Peter Blodgett
Peter J. Blodgett, PhD, will give the 2016 Aspinall Lecture on April 14 in the University Center's Meyer Ballroom.


A history of success

Nearly a half century ago, a group of Wayne Aspinall’s Grand Valley friends decided to honor one of the most influential politicians to ever represent Colorado. Aspinall, a longtime Congressman known as “Mr. A” to friends back home. They knew him as a fruit farmer, a teacher and a lawyer. They knew well that education and public service were his life’s passions.

Those friends set up a foundation at Colorado Mesa University to foster and promote Aspinall’s passions. Wayne N. and Julia E. Aspinall Foundation scholarships help students majoring in social and behavioral sciences and committed to public service. An annual lectureship award was added to bring visiting scholars to the campus for public enlightenment and a student course focusing on history, economics or political science.

On April 14, visiting scholar Peter J. Blodgett, PhD, will give the 2016 Aspinall Lecture, “Defining America’s Playgrounds: Railroads and the Promotion of Tourism in the Rocky Mountain West, 1915-1945.” The lecture, held in the University Center’s Meyer Ballroom, is free and open to the public.

Blodgett, a historian with a doctoral degree from Yale, is an expert on travel in the early West. His lecture will discuss the role railroad companies played in promoting tourism in the West in the late 19th century and how that industry opened the door to motor travel for pleasure. Blodgett has published numerous books and articles about historic travel and the way it shaped lands west of the Mississippi.

Over the decades, the Aspinall Foundation scholarship and lectureship program has grown to be not only one of the oldest on the Colorado Mesa University campus, but also one of the most substantial and prestigious. Hundreds of thousands of dollars of tuition assistance have been awarded to exceptional students, and scores of guest lecturers and visiting faculty have enriched the campus.

“Mr. A was very proud of this and would be proud of it now,” said Aspinall Foundation board member Bill Cleary. His friend died in 1983 after serving 42 years in the Colorado statehouse and the U.S. Congress and helping to shape the foundation in its early days.

The Aspinall scholarship program has expanded in that time to the point that about $26,000 was awarded this year. The pinnacle Wayne N. Aspinall award has increased to more than $8,000. The Charles Traylor Award, named for the late attorney who was one of the founders and a decades-long board member, has grown to $6,000.

Smaller Aspinall scholarships of $3,000 to $4,000 now go to a handful of students each year.

“Every year you see some exceptional candidates,” said board member Bill Graham.

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