Western Professor's Book Chronicles Western’s Mountain Roots

Western history professor Dr. Duane Vandenbusche has published his 10th book, titled Western State College; Mountain Mecca.

The book chronicles the university’s rich history as an institution of higher learning with academics and student experiences enhanced by Western’s spectacular mountain location.

Dr. Vandenbusche has been teaching history at Western for 52 years, and he says writing the book was a labor of love.

“Western is located in one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world, “ Vandenbusche says. “Everything about this place is made better because of where we are. From academic programs like exercise & sport science and professional land & resource management to the unparalleled variety of outdoor activities in our back yard, there just isn’t another college like this in the country.”

Western State College; Mountain Mecca includes hundreds of historic photographs of Western students, faculty, staff and the surrounding mountains with painstakingly researched captions. 

“Western has been influenced by elevation, by the cold weather, by the mountains, and all of this has made it into one of the great schools in the nation,” Vandenbusche says. “Our Rocky Mountain location has allowed us to become a great laboratory that most schools could not possibly match. If you want to study biology, archeology, the effects of high elevation on athletes, and more, it’s all right here.”

The book is dedicated to Sven Wiik, who coached Western’s collegiate ski team from 1949 to 1967.  Wiik participated in three Olympic games and, during his time at Western, the skiing program produced many Olympic athletes.

In the following excerpt from the book, Vandenbusche details part of Western’s rich history.

Western State College (WSC), which became Western State Colorado University in 2012, was the first college on Colorado’s Western Slope. The college was established in 1911 as a teacher training institution, Colorado State Normal. Located at 7,703 feet, deep in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, the college is surrounded by four mountain ranges: the San Jan, Sangre de Cristo, Sawatch and Elk Mountains. The four ranges include 40 mountains over 14,000 feet with incredible hunting, fishing, skiing and climbing. In the midst of this stunning landscape, Western State College became an outdoor mountain meeca which has greatly influenced its history.

The book dedicates an entire chapter to the success of Western’s ski teams. From early greats like 10th Mountain Ski Division veteran, Western student and Olympian Crosby Perry-Smith to current successes like Mountain Sports athlete Francesca Pavillard-Cain, Vandbenbusche’s book ties much of the school’s skiing dominance to Western’s mountain location. Vandenbusche also details the tremendous success of Western’s other NCAA athletic programs including track & field, cross-country, football, basketball, and wrestling.

Dr. Vandenbusche was hired by Western in 1962 as an instructor in history. He earned his undergraduate degree in history from Northern Michigan University and his MA and EDD in history from Oklahoma State University. Vandenbusche also became coach of the track & field and cross country men’s teams in 1971 and coached for 36 years.

You can purchase the book at Western’s campus bookstore, or visit Arcadia Publishing’s website.

“I’ve been around for around half the life of the institution,” Vandenbusche says. “I absolutely love this place and I want people to appreciate how unique it is.”


Friday, January 24, 2014 - 10:30am