UM graduate’s gift launches new round of renovations of Liberal Arts Building

Dennis Eck (left) views progress on Liberal Arts Building renovations with UM architect Jameel Chaudhry in June. (Photo by UM student Will McKnight)

A University of Montana graduate and his wife have committed another $2.2 million to continue renovating the 1950s-themed Liberal Arts Building. This time, the contribution could come with naming rights.

The latest gift, announced by the university last week, brings to $8.3 million that Montana native and UM alumnus Dennis Eck and his wife, Gretchen, have given the school over the past three years.

Their gift will support infrastructure upgrades, including modern electrical, along with renovations to restrooms and 11 classrooms. A new fire sprinkler system and roof are also planned.

“This modernization of the Liberal Arts Building, without tearing the building down, serves as a proof of concept for upgrading the university’s facilities without changing the characteristic beauty of campus,” said Dennis Eck.

The Liberal Arts Building was constructed in 1953 and saw few changes in the years that followed. When visiting campus several years ago, Dennis Eck found the building in the same condition as when he was a student at UM in the 1960s.

With an early gift from the couple, a handful of classrooms were overhauled and outfitted with advanced technology. Exterior windows were expanded to let in more natural light. Additional funding also led to renovations of the basement-level auditorium – one of the largest classrooms on campus.

Construction continues on the facade of the Liberal Arts Building. The Board of Regents will consider a request to rename a portion of the LA Building the Dennis and Gretchen Eck Hall during their September meeting. (Photo by UM student Will McKnight)

A new entrance off the Oval is also under construction.

UM President Sheila Stearns said the school will consider naming the southern wing of the building the Dennis and Gretchen Eck Hall, pending approval by the Montana Board of Regents.

“More students study in the Liberal Arts Building than in any other building on campus,” Stearns said. “Thanks to the Ecks’ extraordinary generosity, thousands of students will be able to learn in a modern, technologically enhanced setting.”

Dennis Eck, originally from Wolf Point, graduated from UM in 1968 and currently sits on the board of Ulta Beauty. He is also the principal of DKE Retail Studies.

Gretchen Eck, of Butte, also attended UM.

“Gretchen and I are proud to have our name associated with a project that will impact students every day and hope to inspire other donors and the state to support higher education.”

The public and campus community are invited to comment on the naming proposal, either at a public hearing at 2 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 31, in University Center Rooms 332-333 or by emailing prestalk@umontana.edu.