Probably the most beloved and admired of CU presidents, George Norlin was well known to the university community when he became its head in 1919. He came to CU in 1899 and was an inspirational professor and scholar of Greek until appointed acting president in Livingston Farrand’s absence in 1917.
During his 22 years as president, Norlin oversaw the student population triple to 4,500 and the development of the beautiful campus designed by Charles Klauder. He managed to complete a $4 million building program during the Great Depression.
Academically, CU was recognized as one of the best medium-sized universities in the nation by the close of the Norlin administration.
An ethical man dedicated to democratic humanism, Norlin was approached by the Ku Klux Klan during its Colorado heyday in the 1920s. The Klan demanded that Norlin fire all Catholic and Jewish staff. He refused to comply. The Klan was so powerful, it managed to have the Legislature adjourn before voting on an appropriations bill to support the University. “We can, perhaps, afford to play politics with many things, but not with education,” Norlin said.
An affectionate and charming person, no student was turned away from his office. Upon returning after an illness, 2,500 students and the marching band turned out to welcome Norlin back to campus. The faculty was equally loyal to the Classicist. Former students so respected him that the Norlin Award, the highest award alumni may receive, was named in the president’s honor in 1930.
President George Norlin retired in 1939, but graduates have heard his charge to them at each commencement since 1935. The magnificent new library, designed by Klauder and completed in 1940, was, appropriately, named for Norlin in 1944, two years after his death. His inscription “Who Knows Only His Own Generation Remains Always A Child” was engraved above the entrance.
To read more about George Norlin, his charge to graduates, or to see photos of the Norlin Library engravings, click here.
Read more about President Norlin and the history of the University of Colorado in Glory Colorado! Volume 1, by William E. Davis.
- May 1922 Commencement speaker Frank Lowden with President Norlin