Here's How Two Aspen Natives Turned the City Into a College Town

By Oliver Sharpe | May 24, 2019 | Culture Feature

Nearly 25 years ago, two pals turned Aspen into a college town by founding the Aspen State Teacher's College. No classes were held, but a cheeky media juggernaut was born.

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Aspen is often compared to a college town. There are no classes, but the energy created by thousands of people with a penchant for partying living in idyllic conditions resembles that of campuses around the country. In 1975, friends Marc Demmon and Al Pendorf did what any enterprising ski bums living in a college town that lacked a college would do—they invented one. Adopting the monikers “Dr. Slats Cabbage, College President,” and “Fulton Begley III, Dean of Women and Equipment Manager,” the duo commenced classes at Aspen State Teacher’s College around Aspen and opened The Student Store in a basement on Mill Street.

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Thanks to some ingenious guerilla marketing, abundant prospective students (tourists) and numerous esteemed faculty (locals), the school quickly took off. Working out of Pendorf’s print shop, the founders produced official merchandise—a freshman orientation kit sold for $10 and included a T-shirt, a car decal and a student ID—and launched a foray into the local media scene. The college’s monthly newsletter, the Clean Sweep, was a smash success, attracting legitimate advertising dollars while mocking long-standing Aspen tropes with course descriptions like “Advanced Texan 243... designed to give students an advantage in dealing with our long-horned visitors.”

The school garnered national attention with the release of its football schedule in its second year. The lineup included national powerhouses like Alabama, Notre Dame and Michigan with home games to be played at “Wagner Stadium.” The ASTC Brooms went undefeated by way of forfeit when none of the opponents showed up. The football team may have peaked that season, but Aspen State’s spirit lives on as we welcome the arrival of a new freshman class each fall.

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Photography by: Photography courtesy Aspen Historical Society