Steamboat Springs When Olive Morton helped to start the library at Colorado Mountain College's Alpine Campus it was by asking Steamboat residents to donate books.
An outdated encyclopedia set was the first addition to the school's library.
Two decades later, friends, family and coworkers surrounded Morton in the library at Bristol Hall on Wednesday to honor her career at CMC.
But it was the library's 20,000 books and 200 periodical subscriptions that spoke louder than any of the words founders, deans and professors could give on the influence Morton has had at CMC.
Ever since Morton started as a receptionist for the newly opened Steamboat branch of Colorado Northwest Community College in 1975, she has been the glue that has held Steamboat's community colleges together.
In the last 27 years, she has been instrumental in helping the Steamboat college change hands from CNCC to the more stable financing of CMC, gaining a tax mill levy for the college, adapting the campus to welcome residents and bringing in classes from police courses to wilderness studies.
"She's been the Grand Dame of the college," said Bill Hill, who as the president of the chamber of commerce helped secure the mill levy in 1981 and later headed CMC's ski business and resort management programs.
On Feb. 15, Morton, 64, will retire from her role as the director of community education. Although she is looking forward to more free time and traveling, she plans to continue her involvement in the community and her role as the chair of the Republican Party in Routt County.
As the school evolved from its two-person staff in a downtown office with a handful of classes in spare rooms around town to a college that has more than 100 employees and a residential hall, dining room and gymnasium, Morton was a campus constant. She filled in as the first interim dean and served on the college's president's advisory council.
"She was right with us from the get-go. Without a doubt, she's kept everything together," said Ed Hill, who helped secure the Alpine Campus financing in the college's early years.
Perhaps Morton's most significant role was bringing in community-oriented classes and changing the school's focus on mining and ranching skills to a liberal arts residential college that allowed students to transfer credits to four-year institutions.
"In the early years, we really had to fight to make it something other than an outreach campus. I think her most important contribution was that she fought that battle. Now it is a residential campus and she's developed the transfer and degree programs," said George Tolles, who was the first person Morton hired to steer the liberal arts program.
As Morton looks back over the past 27 years, the college's and her two shining moments are the passing of the mill levy, which gave the college the money it needed to expand, and the opening of campus's main building, Bristol Hall, in 1993.
Morton said those two moments weren't event dreams when she applied to be the receptionist of the college in 1975.
"I had no idea what was coming," Morton said.
Morton remembers in the early days when the Department of Health sent the college new supplies for training EMTs. She had no idea what they were and had to call the hospital for help.
The days of asking questions about training EMTs are gone.
As the community education director, Morton helped make EMT training a major staple in the college course selection. It trains more than 300 Steamboat workers every semester.
She also brought the fine arts program, wilderness studies and a law enforcement academy to CMC.
Today the college offers more than 400 courses a semester.
When Morton took on the role of community education director in 1982, she did not have a bachelor's degree.
Now she has since gone on to earn both a bachelor's and master's degree in education.
She admits that her favorite classes at CMC are the world politic courses taught by Tolles.
"I think learning is a lifelong activity," Morton said. "The world is changing so quickly. Twenty-seven years ago there weren't even the same countries there are today.
"As the world changes, we have to learn and change. It's important in everyone's life."
The books that sit in the Bristol Hall library stand as testimony to the lesson of learning Morton has taught to many.