Colorado State President Al Yates Named 2002 Citizen of the West

Colorado State University’s President Al Yates will receive the 2002 "Citizen of the West" branding iron award on Wednesday, January 16, 2002, at the Adams Mark Hotel in Denver.

The recipient of this award, selected by a committee of community leaders, is a person or persons who best exemplify the spirit and determination of the Western pioneer. The award dinner, now in its 24th year, benefits the National Western Scholarship Fund and is an annual highlight to the opening of the National Western Stock Show, Rodeo and Horse Show, which marks its 96th anniversary January 12-27, 2002.

"Al Yates, a westerner by choice, owns no ranches, yet his impact on Colorado and the West is enormous, " said rancher Ben Houston, National Western Stock Show chairman and the 1995 Citizen of the West. "Under his leadership, CSU has become known for its commitment to the citizens of the West and to providing a quality education for the sons and daughters of Colorado in the modern land-grant tradition."

As president of Colorado State University, the state’s land-grant institution, Yates has led a significant transformation of the Fort Collins campus. His designation as Citizen of the West honors his lifelong commitment to Western values and his significant contributions to Colorado, agriculture and higher education.

"The Citizen of the West pays tribute to a person whose life and work embody the Western values we all hold so dear," said Bill Coors. "With Al Yates, his word is his bond, and he’s dedicated his time, energy and integrity to building our state’s land-grant institution into a leader in the nation and a source of pride for Colorado."

Born in Memphis, Tenn., Yates was the third child of John and Sadie Yates, owners of the Yates Cafe. Though his mother had very little formal schooling, she believed deeply in learning and worked hard to instill a love for knowledge in her seven children. She became her son’s greatest role model, instilling in him a strong sense of values and self-discipline – and encouraging him to seek the best in himself.

After high school, Yates enlisted in the U.S. Navy, where he served on the first crew of the aircraft carrier, U.S.S. Kitty Hawk. His time in the military taught him discipline, focus and aspiration, and he returned to Tennessee determined to finish his education and with a desire to have his life make a difference.

Armed with this goal, he went on to graduate magna cum laude with degrees in chemistry and mathematics from the University of Memphis, then earned a doctorate in theoretical chemical physics from Indiana University. He served as a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Southern California and later completed the Institute for Educational Management at the Harvard School of Business.

Yates served at Indiana University and the University of Cincinnati before moving to the West for a nine-year stint as executive vice president and provost at Washington State University. In 1990, the State Board of Agriculture appointed him Colorado State’s 12th president.

Over the next decade, he would oversee a dramatic transformation of the Fort Collins institution, visible today in a revitalized campus landscape, record levels of alumni and state support, significantly enhanced student success and learning, unprecedented athletic success, and a fresh sense of pride that reflects CSU’s status as the "school of choice" for Colorado residents, enrolling more in-state students than any other campus in the state.

Colorado State has twice been named one of the nation’s top character-building universities.

University of Denver Chancellor Dan Ritchie, co chair of the 2002 Citizen of the West Steering Committee, said: "Al Yates embodies what it means to be a Citizen of the West – a person with vision and character. Committed and passionate about the fundamental elements upon which the West was built, he has dedicated his life and career to providing quality education, promoting agriculture, and protecting natural resources. A capable and dynamic leader, he gives of himself as much as he expects from others, serving not only the constituencies of Colorado State University, but also communities and organizations throughout Colorado. I cannot think of a more appropriate or deserving honor for Al Yates than the 2002 Citizen of the West Award."

Perhaps the greatest test of Al Yates’ leadership came in 1997, when a devastating storm caused more than $140 million in damage to the campus. Yates called upon faculty, students and staff to "turn adversity to advantage" — rally, re-build, and create a better institution than what had been before. The overall result was a heightened sense of camaraderie and pride among people across the University – and tremendous improvements to the physical appearance and safety of the institution and its facilities.

From his first months spent traveling and meeting with people around Colorado, Yates has recognized and emphasized the importance of agriculture to the University and the state as a whole. As a result, CSU has strengthened its bond with the agricultural community, enhanced its research and outreach efforts on critical ag issues, and greatly expanded the number of students enrolled in agricultural sciences.

In an era when the average tenure of a university president is less than five years, Al Yates has demonstrated extraordinary commitment to CSU and Colorado. In fact, only two people have occupied the Office of the President at Colorado State University longer: William Morgan (1949-1969) and Charles Lory (1909-1940).

Yates has been actively engaged in the boards of the Rose Community Foundation, the Denver Zoological Foundation, the Adolph Coors Company, 9 Who Care, the Bighorn Center, the Colorado Institute of Technology, Centennial Bank of the West, Berger Funds, the Longs Peak Council of the Boy Scouts of America, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City-Denver Branch, among others. He also has taken part in numerous commissions and committees in service to the state, including the Governor’s Task Force on Responsible Fatherhood, the Colorado Commission for Achievement in Education; the State of Colorado Steering Committee on School-to-Work, and Bright Beginnings.

Yates’ significant contributions to improving education and the quality of life for all people have been honored with awards such as the University of Cincinnati Award for Excellence; the Denver Public Schools 1994 Celebration of Excellence Award for outstanding contributions to Colorado education; the 1994 Daniel Payne Award for continued support of Colorado higher education; the Urban League of Metropolitan Denver 1994 Recognition Award for encouragement and support of the educational aspirations of Denver’s minority students; the 1995 Collins Award from the Fort Collins Chamber of Commerce in honor of exemplary service to the community; the 1997 Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Award in the Arts and Humanities; and selection to the Memphis City Schools Hall of Fame. The University of Cincinnati named its Albert C. Yates Fellows and Scholars Program in his honor, and the Mountain West Conference established the Dr. Albert C. Yates Distinguished Service Award in 2000. In commemoration of his more than a decade of service to Colorado State University, Dr. Yates was honored in 2001 as an Honorary Alumnus of the institution, and a CSU Alumni Association student award was named in his honor. The State of Colorado also recognized Albert C. Yates Day in 2001 with an official proclamation by the Colorado General Assembly.

"I am flattered and deeply honored to be named Citizen of the West," Yates said. "It is especially humbling to think that even a handful of people feel that my life and work have affected others in positive ways. As well, I accept this award as a tribute to the truly remarkable accomplishments and impact of the faculty, students, staff and alumni of Colorado State University."

Don Ament, Colorado’s Commissioner of Agriculture, will serve as master of ceremonies for the event. The award, a branding iron, will be presented by Ben Houston. Margaret Bradbury is chair of arrangements, and the Steering Committee Co-Chairs are Peter Coors and Dan Ritchie.

Previous recipients of the Citizen of the West Award are the Ned and Mary Belle Grant Family (2001); retired Supreme Court Justice Byron White (2000); W. D. Farr (1999); University of Denver Chancellor Dan Ritchie (1998); Fum and Brownie McGraw (1997); former Wyoming Governor Cliff Hansen (1996); Ben Houston (1995); Rollin Barnard (1994); Vice President Dick Cheney (1993); Bill Coors (1992); Ken Monfort (1991); Senator Alan Simpson (1990); John and Ann Love (1989); Charles Gates (1987); Nick Petry (1986); Mayor Bill McNichols (1985); Allan and Gerald Phipps (1984); Pete Smythe (1983); Aksel Nielsen (1982); Ed H. Honnen (1981); Frank H. Ricketson (1980); Willard Simms (1979); and Robert "Red" Fenwick (1978).

Dinner information may be obtained by contacting the National Western at (303) 297-1166.