UM's Foundation goes public with its capital campaign
by Vince Devlin
“She can take you on a colorful verbal tour of a bat’s digestive tract, discuss the fascinating spider research she saw being conducted last summer at UM’s Flathead Lake Biological Station, and tell you what she learned in her own research at Yellow Bay, into the tunnels that swallows build on the sides of cliffs.
There’s something else Brandy Murray, a UM senior in wildlife biology from Red Lodge, could be doing right now, too. Without the academic scholarships that are helping put her through school, “I’d probably still be back in Red Lodge waiting tables,” she says. Murray received one of the Levitan scholarships for her summer work at the biological station.
Matthew Levitan ’73 established the first scholarship in 1995 and has added a scholarship for each of his four siblings. An executive with UBS PaineWebber, Levitan was motivated to give back to his alma mater in gratitude for a scholarship he received as a UM student. He is just one of many alumni and University supporters whose private giving has sustained UM and helped it grow in the last few decades.
As the University takes its capital campaign public with the goal of raising $100 million in private donations for dozens of projects, programs, buildings, and scholarships, it’s important to see the big picture—the continuing challenge to maintain and enhance UM’s place on the academic map—and the importance of private giving within that picture.
With twenty-eight Rhodes Scholars, twenty Udall Scholars, twelve Goldwater Scholars, and ten Truman Scholars to its credit, UM has built a strong academic resumé. No school in the nation has produced more Udall Scholars, and only four public universities can count more Rhodes Scholars than The University of Montana.
“Since the late ’70s, support from the state has steadily eroded,” says UM President George Dennison. “We are reliant on alternative sources of revenue. It is our friends and alumni in the private sector who allow us to serve our public goal of serving students.”
And that, says Deborah Doyle McWhinney ’77, is one of the primary reasons she volunteered to serve as national chair of the campaign. Amid the list of buildings UM hopes to construct, chairs it wants to endow, and programs and fellowships it wishes to fund, it is also important to remember who benefits most from a capital campaign.
It is students like Brandy Murray.
“When I was in school, the state paid for something like 70 percent of the cost of higher education,” McWhinney says. “Now it’s 12 percent. The burden is really being shouldered by students and private business. In order to continue to grow the programs, we need to make certain the University has the funds to make it happen.”
First, some basics: The UM Foundation and the University have already raised about $72 million of their goal in what is known as the “quiet phase” of the five-year campaign, which is due to wrap up in 2007. The rollover into the public phase takes the capital campaign to a much broader audience.
“In major capital campaigns the goal before going public is to reach at least half of your total,” says Laura Brehm, president and CEO of the UM Foundation. “You want to make sure your initiatives are compelling. It gives you a demonstration of the viability of your campaign priorities.”
UM’s needs are many: new buildings for the School of Journalism and the alumni and development offices; additions to the Law Building and the Education Building for the Phyllis J. Washington Technology Center; and construction of the Gilkey Center for Executive Education, the Native American Center, and the Montana Museum of Art and Culture.
There are acquisitions for the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library and the College of Technology and endowments to fund the Boone and Crockett Research Program and the Buddy DeFranco Jazz Festival.
While UM has successfully funded the John J. Craighead Chair in Wildlife Biology, it also aims to establish chairs in cardiovascular sciences and natural resource policy as well as several professorships, including the William Kittredge Distinguished Writing Professorship.
Then there are the many scholarships and fellowships UM would use to attract and support promising undergraduate and graduate students. Brehm notes that the majority of donations come from out of state, and 40 percent come from non-alumni—figures that impress her.
“A lot of our graduates have left the state to build their careers in other parts of the country,” she says. “But that they continue to support The University of Montana indicates a great feeling of loyalty and attachment.”
And the high percentage of non-alums who give tells her that the University is a meaningful part of people’s lives, whether they attended UM or not.
“Invest in Discovery,” UM calls its capital campaign. “Connecting People, Programs, and Place.” Here’s how it can affect one person.
Brandy Murray grew up on twelve acres between Red Lodge and Roberts. Her father works in a mine in southeastern Montana; her mother cleans houses. Her parents have not been able to pay for higher education for any of their three daughters.
She met her fiancé, David Wallace, while they were attending Sheridan (Wyoming) Community College, and Murray continued to take classes there after earning her two-year degree, “because I loved school.”
Afterward, Murray took a year off to return to Red Lodge and care for an ill grandparent. Then she and Wallace, a history major, began looking at schools in the Pacific Northwest where they could both find top-notch programs in their fields. UM won out over the others.
Murray, 25, holds down two jobs in addition to taking a full academic load.
But in Montana, where state funding of UM’s educational budget has decreased from 75 percent in 1970 to 12 percent in 2004, and where the average cost of tuition and fees has tripled just since 1990, Murray says there is no way she’d be in college without the scholarships she has received.
“It’s awe-inspiring, really,” says Murray, who carries a 3.76 grade point average. “To think that someone who doesn’t know me would believe in me enough to give me money so I can go to college is amazing. To me, it means I owe it to my benefactors to do the best that I can. I would not be here without them.”
Murray also has received Pell grants and scholarships from the W.J. Gallagher Scholarship fund and from the Dennis Washington Foundation.
The influence of people educated at UM stretches into all walks of life. Mike Mansfield (the longest- serving U.S. Senate Majority Leader in history and former U.S. ambassador to Japan), Carroll O’Connor (the Emmy Award-winning actor best known for his portrayal of Archie Bunker in All in the Family) and Harold Urey (a Nobel Prize winner in chemistry) all earned their degrees at UM.
“One of the great things about this campaign is that it is driven not by what the foundation board wanted, but by what the deans have asked us to raise money for,” McWhinney says. “They’re closest to the action and know what’s needed.”
With the help of a nine-person steering committee and her campaign cabinet of Priscilla Pickard Gilkey of Spokane, Charles R. Oliver of Hamilton, and Mickey Cummings Sogard of Polson, McWhinney says the campaign is raising the $100 million “one dollar at a time, one donor at a time.”
The UM Foundation has been raising private funds for the University since 1951, but for years it focused on particular projects. The school’s first true capital campaign ran in the early 1980s with a goal of $8 million. Its largest single product, Washington-Grizzly Stadium, helped turn the Grizzly football program into a national power.
The second capital campaign, from 1993 to 1997, had a goal of $40 million. It raised almost twice that—$71.3 million, including money that built the Gallagher Business Building and the Davidson Honors College.
McWhinney says these are perfect examples of how private giving can have a tremendous impact on the University. “I would argue the business school is one of the best in the country,” McWhinney says. “And with the Davidson Honors College, to be able to take good students, separate them out, and give them a little bit extra, that’s how you go from being a good university to a great one.”
Every unit on campus developed lists of needs for the capital campaign. One example would be the College of Forestry and Conservation. Long considered one of the premier schools of its kind, it has much going for it. Located as it is between two national parks, UM can offer students and faculty access to outdoor study and research that no other university can. The college already has four unique field stations—the 28,000-acre Lubrecht Experimental Forest, the Flathead Lake Biological Station, the 3,500-acre Bandy Ranch, and the Boone and Crockett Club’s Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Ranch of 6,000 acres along the east face of the Rockies.
But the University does not have the resources it would like to fund graduate students’ work with the chair of wildlife conservation funded by the Boone and Crockett Club. Until recently, the chair was held by Jack Ward Thomas, former chief of the U.S. Forest Service. UM wants to endow a faculty chair in natural resource policy and seeks to establish a Native American natural resources program.
However, the University’s physical facilities aren’t on a par with its natural ones, says Associate Dean James Burchfield, which hinders its ability to attract the best and brightest graduate students for research. “We need modern lab facilities,” Burchfield says. “Our faculty and classrooms are spread out in five different buildings. We’re all over the place.”
The capital campaign is a way to address those needs. “What makes giving to The University of Montana special is the impact each gift makes,” Burchfield says. “People at The University of Montana are grateful for the opportunity to live and work in one of the last best places, and they make the best use of all that they receive. There’s no place like Montana, and its signature university wants to keep it that way.”
All across campus are similar initiatives.
The International Heart Institute of Montana, a collaboration between UM and St. Patrick Hospital and Health Sciences Center, seeks to establish a chair in cardiovascular sciences, allowing the College of Health Professions and Biomedical Sciences to continue its leadership in research and education.
The Gilkey Center for Executive Education will be a hub for learning, service, networking, and entrepreneurship. It will attract national business leaders to campus to interact with students and allow the School of Business Administration to take a lead role in the economic development of Montana.
By renovating and adding on to the law building, UM will not only remedy deficiencies in the forty-year-old building cited in a recent American Bar Association report. It will greatly aid student recruitment efforts and provide a climate where students can access the latest technologies.
Like some of the projects discussed in the capital campaign, the School of Journalism has already collected most of the money needed to make its new building a reality. In this case, UM is only $1 million shy of the eventual $11 million price tag, and construction has begun. But there are other needs as well.
In 1999 UM established the first American Indian journalist-in-residence position in the nation, held by Dennis McAuliffe, an Osage who was night foreign editor at the Washington Post before joining the faculty. McAuliffe has more than doubled Indian enrollment in the School of Journalism and created Reznet, the country’s first and only online newspaper written by American Indian college students from around the country. Part of the capital campaign is aimed at continuing the American Indian journalist-in-residence and Reznet.
While jazz fans expect the University’s Buddy DeFranco Jazz Festival to occur every spring, the truth is that festival organizers each year must raise the money to put it on. By endowing the funding, the festival’s future will be assured and organizers will be able to devote their time to outreach and execution of the popular festival, rather than fund-raising. The festival sets itself apart from other jazz festivals by coupling artistic performances with hands-on learning experiences for music students.
Brandy Murray and her fiancé have lots of debates about whose major is more interesting and who has the better teachers at UM. They both believe they win the discussions. “Wildlife biology is such a wonderful program here,” Murray says, “and the teachers are terrific—people like Dan Pletscher, who will always take the time to sit and answer all my questions.”
Scholarships that lure students like Murray and fellowships that might one day attract students like her to graduate school are prominent in the campaign.
“Scholarships for undergraduates are one of the most important priorities, both need- and merit-based,” Dennison says. “And fellowships for graduate students as well. We have to find ways to assist students so that they can succeed.”
UM students who take out loans to pay for college now graduate with an average debt of $23,000. In addition, UM fellowships average about $12,000, compared to the national average of $20,000. The capital campaign seeks to address those issues and ensure that UM’s reputation in academia and research is not simply maintained, but grows.
There are many reasons Brandy Murray and other students chose UM, and while they may never have thought of it as private support at the time, the fact is that private support is a large part of what brought them to this campus. From jazz musicians to heart research, from grizzly bear studies to some of the finest business facilities around, UM is in the process of positioning itself for the next generation of students, teachers, and researchers.
To contribute to or learn more about the
campaign, contact the UM Foundation at
P.O. Box 7159, Missoula, MT 59807, or
call (406) 243-2593 or (800) 443-2593.
You can also give online by going to the foundationŐs Web site: www.umt.edu/umf/campaign.
Vince Devlin is a reporter for the Missoulian and a frequent contributor to the Montanan.
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