The Forum | Freedom of Association

In Memoriam: Bill Armstrong

July 7, 2016

William Armstrong served higher education and our nation with all of his heart and soul and might. Throughout a long career in business, in state and national government, and in leadership at Colorado Christian University, his every action reflected wisdom, kindness, and principles based upon his unwavering devotion to God. He was an inspiration and support to the American Council of Trustees and Alumni in our efforts to further academic freedom, academic excellence, and accountability in higher education.

Bill’s political career was one of prodigious achievement. Elected at age 25 to the Colorado legislature, he won election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1972 and to the U.S. Senate in 1978, where he served for two terms. Acting on his belief in term limits, he declined to run a third time.

In 2006, Bill became the president of Colorado Christian University (CCU) and brought to his administration of CCU the efficiency and pragmatism that had characterized his work in business and government. But it was pragmatism that was always inspired by a vision of the academic goals and the development of character that made CCU such a special place. With his team of faculty and administrators, he quickly strengthened CCU’s core curriculum, making it one of only 24 colleges and universities in the nation to have an “A” rating for such academic quality. His intellect was deep and restless; anyone who entered the president’s office at CCU would be struck immediately by the dozens of Teaching Company courses on his shelves and the enthusiasm with which he described the many new subjects he was exploring.

He was firm in protecting constitutional freedoms. Under Bill’s leadership as president, Colorado Christian University appealed an earlier ruling that would have effectively blocked CCU’s students from receiving financial aid from the state. Bill stood up for those students and their access to education, and in 2008, the federal appellate court found the practice to be in constitutional violation of the free-exercise, establishment, and equal-protection clauses.

Those of us at ACTA who had the privilege of working with Bill remember his articulate understanding of how to get things done and his optimism in approaching even challenges that seemed intractable. With clarity of purpose, he analyzed the problems of the college accreditation system, especially in his time serving, along with Anne Neal, on a federal committee to oversee the process. It is one of ACTA’s great achievements that President Anne D. Neal received an honorary degree from CCU.

We share our condolences with Bill’s close family and the many colleagues and students whose lives he touched and our wish that Bill had been with us for many more years; but we also celebrate an exemplary life, a life meaningfully lived, a life that inspires all of us to greater vision and greater service.


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