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Fort Lewis College
Fort Lewis College seal.svg
TypePublic liberal arts college
Academic affiliation
Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges
ProvostCheryl Nixon

37°16′30″N 107°52′12″W / 37.275°N 107.869999°W / 37.275; -107.869999Coordinates: 37°16′30″N 107°52′12″W / 37.275°N 107.869999°W / 37.275; -107.869999
Colors      Dark blue, light blue, gold[2]
Sporting affiliations
NCAA Division IIRocky Mountain
MascotSkyler the Skyhawk
Fort Lewis College logo.svg

Fort Lewis College is a public liberal arts college in Durango, Colorado. Because of its unique origins as a military fort turned Indian boarding school turned state public school, FLC follows a 1911 mandate to give qualified Native Americans a tuition-free education and awards approximately 16% of the baccalaureate degrees earned by Native American students in the nation. In 2008, the U.S. Department of Education designated FLC one of six Native American-serving, non-tribal colleges.[3]

FLC is a member of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges and is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, with additional program-level accreditations for specific programs. The college offers 30 bachelor's degrees through its four academic units.


The first Fort Lewis army post was constructed in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, in 1878, and was relocated in 1880 to Hesperus, Colorado, on the southern slopes of the La Plata Mountains. In 1891, Fort Lewis was decommissioned and converted into a federal, off-reservation Indian boarding school.

In 1911, the fort's property and buildings in Hesperus were transferred to the state of Colorado to establish an "agricultural and mechanic arts high school." That deed came with two conditions: that the land would be used for an educational institution, and “to be maintained as an institution of learning to which Indian students will be admitted free of tuition and on an equality with white students” in perpetuity.[4] Both conditions have been the missions and guides for the Fort Lewis school's various incarnations over the past century.

The Fort Lewis high school expanded into a two-year college in the 1930s, and in 1948 it became Fort Lewis A&M College, under the State Board of Agriculture's control. The "Aggies" studying at the Fort Lewis Branch of the Colorado State College of Agriculture and Mechanics could take courses in agriculture, forestry, engineering, veterinary science, and home economics.

The Fort Lewis military post in Hesperus, Colorado, May 1883.
The Fort Lewis military post in Hesperus, Colorado, May 1883.

Fort Lewis College began another period of growth and changes in 1956, when the college moved from its longtime home in Hesperus to its present location, 18 miles east, atop what was then known as Reservoir Hill, overlooking Durango. Here, FLC became a four-year institution, awarding its first baccalaureate degrees in 1964.

Also in 1964, the college dropped the "A&M" moniker, changed its mascot from the Aggies to the Raiders, and changed the school's colors from the green and yellow of the Colorado State University system it had been affiliated with to blue and gold.[5] In 1994, the college's mascot became the Skyhawks. In 1995, FLC joined the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges, and in 2002, it became independent of the Colorado State University system and formed its own governing Board of Trustees.


The 247-acre Fort Lewis College campus is in southwestern Colorado, 6,872 feet atop a mesa overlooking the Animas River Valley and downtown Durango. A network of trails as well as city bus service (free to students with FLC IDs) connects the campus and town.

The campus's distinctive architectural theme utilizes locally quarried sandstone to acknowledge the region's Native pueblo building style and evoke the Four Corners landscape and colors. The style was crafted by Boulder architect James M. Hunter, whom the college contracted to establish a campus building plan in the late 1950s, after its move from Hesperus to Durango.

Today, on-campus housing is in six residence halls and two apartment buildings, with singles, doubles, and suites. Also on campus are 14 academic buildings, as well as a Student Life Center, Aquatic Center, and Student Union. On-campus athletic facilities include Ray Dennison Memorial Field, Dirks Field, the Softball Complex, Whalen Gymnasium, and the Factory Trails, an off-road bicycling race course.

The La Plata Mountains rise behind the Fort Lewis College campus in Durango, Colorado
The La Plata Mountains rise behind the Fort Lewis College campus in Durango, Colorado

The new Student Union opened in 2011, and hosts the college's cultural centers, the Native American Center and El Centro de Muchos Colores, student government, the Environmental Center, the post office, and the bookstore. The Student Union also offers several dining options, and houses both a Leadership Center and a Media Center that includes the college's news magazine, literary journal, and KDUR radio station.

The U.S. Green Building Council awarded the Student Union LEED Gold status for its sustainability features. It is the third LEED Gold building on campus, along with the Berndt Hall Biology Wing and Animas Hall. Those environmental awards helped FLC be named one of "America's Coolest Schools" by Sierra magazine, the official publication of the Sierra Club, in 2011.[6]


Fort Lewis College is divided into four academic units, offering 32 baccalaureate degrees.[7] Programs are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, the Accreditation Board for Engineering & Technology, the American Chemical Society, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education, and the National Association of Schools of Music.


Main article: Fort Lewis Skyhawks

The college's athletic teams, the Skyhawks, compete in the NCAA at the Division II level as a member of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC); as well as the Western Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (WILA) for women's lacrosse and a nationally ranked cycling program that competes at the Division I level of USA Collegiate Cycling.[8] In 2017, FLC's cycling program won its 23rd national championship at the 2017 USA Cycling Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championships in Missoula, Montana.[9]

The term student-athlete was coined in 1957 following a lawsuit that arose after the death of Ray Dennison, a Fort Lewis A&M College football player.[10]

Notable alumni


  1. ^ a b "Fort Lewis College (2011)". U.S. News and World Report. Retrieved 2012-02-23.
  2. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-12-22. Retrieved 2015-12-16.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ National Science Foundation, WebCASPAR 2009
  4. ^ Act of the US Congress of April 4, 1910, chapter 140, Pub.L. 61–114, 36 Stat. 269, section 5 at 274, H.R. 19028. Act of the Colorado General Assembly of January 25, 1911, Laws 1911, Page 39.
  5. ^ Smith, Duane (1991). Sacred Trust: The birth and development of Fort Lewis College. University Press of Colorado. ISBN 978-0-87081-234-7.
  6. ^ Sierra "Cool Schools 2011"
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-12-27. Retrieved 2017-07-25.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ Meyer, Matt (October 6, 2012). "Mavericks modeling cycling program after Fort Lewis". Gran Junction Sentinel. Retrieved January 20, 2013.
  9. ^ Livingston, John. "Fort Lewis College cycling claims 23rd national championship". The Durango Herald. No. 23 October 2017. Ballantine Communications. Retrieved 19 December 2017.
  10. ^ Branch, Taylor (October 2011). "The Shame of College Sports". The Atlantic. Retrieved January 7, 2022.
  11. ^ "Chris Camozzi UFC Bio". Retrieved 2014-01-01.
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2018-07-22. Retrieved 2018-07-24.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ "Nicco Montano | UFC". 14 September 2018.
  14. ^ "Navajo Nation honors UFC champion Nicco Montano".
  15. ^ Minnesota Legislators: Past & Present-Pamela Neary
  16. ^ Langford, Mark (March 23, 1984). "When the USFL San Antonio Gunslingers and the Oakland..." UPI. Retrieved January 19, 2016.
  17. ^ "Transactions". The New York Times. February 2, 1983. Retrieved January 19, 2016.