We know we owe the crown jewel of the Boulder campus – Macky Auditorium – to the generosity of Andrew J. Macky (1834-1907) who arrived in Boulder in 1859 during the Colorado gold rush. An early supporter of establishing the University of Colorado in Boulder, Macky became president of the First National Bank and Boulder’s richest citizen. His 1903 bequest of a substantial sum to construct the auditorium transformed the campus geography, but—more importantly—has been a primary focus of the University’s intellectual and cultural life for nearly a century. For me, Macky has many personal connections.
A family connection
The same year Macky did, another “Pike’s Peaker” made the trek to the Front Range, my great-grandfather William Guy Fairhurst. Born in New Jersey, he worked as an iron molder in Brooklyn, New York, and moved to Illinois in 1855 with his new bride to take up farming. His wife died in childbirth in 1858 and Guy headed West to what was then Kansas Territory.
In 1876 he struck pay dirt in Magnolia, half way up Boulder Canyon. Promising strikes of tellurium in 1895 presaged big profits and Guy’s company took out loans from Macky’s First National Bank. My family’s Macky connection began in 1903 when Guy sought a loan extension at the First National Bank and was refused. Andrew Macky was out of town at the time and on returning to Boulder was upset that his employees had refused to help out another Boulder pioneer whom he knew. Macky reversed his subordinates and Guy kept his Magnolia property until his death.
High school graduation
On Thursday, June 9, 1960, I joined 408 other graduating seniors from Boulder High School in Macky for graduation. I don’t remember much about the ceremony or the commencement address by CU education professor Homer Rainey. I probably should have paid more attention, given that he had been fired by the CU Regents in the 1940’s because of his staunch advocacy of academic freedom and undoubtedly offered some valuable insights.
Three years later I shared the podium with CU President Joseph Smiley and other university administration and faculty members for the President’s Convocation – the first event in New Student Orientation Week. I was president of the Associated Students (ASUC).
A transfer student from Auburn University in Alabama was sitting in the auditorium with her mother. Susanne Alexander (later Stoiber) (A&S’65, MPubAd’75) was a cute blonde with a deep Southern accent. As I later learned, her mother Suzy was a charming “steel magnolia” from Eufaula, Ala., who kept a close watch on her two girls. Only after being married to Susanne for 30 years did I find out that during my remarks in Macky, Suzy turned to her daughter and said, “Susanne, honey! That looks like a nice boy. Why don’t you get to know him?” And I thought I was in control of my life!
Those of us who came of age in the early 1960s can’t escape the label “the Kennedy Generation.” As one who campaigned for JFK during my first weeks at CU, I have cheerfully accepted the label. His inaugural injunction to “Ask not what the country can do for you, but what you can do for your country!” resonated with me. It was certainly one of the influences that turned me toward a life of public service.
My first Kennedy connection with Macky was on, Oct. 23, 1962 when the new president revealed that offensive missiles had been stationed in Cuba by the Soviet Union and that the U.S. was instituting a naval blockade to halt this development. The next day I sat on the steps of Macky with a couple of classmates from my sophomore philosophy class, debating the question of “determinism versus free will.”
Then, on Nov. 22, 1963 President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. I was sitting in the ASUC office in the UMC when the student body vice-president Neal Johnson (PolSci’64) (later the best man in my wedding) rushed in to exclaim “the president has been shot!” We rushed down to the UMC Indian Grill to join crowds of students listening to radio and TV broadcasts. Classes were canceled. Three days later a requiem was held in Macky where I joined university officials on the podium in mourning the fallen president.
A significant first date
In March 1964 the 29th season of the Artist Series included a performance in Macky of Rossini’s opera The Barber of Seville. I had two tickets and needed a date. Susanne Alexander, the Auburn transfer student, had applied for a position in student government. I was impressed by her and appointed her ASUC public affairs commissioner. She led a lobbying effort at the Colorado legislature in Denver to attempt to prevent a major tuition increase. Although we failed, I felt I shared some important interests and perspectives.
So, I invited her to join me for “Barber.” I confess that I don’t remember much about the performance, except that everything seemed to turn out all right for the lovers. At any rate and Macky turned out to be the perfect venue for a first date since Susanne and I celebrated our own “Marriage of Carlo” three and a half years later in Boulder.
World Affairs Conference inspires
Another Macky-related connection which shaped my life was the annual Conference on World Affairs. The CWA was conceived by my cousin, Professor Howard Higman (Art’31, MSoc’42) in 1937, and it helped to turn my career interests toward international affairs
I remember in 1959 – my senior year at Boulder High School, just down the hill – attending a presentation in Macky by the eloquent young Kenyan leader Tom Mboya. He had launched an airlift program for African students to come to the U.S., which brought his fellow Kenyan Barack Obama Sr. to this country.
I got my own turn at the CWA for nine years (1990-1994 and 1999-2002) participating in 63 panels and giving two plenary addresses. As a director at the State Department, I pontificated on nuclear proliferation and terrorism. I also had some of CWA’s eccentric assignments on panels addressing such topics as “Goulash Capitalism” and “Adventurism.”
As an editorial cartoonist, I also joined panels on humor in politics – often projecting some of my work to illustrate my viewpoint. My favorite panel was one in 2001, just after George Bush’s election. The panel included the terrifically acute and funny Texas journalist Molly Ivins, entitled “Why Dubya Could Make a Great President.” I led off with a series of cartoons showing Bush tackling various issues – usually rather ineptly. Was this prophetic or only biased? Molly guffawed heartily since she was even more critical of “the Shrub,” as she called Bush. After my presentation she took the podium to say, “I learned one lesson today. And that is never follow a cartoonist on one of these panels!” I took it as a great compliment.
Macky in joy and sorrow
Macky Auditorium looms in my mind not only as a beautiful architectural edifice but as a symbol of artistic and intellectual enrichment, of doubt and hope, of joy and sorrow. I know that many others have similar memories of Macky. I am also sure that future generations of students, faculty and others who experience Macky’s special character will be grateful that a generous Colorado pioneer bequeathed this magnificent structure to us.
Here’s Macky Auditorium information.
Here’s an article and video about Macky’s 100-year history.
Carlton Stoiber (A&S’64, Law’69) is currently trekking in far southern Patagonia. He is a senior consultant with Talisman International, LLC, in Washington, D.C., where he lives.
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