Peter R. Decker, the first board chair of Fort Lewis College's trustees when it received its independence from the Colorado State University system in 2002, died Dec. 12 in Denver. He was 86.
Decker, who ranched at Ridgway with his wife Deedee, had been Colorado's Secretary of Agriculture during the Richard Lamm administration and a member of state and local historical preservation and planning organizations. He had degrees from Middlebury, Syracuse, and Columbia and had taught at Yale, and after discovering western Colorado in the 1970s and moving to Ridgway wrote several nonfiction and fiction books about the West. Included was "Old Fences, New Neighbors," about the changing populations of the rural West. He had been a U.S. Army officer serving in Laos and Vietnam in the early 1960s.
As a trustee, Decker advocated for quality teaching and college leadership and consistently championed the humanities. He enjoyed faulting energy spent on athletics, especially football, and at times cautioned against faculty favorites that could be too limited. Why is Chinese feminism in the 1840s being taught, he once said, as he thumbed through an imaginary course catalogue.
He had a sense of humor and was certain to speak his mind.
Fort Lewis' origins and mission were a close fit with his love of the West.
Decker believed in knowing his fellow trustees and the college's administrators, and he and Deedee hosted events at their ranch and at their home in Denver. After his term as trustee ended, he regularly kept in touch with the college.
Peter Decker's full obituary appeared in the Sunday, Dec. 3, Denver Post.
Published in The Durango Herald on Jan. 4, 2021.