Montana State University

Spring 2016

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Mountains and Minds

Intention + Gift = impact May 10, 2016 • Published 05/10/16

Since Montana State University’s What It Takes comprehensive campaign launched in September, hundreds of people from all walks of life and income levels have given their financial support to MSU students and programs. Here is a sample of how a few of those people are impacting the future of higher education in Montana.

The impact of giving

Every year since 1992, Elaine and Ken Baarson have given to MSU. The two native Montanans—he’s from Helena and she is from Anaconda—met at MSU. Ken graduated with a history degree from MSU in 1969. And Elaine started her degree at MSU, but finished in Arizona. Ken is now a retired middle school and high school guidance counselor and Elaine a retired librarian. They have given consistently to MSU. Their gifts over the past 23 years have mostly benefited library development and ROTC scholarships. They said their giving is a direct reflection of their values and understanding of what makes a difference for students and their success: financial access to higher education and access to information and knowledge through the library.

In 2015 the Baarsons wanted to continue their support of the university, but in a larger way with major gifts supporting Acoustic Atlas and ScholarWorks, both MSU Library initiatives, as well as general and ROTC scholarships. Their most recent gifts, given last November, totaled $150,000.

Ken is passionate about the importance of scholarships. “My parents passed away before I went to college, so without the scholarships, college would not have been financially possible for me,” he said.

Elaine said she is enthusiastic about Library Dean Kenning Arlitsch’s desire to utilize technology creatively and to collaborate with other academic libraries so greater access to information resources is available for students and the public.

Longtime residents of Tucson, Arizona, the Baarsons have now retired to Washington state and are happy to be closer to Yellowstone National Park and southwest Montana where they enjoy exploring the natural wonders of the region.

Gifts large and small make a difference

Individuals, couples and families are inspired to give to MSU for many reasons and with different capacities. Each and every gift is appreciated and has a positive impact, but here are a few stories and notes about the people who have celebrated their faith in MSU through gifts and the ways their gifts are making a big impact on campus.

Nora and Tom Gerrity have designated a bequest to MSU equal to five percent of their estate. This planned gift honors MSU nursing graduate Hebe Chestnutt, Nora’s mother who graduated in 1971 and who inspired Nora to pursue a career in medicine. The established endowment will support students enrolled in the Doctor of Nursing Practice program.

In their first year after graduating from MSU in the early 1950s, Otto and Shirley Stevens began their annual practice of giving to MSU with a $100 gift. From year to year, the Stevenses increased their giving modestly. In 2011, though, to celebrate their 60 years as graduates, they made a commemorative gift of $6,000. Since then, the Stevenses have continued to give commemoratively adding $100 each year. While making their 2015 gift of $6,500 to benefit cell biology and neuroscience scholarships, Otto said that he and Shirley appreciate their college educations that led to many wonderful opportunities in their lives. The Stevenses have also committed to supporting MSU through a planned estate gift.

Janis Rae Clemis, who graduated from MSU in 1979, is a career school teacher who has given nearly every year for the past 22 years to the College of Education, Health and Human Development.  Her annual donations have benefited established pooled scholarship funds. Clemis thinks of her gifts as investments that will generate good opportunities for students, “a way of paying it forward.” Her generosity stems from a sense of gratitude for the excellent teacher preparation she received at MSU. Clemis teaches in a remote area of Alberta, Canada, and appreciates MSU’s enlightening courses in Native American studies as well as the exploration of First Nations culture. “I still draw upon that learning in my teaching today.”

Long time host of Montana Ag Live Hayden Ferguson, professor emeritus, and his wife, Marlene, have allocated a percentage of their estate in a bequest to support soils education in the College of Agriculture as well as scholarships for student-athletes.

Education majors will benefit from Ruth Long’s $10,000 deferred charitable gift annuity to support them through their 14-week required student-teaching time. Long’s commitment will help meet the needs of students devoted to teaching careers who are trying to keep their college debt to a minimum.

With a gift of mutual fund stock, F. Brian Walter established a charitable gift annuity that will support a scholarship in honor of his cousin, Beverly Gross, who died at a young age. Walter inherited some of her estate and invested the inheritance in a mutual fund. Now, many years later, that investment is funding the gift annuity and an endowed scholarship for generations of future MSU students. As a boy and a young man, Walter helped out in his family’s general store in Sheridan, Montana, where he was born and raised. The civil engineering degree he earned from MSU in 1956 took him around the world from London to Saudi Arabia, where he lived and worked. ■

There are many ways to give

With philanthropic intention and commitments that suit their finances, these donors have found a variety of ways to make impacts across campus.


George McClure confirmed estate plans to endow a scholarship with a bequest

IMPACT Scholarships for marketing and architecture students from Montana or Wyoming


M. Jean Setter pledged to establish an endowment with annual payments and documented a bequest

IMPACT College of Nursing greatest needs


Alice Jones and Lloyd Mielke designated MSU as beneficiary of property within their estate (estimated value $250,000)

IMPACT Scholarship fund for Land Resources and Environmental Sciences undergraduates


Lindsay Anderson, vice president, Quality for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, contributed $50,000

IMPACT Engineering and the South Campus Development project


Anonymous delineated MSU as a life insurance policy beneficiary (estimated value $10,000)

IMPACT Scholarships for veterans and their families


Dr. Robert Towers and Dr. Kenneth Younger, retired Bozeman physicians, each committed lead gifts

IMPACT Equipment and furnishings for the new WWAMI campus at Bozeman Health


Marilyn Carpenter, a Three Forks native, documented an IRA beneficiary designation (estimated value $118,000)

IMPACT College of Nursing greatest needs

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