By Ken Rock with contributions by Jim Hansen, Dave McComb, Loren Crabtree, and fellow Gaffers
We who later became known as “the Gaffers,” were once young historians but have made the transition from active faculty to Professors Emeriti. Our numbers have included David McComb, Art Worrall, Bill Griswold, Wayne Clegern, Dan Tyler, Jim Jordan, John Albright, Jim Hansen, Jim Long, Gene Berwanger, Harry Rosenberg, Ken Rock, Fred Enssle, Mark Gilderhus and Loren Crabtree. The rule of thumb became to convene on Fridays in various locally-owned Fort Collins restaurants, on a rotating weekly basis.
Dave McComb recalls, “Usually six to eight Gaffers met weekly and discussed whatever came to mind. We would gossip, tell jokes, and rely on each other’s expertise to analyze the news of the week. We shared the lunch bill equally, brought guests, family members, former students, and alumni at will, and rotated restaurants.”
During our conversations, we have conversed about our mutual interests and experiences, such as historical topics, news headlines, academic matters, and current events, plus recent books, films, theatrical events, concerts read, seen, or recommended; our past, current, and future travels; our families, children, music (classical as well as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones), politics, religion, philosophies, and sports – especially soccer, swimming, and tennis (in which several of us have participated).
It is nevertheless true that time marches on, and as historians we recognize the proverb that “nothing is certain except change.” Time has taken its toll. Regrettably, our numbers have thinned. We lost “Pre-Gaffer” Liston Leyendecker (2001) and Jim Jordan (2009) shortly after both retired. Harry Rosenberg (2010), Mark Gilderhus (2015), Wayne Clegern (2015), and Gene Berwanger (2015) have also passed. Most recently, in early 2020, longtime Gaffer colleagues Art Worrall and John Albright have joined those who preceded them. We greatly miss their presence, sage comments, and good humor.
Reminiscing of times past, all Gaffers recall that we were dedicated teachers, instructors, professors in accord with CSU’s land grant mission of “teaching, research, and service.” Our doors in the Clark Building’s “History Corridor” were open during office hours between classes, where we could be observed advising, counseling, mentoring undergraduate and graduate students. Some Gaffers regularly taught in the University Honors Program. Several were charter members of CSU’s Colorado Delta chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. Others served as faculty advisers for Phi Alpha Theta, otherwise known as the History Club. A number stalwartly championed the Liberal Arts and Sciences in CSU’s Faculty Council.
Loren Crabtree notes that the Gaffers “have been major contributors to CSU and the wider communities in which we all live.” Gaffers helped establish the CSU Archives, International Studies, the department’s Public History program, Semester at Sea, and also recorded an oral history of the Big Thompson flood in 1976. “The contributions are too many to catalog,” notes Crabtree.
We are pleased to participate in this CSU History Department Newsletter. We think often of our younger active historian colleagues and reminisce regularly in our lunches and gatherings about our former students. As historians we recognize that we are living in unusual, uncertain, and indeed most “interesting times.” They are not entirely unprecedented. Think of the global pandemic occasioned by the “Spanish influenza” of 1918-1921 in the aftermath of World War One with its far reaching political, military, economic, social, cultural, and attitudinal transformations .Our world changed then and today continues to change. As philosopher George Santayana observed in 1905-06, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Please remember the lessons, importance, and value of history as a challenging but stimulating pathway, guidepost, and lantern for your lives. Today’s challenges too shall pass. The CSU Gaffers send you their best wishes and Godspeed on your way!