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Awards / Honors

Celebrate! CSU Milestone: John Straayer, 45 years

May 3, 2013
By Enes Ozekin

CSU is honoring faculty and staff who have reached service milestones during the 2012-2013 fiscal year at the annual Celebrate! CSU Milestones event, 3-5 p.m. on Thursday, May 9, in the Lory Student Center Theatre.

John StraayerJohn Straayer grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan. After finishing his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Western Michigan, he received his doctorate in Political Science from the University of Arizona in 1967, and was soon hired as a political science professor at Colorado State.

Straayer came to CSU as many movements were sweeping the nation. Whether it was the civil rights movements, the women’s rights movement, or Vietnam War protests, he says he’s seen it all.

“I remember when students boycotted class and occupied the Administration Building in protest of the war,” he said. “There was even an event called ‘The Great Beer-In,’ where students organized trucks to deliver cases of beer to the Lory Student Center. They called police officers into the building as well. They would walk in, drink a beer, and then give themselves up to be arrested, all as a protest to all of the changes happening around them at the time.  It was just a manifestation of all of the discontent from things like the Kent State shootings and the draft.”

Straayer also witnessed Old Main burn down in 1970. “It was a spectacular fire,” he said. “I was at a restaurant when I heard the news, and immediately went across the street to see it for myself.”

CSU changing before his eyes

Straayer has been at CSU through the terms of nine different university presidents, and says he has seen a lot in his 45 years in the political science department: “The variety of it all, it just hasn’t gotten stale.”

Looking back at how much the university has changed since his arrival, Straayer says he has noticed trends in CSU’s evolution.

“The university has matured enormously since I first came here,” Straayer said. “There used to be almost a caste system where Engineering, Veterinary Sciences and Agriculture were all viewed as being above the rest.  Nowadays, things are much different; the roles of women have also diversified greatly and aren’t as marginalized as before.

“I arrived at a very intellectually alive time, and I think that these changes in the university reflect that really well.” Straayer added.

Preparing students for the future

Straayer says he takes great pride in setting his students up for success. “At the department level, we make a conscious effort to create a cooperative environment and culture which is open and intellectually supportive,” he said.

“Seeing these kids grow up and succeed is especially rewarding,” Straayer said. “I have taught many (state) senators and members of the legislature. I even gave Gov. Bill Ritter his first ‘C.’”

In addition to his teaching, Straayer is well known for his book, The Colorado General Assembly, one of a dozen books he’s written.

Straayer has also run CSU’s Legislative Intern Program for more than 30 years. The program consists of students who commute to the Capitol throughout the spring semester to work with members of legislature. Straayer has supervised more than 900 students in his tenure as head of the program.

“At the end of the day, if you love what you do for a living, you’ll never work a day in your life,” Straayer says.

To personally congratulate a Milestones honoree or group of honorees, please email your celebratory message to no later than Tuesday, May 7. Your message might be used during the interactive portion of the Celebrate! CSU Milestones event on May 9.

Contact: Brent Waugh