That’s how I ended up in La Junta one week ago today speaking to the Arkansas Valley P.E.O. chapters at their annual brunch about the incredible two-year college I attended from 1975 to 1977.
Sharon Kolomitz is a member of P.E.O.’s Chapter W in La Junta. P.E.O. is a philanthropic educational organization that owns and supports Cottey, which was founded in Nevada, Mo., by Virginia Alice Cottey Stockard in 1884, back when women really wanted an education and their choices were limited.
I talked about my Cottey experience, and how it influenced my 35-year career in journalism and current job as spokeswoman for Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams.
The women laughed when I told them my friends accuse me of “Cheneying” the job, because Wayne had called me to ask about the credentials of the some of the applicants for the position.
Now, Cottey might be a small school — and “one of the finest,” as the song goes — but the Cottey connections are quite widespread.
Just ask Channel 9’s award-winning producer Nicole Vap, but more on that later.
Former state agricultural commission John Stulp is the latest example of a Cottey connection, which I discovered at the P.E.O. gathering in La Junta.
Among those at the brunch was Leslie Ater Stagner from Lamar, who lived in my suite, Yellowstone, at Cottey. She brought her daughter Annessa. “Oh, visiting from California?” I asked. No, it turns out Annessa moved back home and now is a dean at Lamar Community College. I looked at Annessa’s nametag. “Stulp? Is your father-in-law John Stulp?”
Of course he is. I had visited with John the previous night at the Colorado State Fair, and I covered him when I reported on Gov. Bill Ritter’s administration.
I told the P.E.O. chapters about how during my reporting career I wanted to do a story on Lamar’s team name, the Savages, which was continually singled out when the legislature talked about offensive Indian mascots. Lamar Superintendent Dave Tecklenburg said he wouldn’t cooperate with The Denver Post until he learned I knew Leslie.
I think the town was pleased with the story.
“I raised eight Savages, and they all turned out good,” said Dorothy Comer, 72, who managed the Lamar Community Building, where the basketball, volleyball and wrestling teams compete.
My first job, with the Gallup Independent, was on the edge of the Navajo and Hopi reservations, and I found the Indian murals and art at Lamar High School breathtaking — and respectful. Likewise, the brunch was held at La Junta’s Koshare Indian Museum, and the artwork there was fantastic.
I could provide a zillion more examples of Cottey connections, but I will limit it.
Lobbyist Travis Berry’s grandmother Mrs. McGee was my dorm mother at Cottey.
I met Stacy Rosebrough Kluckman standing in line at Northern Arizona University, where I transferred. I mentioned Cottey and it turned out a friend from her hometown attended the same time I did. Later when I got my job at the Gallup Independent, I briefly stayed at Stacy’s brother’s house. He practiced law and his wife worked at the paper!
Stacy now lives in Colorado Springs with her husband, Pat. I became a big Pine Creek High School fan because their children, including the youngest, Hugh, my godson, attended Pine Creek. Some folks weren’t happy with my tweets about Valor Christian!
Hugh now attends the University of Wyoming — a decision I hailed — but I haven’t picked up the banner for the Pokes yet.
And then there’s Nicole Vap. One day I asked if she knew Molly Chaney, who had gone to Cottey. “How do you know Molly!?” Nicole wanted to know. It turns out Molly lived in Nicole’s suite at Cottey.
I babysat Molly when I was in high school, I said. Her mother, Judi Arnold Chaney Steege, had graduated from Cottey and urged me to attend. A women’s college? No way, I initially said.
But I loved Cottey. You might know a young woman who will love it, too.