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As a young legislator in the 1960s, Roy Romer was the force behind legislation and funding that created MSU Denver more than 50 years ago. Photo by Getty Images.

Meet the Father of MSU Denver

VIDEO: As a young state legislator, Roy Romer fought to create a new open-access, four-year college. Nearly 60 years later, the former governor reflects on his vision for MSU Denver and the future of higher education.

December 20, 2021

By John Arnold

Roy Romer spent his entire career in public service fighting for greater access to educational opportunities. At age 93, he's not finished with that work.

"I still believe education is the key to the good life," he said. "There are so many people who have not yet had that opportunity. That's why I'll be working on educational opportunity for the rest of my life."

Romer is Colorado’s last three-time governor, having been elected to the state’s highest office in 1986, 1990 and 1994. Previously, he had served in the state House of Representatives and the state Senate and as state treasurer. During his time at the statehouse, he was instrumental in the founding of Metropolitan State University of Denver.

MSU Denver this month honored Romer with the Marathon Award, which is presented during spring and winter commencment ceremonies to alumni, employess or community advocates who exemplify the "Roadrunner Difference."

Romer was first elected to the Colorado House in 1958, serving there through 1962, and then was a state senator until 1966. During this time, Romer played a critical role in helping MSU Denver get its start in 1965. After the appropriations bill that included funding for then-Metropolitan State College passed the House, Romer successfully worked to get the bill passed in the Senate.

"We literally would not exist as a university if it were not for the determination and tenacity of Roy Romer," said MSU Denver President Janine Davidson, Ph.D.

Romer has stayed busy in the public arena since his last term as governor ended. He was the general chair of the Democratic National Committee from 1997 to 2000, was vice chair of the Democratic Leadership Council and chaired the Educational Commission of the States and the National Education Goals Panel. Romer was named superintendent of schools of the Los Angeles Unified School District in 2000 and held that position until 2006.

Despite the success and growth of MSU Denver and his other work in education, Romer says there's more to be done.

"The important thing is access and being able to afford it," Romer said, adding that higher education models need to offer more flexibie entry points for both traditional and non-traditional students, as MSU Denver does. 

"So we're not there, where we need to be," Romer said. "We're on the way."

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