$84M in private support buoys UM scholarships, programs

The University of Montana received more than $84 million in private support over the last fiscal year, marking the fourth year in a row the school has surpassed the $50 million mark. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

The University of Montana received more than $84 million in private support over the last fiscal year, marking the fourth year in a row the school has surpassed the $50 million mark, foundation officials said this week.

This year’s donations included the university’s largest-ever gift – a $24 million contribution from Bill and Carolyn Franke and their family. Dozens of other gifts offered by university supporters have also driven student scholarships to a new high.

“Our numbers have been amazing in that area,” Kate Stober of the UM Foundation said Friday. “Every year, the foundation increases the amount it’s able to distribute on campus. This year it’s $5 million. Three years ago it was $4 million. Around 2,700 students this year will be offered scholarships.”

Last fall, the UM Foundation received a $4 million gift from The Haynes Foundation to provide scholarships to deserving Montana students. More recently, The ALSAM Foundation gave $1.2 million to support Native American pharmacy students.

The two gifts are among many aimed at supporting students, Stober said.

“Private donors also support different programs,” Stober said. “This year was a big year because of the Franke donation. That will underwrite two new faculty positions, support scholarships and fellowships for students, as well as the Franke Global Leadership Initiative. It’s a free-standing program, and sometimes programs like that have trouble finding funding.”

Private support for faculty was also strong this year. Donors helped double the number of named chairs on campus, including new chairs in conservation, history, hydrology and education.

While the university is seeking buyouts from some faculty members in an effort align the budget with enrollment, donor support has helped augment faculty salaries and aid in professional development, Stober said.

She attributed the funding success to the UM Foundation’s strong team, strong university support and leadership within the school’s various colleges.

“We have some awesome leaders with the deans of the schools and colleges that are able to define their vision for the future,” Stober said. “It’s something that makes it a little more interesting.”

Stober said donors also contributed to campus improvements, including a $5 million gift from the Alice Lee Lund Charitable Trust. That funding will build a state-of-the-art public auditorium at the College of Education and Human Sciences.

A $2.4 million gift from Dennis and Gretchen Eck will also help renovate the dated Liberal Arts Building. Support was also provided to the new Missoula College building, the business school and Washington-Grizzly Stadium.

“We’re really grateful to our donors,” Stober said. “It’s important to see how much they care about UM and their willingness to make these investments in the university year after year.”