By Deborah Fowlkes
I grew up in Boulder in the shadow of the Flatirons. My free time was spent hiking, backpacking, skiing and rock climbing. One of my earliest memories is of being carried in a backpack on my mother’s back during a mountain hike, and the bottom seam split and spilled me in a startled heap onto the trail. (This was before there were toddler carriers. My mother literally cut two slits for my legs in the bottom of a regular knapsack and put me in it when I grew tired of hiking).
Some of my favorite childhood memories are of Saturday hikes with my father up Green Mountain or near Brainard Lake, the two of us exploring new trails or revisiting familiar ones, and ending the day back in Boulder with the ultimate treat – a chocolate-covered, cream-filled Long John at Roger’s Donuts on Pearl Street. A different kind of “treat” took the form of rainy days, a rare occurrence that enabled me to stay indoors and read to my heart’s content.
The Boulder campus was an everyday part of my life, since we lived less than a mile away and my father, Irving Weiss, was a math professor here. My elementary school, University Hill, was (and still is) across the street from the UMC and my high school, Boulder High, was a short hike or bike ride through campus and down the steep 17th street hill. The campus was a never-ending source of adventure, from viewing old movies in the Cristol Chemistry building to attending music and theater performances to name a few.
I’ve been back in Boulder for six months now after taking off for college in the east when I was 18. And Boulder’s even better than I remembered. Much and yet nothing essential has changed since those earlier years. The emphasis on a healthy, active lifestyle is still here, strengthened by the addition of Open Space trails, city bike lanes and numerous fitness centers.
The campus is still a treasure-trove for me. Becoming executive director of the Alumni Association last year has made me realize more than ever what an amazing institution CU-Boulder is. The Heritage Center, a vibrant part of the Alumni Association, welcomes people to discover a wonderful array of CU history in an elegant, historical space. At the Museum of Natural History the dioramas of my childhood are gone, but in their place are the Discovery Corner and fascinating Southwestern textile exhibits.
Opera, orchestra and choral concerts, Shakespearean performances and the Conference on World Affairs are just a few of the other delights that CU holds for me. Treasures in the form of new buildings appear as I walk across campus each day to attend meetings in places such as the Visual Arts Center, with its wonderful jewel of an art museum, and the energy-filled, eclectically furnished Center for Community.
I’m very glad to be back in Boulder and to be part of the Forever Buffs family. I’ve had the opportunity to meet many alumni, both here in Boulder and around the country, and what always strikes me is the depth of pride and strong sense of loyalty that our Buffs have towards their alma mater. I hear fascinating stories of how they met their future spouse on campus, or how their lives were redirected by a particular course, or how the opportunity to take a leadership role in a student group shaped their character.
Many now want to give back to CU, returning to campus to talk with students about their careers, becoming involved in local alumni chapters, spreading the word about CU at local high school college fairs or raising money for scholarships. I’m also impressed with the number of alumni who have gone into the nonprofit sector, including over 3,000 Buffs who are Peace Corps alumni, one of the highest from any school in the U.S. I feel privileged to be part of such a vibrant, caring community.
As part of showing our new family pride, my husband Stephen and I just picked up our new customized license plates, which read, “4VRBUFS,” which is the closest we could come in seven letters to our Forever Buffs slogan. Our Old English Sheepdog, Manfred, is an official part of the CU-Boulder Alumni Association, appearing in our office’s annual holiday greeting card along with the rest of the staff (and their dogs). Our grandchildren received some sort of CU paraphernalia among their Christmas presents: a CU sleeper for our infant grandson and stuffed Ralphies for the older four.
As we begin this new year, I hope one of your New Year’s resolutions will be to stay closely connected to CU and to encourage other Buffs to do the same. I look forward to meeting many of you in the coming months. Go Buffs!
Deborah W. Fowlkes is executive director of the Alumni Association and a CU-Boulder assistant vice chancellor. She returned (permanently) to Boulder in July 2010 after growing up here. Prior to her current work she served as executive director of the Temple University Alumni Association and assistant vice president of Temple’s Alumni Relations office and before that in several positions at Duke University, from which she received her undergraduate and master’s degrees, in Comparative Literature/French Literature and Liberal Studies, respectively. Her father, Irving Weiss, is still enjoying the Boulder lifestyle at 91 years of age.