Telluride Association has evolved significantly over the past century, but it continues to reflect the personality and ideals of its founder, Lucien L. Nunn.
Mr. Nunn was an idealistic entrepreneur dedicated to educating those young men who worked for him. After going into business in the mineral-rich High Rockies around Telluride, Colorado, he realized that the mines had an enormous and urgent need for electrical power which existing direct-current techniques could not transmit over long distances. Persuading George Westinghouse to part with experimental equipment, Nunn applied the latest electrical advances to the mining industry and disproved the widespread belief that alternating current was too dangerous to handle. Nunn’s Telluride Power Company, now known as Utah Power and Light, then began the first commercial high-voltage transmission of alternating current.
This success allowed Mr. Nunn to turn his attention to his continuing interest in educating young people. In 1890 he began a program of combined work and technical study for promising young men in the employ of his power company. This evolved into the Telluride Institute, through which Nunn introduced a broader and more formal curriculum and gradually established branches at his power stations throughout the West.
As the academic program changed, more and more responsibility for the management of Telluride’s property and funds was entrusted to the student-employees in its branches. This reflected Mr. Nunn’s broad vision of education as a force which should enable young people to pursue their ideals with practical and responsible action. In 1911, this belief found its most complete expression when Mr. Nunn entrusted much of his fortune, in perpetuity, to the members of what became the Telluride Association.
This development coincided with a shift in Telluride’s programs. The growing technical and financial complexity of the power industry made it less compatible with student labor, and Telluride’s power-station branches were gradually closed. By 1915 the Association’s focus had shifted to more academic settings. Yet throughout this evolution, Telluride has continued to be guided by a belief that practical work and accomplishments as well as abstract study and intellectual growth are important to the development of character and judgment.
Telluride Association Timeline
|1891||Industrialist and entrepreneur L.L. Nunn builds first commercial AC power plant, in Ames, Colorado (near Telluride). Built to power his mines, the innovation secures his fortune. Responding to the difficulty in attracting skilled engineers to the primitive conditions prevailing in the West, Nunn recruits young men of character and trains them in both engineering and liberal arts at “institutes” attached to his power plants. In later years, Nunn turns increasingly to philanthropy involving similar educational projects.|
|1910||Telluride House (Cornell Branch) established at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, as a scholarship residence for bright young men, many of whom have passed through Nunn’s institutes (primary branches).|
|1911||Telluride Association founded, with 110 members, who were alumni of Nunn’s institutes and projects. TA is founded to advance, broadly, Nunn’s educational philosophies. Trustees are expected to be students, and TA continues to be directed primarily by students and early-career professionals to this day.|
|1912||TA loses direct financial connection to Nunn’s Telluride Power Company.|
|1914||TA gives $3,500 to Smithsonian Institution for a fossil expedition in Siberia.|
|1916||Beaver Branch, the last of Nunn’s original primary branches, closed.|
|1916-17||A Telluride Institute is set up in Claremont, VA. The project lasts six months.|
|1917||Deep Springs College is founded by L.L. Nunn in California.|
|1925||L.L. Nunn (b. 1853) dies.|
|1943-46||Cornell Branch closes down so that the house may be used for the war effort; 104 Marines move in. By 1945, 45 of 79 members are in uniform, and one-third of associates in combat. Six associates die in the war.|
|1946||The Pasadena Branch of Telluride Association is founded. The Branch closes in 1952.|
|1950||Lincoln College (Oxford) exchange with Telluride House established.|
|1953-59||Telluride sponsors prestigious Telluride Lecture at Cornell.|
|1954||Rather than launch an experimental new branch, TA creates the Telluride Association Summer Program (TASP) for high school juniors in order to make efficient use of its dormant house at Cornell over the summer. The program, which became co-educational in 1963, has run continuously at Cornell as well as at other sites since then, transforming the lives of some three thousand living alumni.|
|1960-65||Frances Perkins, FDR’s Secretary of Labor, lives at Telluride House.|
|1962||First female TA member (Laura Wolfowitz).|
|1963||The Berkeley Branch of Telluride Association is founded. The Branch closes in 1970.|
|1964||First woman given full preferment (residential scholarship) at Telluride House (Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak).|
|1967||Perkins Fellowship (with Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations) established.|
|1970||TA has 89 members. The 1970’s are a decade of severe financial austerity for TA.|
|1983-85||Special Renovation project restores Telluride House to original Arts and Crafts style.|
|1985||The Chicago Branch of Telluride Association is founded. The Branch closes in 1987.|
|1993||Telluride Association Sophomore Seminar (TASS) started, and continues to this day.|
|1994||Mansfield-Wefald Senior Thesis Prize established to honor the memory of Mary Mansfield and Eric Wefald. The $500 prize is awarded to the best scholarly thesis written by a Telluride associate during their final year of undergraduate education.|
|1997||Atkinson-Tetreault Scholarship (with Cornell’s City and Regional Planning Department) established.|
|1998||Mike Yarrow Adventurous Education Award established to honor the memory of Clarence “Mike” Yarrow, founder of the Pasadena Branch. The award of up to $3,000 is designed to allow a branchmember to undertake a non-paying, educational public service activity during the summer.|
|1999||Michigan Branch of Telluride Association established.|
|2002||TASS program expanded to the University of Michigan.
Telluride Association becomes Telluride Association, Inc.
|2011||Telluride Association celebrates its centennial, and plans for its second century of tranformative educational programs.|