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.

Other Nunnian Projects

In his lifetime, L.L. Nunn also founded Deep Springs College. Long after his death, his educational philosophies have inspired a number of projects and schools, including Gull Island Institute, Lamplight, Outer Coast, Thoreau College, and Tidelines Institute. For more on these projects, please see the current brochure for The League of Nunnian Schools.

Telluride Association Timeline

1891Industrialist 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.
1910Telluride 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).
1911Telluride 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.
1912TA loses direct financial connection to Nunn’s Telluride Power Company.
1914TA gives $3,500 to Smithsonian Institution for a fossil expedition in Siberia.
1916Beaver 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.
1917Deep Springs College is founded by L.L. Nunn in California.
1925L.L. Nunn (b. 1853) dies.
1943-46Cornell 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.
1946The Pasadena Branch of Telluride Association is founded. The Branch closes in 1952.
1950Lincoln College (Oxford) exchange with Telluride House established.
1953-59Telluride sponsors prestigious Telluride Lecture at Cornell.
1954Rather 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 3,400 living alumni.
1960-65Frances Perkins, FDR’s Secretary of Labor, lives at Telluride House.
1962First female TA member (Laura Wolfowitz).
1963The Berkeley Branch of Telluride Association is founded. The Branch closes in 1970.
1964First woman given full preferment (residential scholarship) at Telluride House (Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak).
1967Perkins Fellowship (with Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations) established.
1970TA has 89 members. The 1970’s are a decade of severe financial austerity for TA.
1983-85Special Renovation project restores Telluride House to original Arts and Crafts style.
1985The Chicago Branch of Telluride Association is founded. The Branch closes in 1987.
1993Telluride Association Sophomore Seminar (TASS) started at Indiana University. IU TASS ends in 2016.
1994Mansfield-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.
1997Atkinson-Tetreault Scholarship (with Cornell’s City and Regional Planning Department) established.
1998Mike 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.
1999Michigan Branch of Telluride Association established.
2002TASS program expanded to the University of Michigan.
Telluride Association becomes Telluride Association, Inc.
2011Telluride Association celebrates its centennial, and plans for its second century of tranformative educational programs.
2015TASS expanded to Cornell University.
2020Summer Programs are held online due to COVID-19.
2022Launch of Telluride Association Summer Seminars

List of past programs: