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Fort Collins 1952: The CSU Homosexual Music Department Scandal

Funny how some scandals and characters become part of the local canon. Prostitutes, horse thieves,  and bootleggers make the Senior Voice and “I remember when …” columns year after year.

But others never pass the quaint test, no matter how much time passes. Which is why you’ve probably never heard about what happened at CSU’s Music Department in 1952. 

In that year, four men turned up gay. The details are sketchy, but one of my sources says all four were music faculty and generalizes that “the whole department was gay.”

Another source says maybe not the whole department. At least the department chair, Gregory Bueche, was straight. In fact, he was horrified to find his faculty teeming with men who do with men.

I can’t tell you how the scandal surfaced, or even if anyone admitted to being gay. But I do know it went to court, with Fancher Sarchet representing the defendents. His daughter, Doris Bice, remembers that the men were charged with homosexuality.

“In those days that was against the law,” she says.

She also remembers Sarchet’s personal view. “He said they were good as any other upstanding citizen,  and their preferences were nobody’s business.”

But others in town remember differently. Some say the men were innappropriate with their students.  Kids who took lessons would remember a touch on the shoulder and wonder if it meant more.  Parent’s began to warn their children about a new kind of danger.

To find the truth, you would have to dig up the court records–something I may do yet. 

“Did Sarchet win the case?” I asked Doris.

“Yes,” she says. But winning in those days meant that instead of jail, two got to leave town and a third was committed to a state mental hospital in Pueblo. 

Yearbook before and after

Before the scandal, the band director would sit in uniform every year with the CSU band honor society, kappa kappa psi,  for a college yearbook picture.

CSU kappa kappa psi's, 1952

CSU kappa kappa psi's, 1952

In the years after their director left, the kappas still sat for the photo, but now in ordinary suits and ties and with the newly appointed director Mr. D.N. Peitersen,

And in those first years, a picture of Mrs. D.N. Peitersen also appeared,  just a few inches away.

4 comments to Fort Collins 1952: The CSU Homosexual Music Department Scandal

  • wow! they were charged with a crime?! that seems so foreign/different than how things are today. then again, i spent a week visiting a drug addicted friend at the poudre hospital once and the attitudes of many of the nurses there were pretty 1950s.

  • catfc

    It does seem extraordinary. I never found any written record of this case and had to go on some yearbooks and memories of two people who lived in Fort Collins at the time. One is now 92 and the other 70. It very well could be that the charge was sodomy, child endangerment, or just working for the State of Colorado while gay.

    You keep me honest Meg. Thanks!

  • nisperos

    You know…

    It makes a difference whether some of the faculty were “more than friends” or whether the faculty hit on students. And, not that people couldn’t have been charged with things they didn’t do (or additional charges added which were trumped up)…

    The potential for inappropriate relationships between faculty and students or teaching assistants and students regardless of sexual or gender preference remains a big deal to this day…

    Even without bringing up relationships between faculty and TA’s or faculty and graduate students…

  • catfc

    Nisperos, One source, who was an adult at the time, told me that the only thing the men did wrong was be gay. That was enough. Fancher Sarchet represented the men, and he believed they were good citizens. But it’s interesting that the homosexual case didn’t make it into his book which covered most of his career practicing law.

    Another source, who was a boy at the time, told me the men were guilty of assaulting paper boys. Without digging up the court papers, I don’t know what really happened.