Meet Chuck Hinshaw: One of MSU Denver’s first, and current students

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Posted Tue, Oct 13, 2015

Chuck Hinshaw leans on a piano at Metropolitan State University of Denver on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015. Hinshaw's lifelong career has been refinishing pianos and furniture. (MSU Denver/Timothy Carroll)

Chuck Hinshaw leans on a piano at Metropolitan State University of Denver on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015. Hinshaw’s lifelong career has been refinishing pianos and furniture. [Photo: MSU Denver/Timothy Carroll]

DENVER, Auraria Campus — As the saying goes, “It’s never too late.” It’s never too late to switch careers, to go back to school.

Chuck Hinshaw, one of Metropolitan State University of Denver’s first students, is a prime example.

Among the 20,000 MSU Denver students roaming the Auraria campus, Hinshaw may not be a familiar face, but he is familiar to the institution’s cause. The 69-year-old psychology major was one of the first students to attend the University in 1965.

“At that point I thought I wanted to be a physical therapist,” Hinshaw says. “That was the plan.”

Hinshaw, whose lifelong passion has been to help others, worked at Denver Health Medical Center – then Denver General – and was quickly captivated by the physical therapists, and the patients who “got their lives back.”

“Audio and physical therapy for people are both extremely slow, minor results type-of-thing until they gain ground at some point,” Hinshaw explains. “And then people go through miraculous changes in their life because there are these people [physical therapists] there to do it.”

Change of plans

However, Hinshaw only made it through a year and a half of school. In 1968, he pursued another venture that would lead to his lifelong career: furniture and piano case refinishing. Hinshaw worked for a business for five years, eventually becoming the foreman of the company, until he decided to open his own. Hinshaw held his business for 40 years – working on extravagant pieces such as a 9-foot concert grand piano – until the 2008 recession forced him into semi-retirement.

The transition was hard on Hinshaw as he fell into a deep depression. That’s when Hinshaw’s girlfriend, Teddy Rowe, stepped in to take him out of his rut. The pair began school together at Red Rocks Community College.

“It was a choice of going with her or losing her,” Hinshaw says, “and after 27 years I thought the better choice was tagging along.”

Rowe says, “I didn’t want to leave him behind.”

"Original Forum Building Photo" (1965) caption: The Forum Building in 1965 formally adjacent to the City and County Building, was Metropolitan State University of Denver’s original main building, housing administration until 1977. (MSU Denver)

The Forum Building in 1965 formally adjacent to the City and County Building, was Metropolitan State University of Denver’s original main building, housing administration until 1977. [Photo: Courtesy of MSU Denver]

The piano refinisher was placing the final touch on his life. Wanting to reassess his mind, Hinshaw pursued sociology, philosophy and psychology courses while at Red Rocks. But, as many might expect, the reason behind his choice in courses was not solely driven by his period of depression. Hinshaw is also a recovered addict.

“Self-examination is really the key to understanding what the nature of addiction is,” Hinshaw says.

Back to school

After receiving his associate of art degree in general studies, Hinshaw followed Rowe to MSU Denver. What brought him to the college originally brought him back again. Hinshaw wants to help people – by teaching, and by counseling those with addiction issues.

Yet Hinshaw’s dream might not have come to fruition after all, he might not have attended college if MSU Denver, then Metropolitan State College of Denver, was not around. He was accepted into the University of Colorado Boulder, but could not meet the expense of it.

“I didn’t come from a wealthy family, so I didn’t have a lot of money to spend,” Hinshaw says. “Of course, obtaining loans for education at that point was really difficult to do, and the interest rates were exorbitant in comparison to how they are now.”

Many things were very different at Metro State College compared to the university it is today. When Hinshaw attended, the Auraria Campus did not even exist. Just four buildings spread among the city life represented the college – a former floral warehouse by the City and County Building, the student center on Bannock Street, a building designed for legal offices on 14th Street and the YMCA building for physical education classes.

The new college’s separation between its buildings symbolically represented the way the MSU Denver’s student life had endured at this time period.

“There was no identity to Metro at that time because it was so new,” Hinshaw says. “There weren’t any school clubs. There wasn’t any structure there that gave you a sense of community whatsoever.”

However, Hinshaw feels that sense of community now. He is in awe of the beautiful landscape, buildings, incorporation of clubs and events around campus.

“It’s huge, it’s huge,” Hinshaw says. “The difference is just monumental. I’m so proud of what Metro has become.”

“Child of the ‘60s”

Built in 2012, the Student Success Building is the center of Metropolitan State University of Denver today and the institutions first wholly owned building on campus. [Photo: Rachel Bruner]

Built in 2012, the Student Success Building is the center of Metropolitan State University of Denver today and the institutions first wholly owned building on campus. [Photo: Rachel Bruner]

Many things were very different in general back then. A self-proclaimed hippie and “child of the ‘60s,” Hinshaw grew up in a time period where government and authority were constantly questioned, and not as trusted by people. Hinshaw had even marched for Civil Rights while in high school. It may be no surprise that one of his mottos is to “question everything.”

It was also a time in Colorado of building colleges to encourage educational advancement in the state. Arapahoe Community College became the first community college in the Denver area, and Metro State College was built as an opportunity school for all walks of life. That’s one of the things Hinshaw says he always loved about the school – one of the things that remained the same.

“I love seeing all the shades of humanity we have here at Metro,” he says.

It seems that Hinshaw has added his own shade to MSU Denver, too.

“Chuck is a great addition to my class!” said Anna Ropp, one of Hinshaw’s current psychology professors. “Students who have experience and knowledge outside of the classroom can help diversify the classroom environment, and their participation in class can lead to rich and fascinating discussions.”

MSU Denver’s 50th Anniversary on Oct. 1 marked exactly 50 years from when Hinshaw enrolled the first time around. Overcoming his demons with renewed focus, Hinshaw continues to refinish pianos, but this time he is refinishing his life.

 

About Rachel Bruner

Rachel Bruner is a Denver-area writer

View all posts by Rachel Bruner

8 Responses to “Meet Chuck Hinshaw: One of MSU Denver’s first, and current students”

  1. Kyle Rickert Says:

    This was a really great way to sort of tell the story of Metro over the last 50 years using a relatable and personal story. The different sections to the story definitely kept me interested.

    Reply

  2. Nicole Ault Says:

    Very interesting piece. There is a lot of detail in each section of the story giving you a greater sense of who Hinshaw is.

    Reply

  3. Haley Black Says:

    I really love this piece. It’s so interesting to see how Metro has grown over the course of its history, and even better to hear a personal account of it. The story was very personal and real. You got some really great quotes, but you did not let the quotes steal the spotlight of your own writing. I love the final sentence.

    Reply

  4. Andrea Herrera Says:

    Rachel,
    I like how you went out of your way and were able to interview someone who has not only been through struggles himself but who has also been able to experience several changes throughout his life. I find it interesting hearing from different people and their perspective on how much our university has change. I also find it amazing that Metro State University has come such a long way, and it is nice knowing their are people out there who will always support and admire how much MSU has changed. I liked the quotes you chose in particular I really liked this one, “It’s huge, it’s huge,” Hinshaw says. “The difference is just monumental. I’m so proud of what Metro has become.”

    Reply

  5. Conor Hatch Says:

    I enjoyed this informative piece about chuck hinshaw, he sound’s like an overall solid guy with tons of knowledge about MSU denver, you truly went above and beyond to track down this guy but it would be nice to know some statistics about how many people come back to MSU denver after they graduate to pursue a new degree.

    Reply

  6. Khaleel Herbert Says:

    Awesome job, Rachel!
    I liked your lead and your use of quotes from Hinshaw, his girlfriend, and his current psychology professor. I also liked the subhead-very helpful in transitioning the story and allowing readers to take a break if needed.

    This story had real substance. Not only did you show Hinshaw’s dreams, but also his change of plans, his struggles and how he overcame them.

    Keep up the good work 🙂

    Reply

  7. Preston Morse Says:

    Great job, Rachel! Cool story and very timely.

    The relationship between Hinshaw and Rowe could be an opportunity to add some emotion. “That’s when Teddy Rowe rescued Hinshaw from himself and inspired a life change…” Maybe, maybe not.

    Anyway, I liked the story!

    Keep it up!

    Reply

  8. Yara W Says:

    Hi Rachel,

    I liked the story, but I’m not going to lie, I had a hard time reading all of it. There is a lot of information, and sometimes I had a hard time following all of it.

    Nonetheless, great job. Maybe try adding more descriptive adjectives and some more action, but I loved it. Hinshaw seems like a great person to meet.

    Reply

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