Honoring a Teacher and a Dancer

“It’s important for me to do something that has an impact and keeps going,” says Cynthia Mousel (’62, Physical Education and Teaching). “And I realized I had a way [through estate planning] that I could make gifts that would be beneficial to the recipient that received the gift, and I, myself, would benefit – not only financially, but also spiritually by sharing the wealth.”

Mousel’s most recent gift to Colorado State University is in the form of an endowed scholarship for dance. The scholarship, named in honor of Irmel Fagan, will be given to a student studying dance who demonstrates financial need and leadership potential through campus, civic, or religious participation.

Irmel Fagan was the director of women’s physical education at CSU from 1959 to 1979. She was a teacher and a dancer and was instrumental in creating the dance major, which was originally housed in the physical education department.

Photo of Irmel Fagan from 1959
This photo of Irmel Fagan, from 1959, was in a retirement book for Elizabeth Forbes, the previous director of women’s physical education.

“Irmel Fagan was a very warm, kind, knowledgeable individual who saw a place for dance within the CSU curriculum. The arts department did not exist at the time, so she knew dance would have to be attached to the physical education department in order to succeed,” says Mousel.

Eventually, Fagan was able to move the dance program into the same area as theatre, and a performing arts school was formed at CSU. “She wanted to see dance become a legitimate discipline – and it is,” says Mousel.

Fagan was a strong advocate for women’s physical education and for dance, and as such, she influenced many students, including Mousel, who went on to lead different physical education or dance programs throughout the country.

Mousel spent 32 years as a physical education teacher in the Cherry Creek School District in Arapahoe County, Colorado. “I started before Title IX and created the women’s physical education program,” she says. She taught dance classes, added first aid and health courses, field hockey, and gymnastics, which she coached for more than 20 years.

And though she retired from the school district, Mousel hasn’t stopped teaching. She teaches ESL courses at her church, Trinity United Methodist in Denver, and she sings in the choir there, most recently joining more than 250 other choral singers for a concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

Mousel also maintains her connection to CSU. “I had been giving to the library for a while, and then, a few years ago I got a tour of the dance department and saw a short organ concert by Joel Bacon, and I thought, ‘this is amazing,’” she says. The staff in the School of Music, Theatre and Dance, and the strong foundation in classical ballet encouraged Mousel to get more deeply involved in the dance program, and soon, she decided to celebrate her former teacher with a scholarship.

Attendees at the CLA donor brunch
Jane Slusarski-Harris, director of dance, Cynthia Mousel, donor, and a student dancer at the CLA Donor Brunch in Oct. 2016

“When a donor supports our program, it benefits everybody,” says Jane Slusarski-Harris (’83, Arts and Humanities), professor and director of dance at Colorado State University. “Scholarships in particular help to make college more affordable for students. In endowing this scholarship, Cynthia Mousel honors Irmel Fagan’s legacy and impacts the CSU dance program in a wonderfully positive and poignant way.”

“Cynthia is an amazing person who has been an educator and supporter of the arts for many years. Her generosity and foresight supports future students who are to come while also acknowledging the past history of CSU Dance,” says Slusarski-Harris.

“Irmel Fagan modeled for me what teaching was all about,” Mousel says. “In many ways we were kindred spirits. I want this [scholarship] to be an honor to her.”

Note: Mrs. Fagan’s family donated many of her papers, music, and other items to the University Archives. You can read more about the Irmel Fagan Collection of Women’s Athletics at Colorado State University at http://lib.colostate.edu/archives/findingaids/university/uiwf.html

Her family also donated additional materials to the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance, which are housed in the Performing Arts Library and Computer Lab at the University Center for the Arts.

The Dance Program at CSU

  • Dance is a visual, kinesthetic, and performing art.
  • There are 35 students pursuing a bachelor of arts in dance.
  • The curriculum focuses on classical ballet and contemporary/modern dance, with coursework in performance, choreography, pedagogy, history, and technical production.
  • Dance teaches 21st century skills such as:
    • Physical thinking (engaged and connected to your body)
    • Critical thinking (to understand a body of work, a concept)
    • Collaborative skills (getting along with others, working together as a team on a performance)
    • Creative skills (developing a dance routine to express a concept or emotion)
  • Dance alumni have established careers as performers, choreographers, teachers, business owners, studio owners, artistic, executive, and company directors, and physical therapists, among other things.

Learn more about CSU’s dance program.

Fall Dance Concert 2016 at CSU
Colorado State University’s dance program presents its annual Fall Dance Concert, an evening of innovative contemporary and classical dance presented by dance faculty, students and guest artist Judy Bejarano. November 10, 2016
Fall Dance Concert at CSU
Fall Dance Concert at CSU

Note: Historic images were taken from the Irmel Fagan Collection of Women’s Athletics in the University Archives at CSU