutrition whose innovations have influenced the global food system and exemplify the university’s land-grant mission. Matsushima partnered in research with the nation’s top cattle feeders and beef processors to improve animal health, efficiencies, pricing and food quality for consumers.

His own story personifies CSU’s land-grant mission. The son of Japanese immigrants, he grew up on his family farm in Platteville, south of Greeley, Colorado, and raised Hereford steers as a member of 4-H and FFA. He attended Colorado A&M, now CSU, to earn a bachelor’s degree in animal husbandry in 1943 and a master’s degree in animal nutrition in 1945. He battled racism and bigotry, particularly as the U.S. entered the second World War, and he relied on the support of  his college friends as he scraped by financially on his path to becoming a pioneer in global beef-cattle feeding. After Matsushima earned his Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota, he taught for a time at the University of Nebraska, then returned to CSU in 1961. Matsushima also founded CSU’s Ag Day in 1981.

The medal is among several significant honors Matsushima has received over his career and coinciding with his 100th birthday at the end of 2020. He previously was named the National Western Stock Show’s Citizen of the West in 2013.

Previous CSU Founders Day Medal recipients include: the Monfort family; Peace Corps visionary  and professor Maurice Albertson (posthumously); philanthropist Pat Stryker; CSU’s eighth president, William Morgan, and his wife, Lilla (posthumously); longtime professor Tom Sutherland and his wife, Jean; decades-long CSU supporters Bob and Joyce Everitt; veterinary oncology pioneer Dr. Stephen Withrow; alumnus and Tuskegee Airman John Mosley, (posthumously); alumnus and business icon Walter Scott, Jr.; CSU’s 12th president, Albert C. Yates; and the first woman to graduate from college in Colorado, Libbie Coy (posthumously).

Big initiatives and big plans for the CSU System

  • In 2022, the CSU Spur campus will open in Denver as the educational anchor of the future National Western Center. CSU Spur will have three buildings focused on food, water, and health — sort of a “museum meets science lab.” Spur will be a public space with year round science-on-display and experiential education.
  • CSU serves every Colorado county through its three universities, Extension, 4-H, the Colorado State Forest Service, the Agricultural Experiment Stations, and regional hub campuses.
  • The CSU Todos Santos Center is CSU’s international campus in Baja Sur, Mexico, focused on offering a cultural immersion experience for students who wish to take courses within their degree program in Mexico.
  • CSU Fort Collins is ranked one of the Top 10 universities in the world involved in research to understand and cure COVID-19.
  • U.S. News and World Report recently ranked CSU Global among its Top 10 best online bachelor’s degree programs — the only Colorado program included and the only university that is 100% online.
  • CSU Pueblo is engaged in a years-long reinvention process, Vision 2028, focused on transforming the campus into the people’s university of the Southwest.
  • Both CSU Fort Collins and CSU Pueblo had alumni playing in the Super Bowl this year — and each campus had a player on the championship team (Shaquil Barrett was a Ram, and Ryan Jensen was a Thunderwolf).

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