By Ann Gill (M.A., ’76)
Alumni become attached to Colorado State University for a variety of reasons. For one couple, it had to do with beginnings and relationships. Judi Gustafson grew up in Gilcrest, Colorado, and her late husband Ralph (B.S., ’62; M.Ed., ’68) grew up in Denver. She was active in 4-H and Future Homemakers of America (FHA), attending meetings and events of those organizations on campus. CSU was where she met Ralph.
When it was time to attend college, Judi chose CSU because she wanted to major in home economics. She became president of the Home Economics Club and wrote the CSU welcome article for the National Home Economics magazine when the organization held its convention in Denver. After high school, Ralph enlisted in the Coast Guard reserves and then enrolled at CSU. The couple met through Greek activities; she was a Chi Omega, and he was in Acacia. Among her favorite memories of those days were the two of them at social functions/dances held jointly by the two Greek organizations. They were married during spring break in 1961.
After graduation in 1962, both taught school in Aurora. In 1966, they returned to CSU for graduate study. The couple made more CSU memories when they completed their graduate degrees and added two sons to the family during that time. Their next stop was Austin, where Ralph received a Ph.D. from the University of Texas. In 1974, he became a faculty member at Winthrop University in South Carolina, teaching biology and later serving as department chair. He was very involved with their sons and Boy Scouts in camping and hiking in the Smoky Mountains.
While in Austin, Judi worked at a fabric store and taught adult sewing classes to hundreds of women. In South Carolina, she shifted her interest to volunteering with an advocacy group to increase community engagement with the Teen Pregnancy Prevention organization. She was concerned that its efforts had become focused on root causes and costs. She set out to expand that focus, creating mentoring programs for young girls and increasing public awareness through civic organizations and churches. This county program became a model for a statewide campaign, which provided grants and leadership throughout South Carolina. In 2014, the campaign celebrated 20 years of success in reducing teen pregnancy rates, and South Carolina continues to lead other states’ efforts. Judi’s work was widely recognized and led to the governor naming her the 2000 South Carolina Woman of Achievement.
The Gustafson family now includes four grandchildren and “two wonderful wives.” Kurt retired from the U.S. Army as a medical logistics officer, and Bret is a professor at Washington University in St. Louis. Ralph passed suddenly in 2006; Judi now lives in Waco, Texas, near Kurt’s family.
The couple are long-time CSU Alumni Association Life Members; they stayed connected to their alma mater through friends and CSU news. They attended the 1999 Liberty Bowl in Memphis when the Rams played Southern Mississippi. They also have contributed to a variety of CSU funds over the past 50 years, including Morgan Library following the devastating 1997 flood; their brick is part of the display on the second floor of the library. We salute these two Rams who spent their lives making a positive difference in the lives of others!