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For Immediate Release

Leslie Weddell
(719) 389-6038


Colorado College’s significant influence belies its small size

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Sept. 30, 2009 – Colorado College, a small liberal arts school at the foot of Pikes Peak, is having a big impact on the Obama administration. The college, with an enrollment of 1,975 students and best known for its “Block Plan,” in which students take one course at a time, now has five alumni tapped by President Obama for positions in his administration.

Harris Sherman recently became the fifth Colorado College graduate to be nominated by Obama for a position in his administration. Sherman, a 1964 graduate of Colorado College, was nominated to serve as agriculture undersecretary for natural resources and environment. The position, which requires Senate confirmation, oversees the Forest Service and conservation projects at the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Sherman currently serves as executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, where he oversees Colorado’s energy, water, wildlife, parks and state lands programs.

Other Colorado College graduates tapped by Obama include:

  • Former Colorado Senator Ken Salazar ’77, secretary of the interior
  • Jane Lubchenco ’69, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • Lori Garver ’83, deputy administrator of NASA
  • Marcia McNutt ’74, director of the U.S. Geological Survey

Additionally, Colorado College has a 2008 graduate, Aaron Gutierrez, serving as an intern in the office of legislative affairs at the White House. Gutierrez, who was born and raised in Pueblo, Colo., graduated with a B.A. in international political economy and a minor in Spanish. Gutierrez, a survivor of brain cancer, was a Fellow at El Pomar Foundation, one of the largest and oldest grant-giving foundations in the Rocky Mountain West. At El Pomar, he received firsthand experience in the non-profit sector.

"It is not by accident that Colorado College has produced five alumni working, or nominated to work, in the Obama administration in Washington, D.C.,” says Colorado College Political Science Professor Bob Loevy. “Since the late 1960s, Colorado College has offered its students academic credit for interning both in election campaigns and governmental offices. The five graduates of the college working in the Obama White House are but the tip of our alumni-government officials iceberg.

“Colorado College's strong emphasis on electoral politics and political leadership has helped to place its alumni at every level of national, state, and local government service throughout the United States,” Loevy says.

“Colorado College draws students interested in the Block Plan's small classes and intensive and focused learning format. Students tend to be high energy, enterprising, and willing to take a different approach to learning,” says Dean of the College and the Faculty Susan Ashley.

“With students taking one course at a time, faculty can incorporate off-campus learning into their classes. As a result of classes, service trips and weekend recreation, students develop a new appreciation of the Southwest and the Rocky Mountains.  For many of them, the CC experience reinforces interests in environmental and social issues. These five alums, like many others, found their way from successful careers in science, law, and politics into public service,” Ashley says.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, parent of a ’03 Colorado College graduate, praised Sherman for his dedication to conserving and improving the environment in Colorado and beyond. “It would be a privilege to have a public servant like Harris join the USDA leadership team to help carry out President Obama's vision for protecting the natural resources we need for a healthy and prosperous America,” Vilsack said.

Additional Colorado College-Obama administration connections include several other parents: David Axelrod, senior advisor to Obama, married to Susan Axelrod ’74 and an ’09 parent, and Christine Varney, U.S. Department of Justice assistant attorney general and an ’09 parent.

About Colorado College
Colorado College is a nationally prominent, four-year liberal arts college that was founded in Colorado Springs in 1874. The college operates on the innovative Block Plan, in which its 1,975 undergraduate students study one course at a time in intensive 3½-week blocks. The college also offers a master of arts in teaching degree. For more information, visit <>.