By Mary Alice Moore Konz (Edu’80)
Most students probably select institutions of higher learning based on majors, research or scholarships available. Perhaps my method was not the most analytical , but it did get me to Boulder in the fall of 1976: Ralphie the buffalo. Almost from the time I could walk I was watching Big 8 football on television with my brother. As a kid, I was charmed by the color and pageantry and longed to be part of it all. I first visited CU as a high school sophomore and fell in love with the campus set against the Flatirons. For me there never was any other college choice.
CU opened my eyes to a culturally diverse, socially aware world and taught me I could hang in there when things got tough. I’m not gonna lie: college was hard and humbling. Evidently I’d never learned to study in high school. It was a CU biology T.A. sophomore year who taught me how.
While walking back to Kittredge from class, I felt as if my brain would implode from all the information I cramed into it during lectures. Professors amazed me with their knowledge and passion for teaching. Yet it always seemed I had to study twice as hard to get the same grades my classmates earned with greater ease.
They’d be out tossing the Frisbee in Norlin Quad during Friday classes while I slogged away, writing down the notes they would borrow on Sunday night, recording lectures and re-reading chapters. So many times, I thought about giving up and observed, “I’m easily the dumbest person in this class.” Graduation loomed as a distant improbability.
Two years into CU, though, I finally learned how to succeed in the classroom and enjoy college at the same time. Most importantly, I grew to love the liberal atmosphere and cultural variety Boulder offered. There was much to learn from people whose backgrounds were so different than my sheltered, Catholic upbringing. A favorite pastime was just sitting in a crowd at the Packer Grill or the UMC fountain, listening to other people’s conversations about Native American sweat lodges, astrophysics or the next great party on Friday night.
You could hear it all. My favorite CU moments centered on music and friends, especially the Trivia Bowl with performances by the Grass Roots and Tommy James; Colorado Sun Day concerts at Folsom Field with Fleetwood Mac and Heart; AOII sorority life with its rituals, formals, philanthropy projects and fraternity pranks. Then there was a December night when this reformed senior recklessly skipped studying for a final to attend a Neil Diamond concert in Denver. Neil Diamond ― now that was livin’ life on the edge! And no, I never did regret it.
My CU experience impacted the way I teach, the liberal, open-minded way I think and gave me a passion for all things academic and outdoorsy. Not a school year goes by that I don’t apply Jack Crouch’s excellent lectures when I teach Elizabethan theater and Othello to my own students. And I feel a twinge of pride that Chancellor Phil DiStefano was once my teacher in the education school. Today no Colorado getaway is complete without a hike on the Chautauqua trails, a run up Four Mile Canyon Road or a bike ride on the Boulder Creek path.
If I have a regret about my college years, it’s that I shouldn’t have taken it for granted. I should have reveled in the hilarity of it all. I should have been more grateful for gentle snowfalls, 300 days of sunshine a year and the free-flowing exchange of ideas. I just should have had more fun. For all of the challenging lessons in the classroom, there were great opportunities I missed: performances and art exhibits to see, mountains to hike, rivers to raft, slopes to ski.
Today I make up for lost time when I visit my son John, a senior political science major. We swap tall tales about our CU experiences, carefully sidestepping a few that would be too much information for either of us to handle.
For example, he’s never heard about the 1979 Little Sister Rush at a nameless frat, with the grape Kool-Aid/ Everclear concoction that was standard fare for those days. Or how uninhibited Nichols Hall dormies dressed themselves in head-to-toe Saran wrap once to impersonate prophylactics for our annual Halloween party.
Living out here in “God’s Country” and being a CU alum is pretty much like wearing a sign that says “Kick me.” Most folks see the university as merely a struggling football program in a crazy-nuts party town. They don’t really know anything about the University of Colorado, or understand how much it means to me ― that it’s part of who I am. But I don’t back down, because I’m proud as hell to be a Buff .
CU President George Norlin’s advice to graduates is as powerful today as it was at 1980 commencement: “The University consists of all who come into and go forth from her halls, who are touched by her influence, and who carry on her spirit. Wherever you go, the University goes with you. Wherever you are at work, there is the University at work.” I’m a Nebraskan by geography, but a Buff forever.
Mary Alice Moore Konz (Edu’80) teaches English and coaches forensics for Kearney Public Schools in Kearney, Neb. She earned her master’s from the University of Nebraska-Kearney in 1994. She’s a loyal member of the Buff Club.