DU Alumni / DU History / Magazine Feature / People

Alums return after 50 years … and then some

Emeritus tea

DU hosted on June 4 the annual emeritus tea, which brought together alumni who graduated more than 50 years ago. Photo: James Beverly of One Focus Photography

Doris Finnie-Shade (BA ’41) remembered paying her tuition when she was a student at the University of Denver in the late 1930s — $75 per quarter. 

“But that kind of money was just as hard to come by as $25,000 or whatever it is today,” said Finnie-Shade, one of about 300 alumni who gathered June 4 for the Emeritus Tea, an annual celebration for Pioneer Alumni Legends (PALS), a group that caters to University of Denver alumni who graduated 50 or more years ago. 

And Finnie-Shade recalled dancing — between classes. Yes, organized dancing, sometimes as early as 10 a.m.

“We’d dance upstairs in the student union building — it was on Evans back then, it’s burned down now. There’d be between 50 and 100 of us up there dancing and having a grand time. That’s where I met my second husband,” said Finnie-Shade, who was the first female editor of the school yearbook. 

Leroy Marx (BA’49, MA ’52) didn’t get to attend those dances. When he was a student, Marx said DU’s student union building was a makeshift room in the basement of the Carnegie Library.

“About all you could do was get a drink and sandwich,” he said. “And upstairs there was a little room that was the bookstore, nothing at all like the one we have today. That one is really nice.”

Several alumni recalled DU being much different before World War II than after.

“Before the war it was a playhouse; we frolicked,” said Gwendolyn Scott (BFA ’48, MA ’68), who remembers playing touch football in intramural sports. “The art club, the Daubers, we had a fine time. But after the war when the GIs came, school got a lot more serious, and we started studying more.”

Scott, an African-American, holds some unpleasant memories of racism from that time in American history. Scott said she couldn’t get a job teaching after she graduated. “Denver wasn’t hiring blacks then, so I went to Kansas City for a couple of years and worked there.”

After the war, the school grew.

“It was really a small campus when I was here, you knew everybody, there was only three or four thousand students,” Finnie-Shade said.

But in the late 1940s, Marx said there were between 8,000 and 9,000 students. “I remember it being a really crowded campus then.”

In the 1950s, Marvin Meyers (BA ’56, MA ’59) recalled working for $1 an hour in the maintenance department.

“I installed heating units and threaded pipe, all kinds of things,” Meyers said. “But DU was a great school for me. It was a place to think, to learn, to analyze and it taught me how to assist others.” Meyers has spent much of his career advocating for people with disabilities and veterans, and still today talks with Colorado legislators on issues affecting both groups.

Perhaps it was people like Meyers that Chancellor Robert Coombe had in mind when he told the group that DU sets students off on “a path of purpose and significance. I know all of us can point to DU alumni who have changed lives,” Coombe said. “The measure of a university is its alumni and we’ve graduated some extraordinary individuals.”

He added that DU was in the best financial shape it’s ever been in and that school continues to attract “wonderful students with impressive academic credentials.”

Herb DeLaney (BSBA ’49, LLB’51), who’s still practicing law at age 85, said he believes DU’s law school is “one of the best in the country.”

“The professors here are fantastic and facilities don’t get much better anywhere in the U.S.,” DeLaney said.

Finnie-Shade was certainly impressed with DU today. “I especially like the Daniels College of Business building and the Ritchie Center, it’s really good. But I guess in today’s lingo they’d say ‘it’s awesome.’”

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