Skip to Main Content
Western Colorado University Logo FIND
Leslie J. Savage Library

Lois Borland Collection: Lois Borland


Lois Borland Collection: Biographical Sketch

Biographical Sketch

Lois Borland (1877-1967) came to the Colorado State Normal School, Gunnison, Colorado in 1914 as the school’s first English professor. She retired in 1942 from Western State College of Colorado after a long career that included many interests. In addition to literature, she developed an interest in local history and was probably the first person in the area to appreciate the value of saving and preserving historical documents. She also was involved in dramatic productions at the college.

Lois Bertha Borland, born on October 25, 1877 at Twin Mounds, Kansas, was one of “Colorado’s most illustrious and renowned women educators.” She attended public schools in Topeka, Kansas and received her B.A. at the University of Kansas in 1906.

Borland taught high school English from 1906 to 1908 in Norton, Kansas and was an instructor at the Preparatory School and Institute of Technology in Tonkawa, Oklahoma from 1908 to 1914.

After attending Harvard for a year she earned her M. A. from the University of Chicago in 1913. She held a teaching fellowship in journalism at the University of Wisconsin in 1920-21 and was a Shakespearean scholar in England during the winter of 1922-23. Borland completed her Ph. D. at the University of Chicago in 1929 and held a research fellowship at Yale in 1934-35.

Borland joined Western State College, then Colorado State Normal School, in Gunnison, Colorado as its sole English instructor in 1914 and was the chair of the Languages and Literature Department at Western State College from 1914 to 1920, and again from 1924 to her retirement in 1942.

Borland’s long tenure at Western State left a distinct tradition on the campus. She was instrumental in starting the student newspaper, Top O’ the World and improving the college yearbook, The Curecanti. She founded the Press Club and coached the debate team. She started a creative writing course and founded the Writer’s Workshop and the One Act Play Contest. By the time she retired, Borland had directed or produced over three hundred plays on the campus.

Borland’s home in Gunnison, at the southeast corner of Colorado and Gothic Streets, was a Mecca for students, faculty members, and local residents. “Her desk was always piled high with books, papers, journals, and other materials which she was using in her never-ending search for information and knowledge.”

Following her retirement from Western State in 1942, Borland worked as a journalist for the Gunnison News-Champion for eight years. In this capacity she wrote numerous historic sketches of the Gunnison country. During that time she also wrote several articles that were published in the Colorado Magazine.

Borland had a long-term interest in history. She was the faculty advisor for “Sketches of Early Gunnison,” prepared by the Colorado State Normal School at Gunnison Class of 1916. She was also a thesis advisor for numerous Master Degree thesis including Alice Starbuck Spenser’s theses, Newspapers in Gunnison County, 1879-1900, written in 1930. In the early 1950s she started writing a biography of Captain John Gunnison, which has since been lost. Borland’s notes on Captain Gunnison are found in folder 29. Borland also corresponded with many of the early Gunnison settlers.

In 1967 Western State College founded the Lois Borland Plaque for outstanding service to the college. The award was based on quality scholarship, enthusiasm, high moral character, and notable contribution to the reputation of the school.

Borland died in Denver on November 9, 1967 and was buried in the family plot in Carbondale, Kansas.

The majority of the information used in the biographical sketch is from Lois Borland’s obituary published in the Gunnison News-Champion on November 13, 1967.


1877 Born in Twin Mounds, Kansas
1906 Received her B. A. from the University of Kansas
1906-07 Taught English in the Norton, Kansas High School
1907-1913 Instructor at the University Preparatory School and Institute of Technology in Tonkawa, Oklahoma
1913 Received her M.A. from the University of Chicago
1914 Became the sole English instructor at the Colorado State Normal School at Gunnison
Oct.1917-Aug 1918  Y.W.C.A. Entertainer in France
1920-21 Held a teaching fellow at the University of Wisconsin
1922-23 Was a Shakespearian scholar in England
1929 Completed her Ph.D. at the University of Chicago
1934-35 Held a Research fellowship at Yale
1942 Retired from Western State College
1943-1951 Journalist for the Gunnison News-Champion
1967 Died in Denver

Nicole Becwar

Profile Photo
Tristan Buss
Room 114, Savage Library
(970) 943-2054

Finding Aid Information

Finding Aid Prepared By Harley Tripp, August 2005

© 2019 Western Colorado University