Montana State University

Mountains and Minds

A fine line November 24, 2009 • Published 11/24/09

The presidents of Montana State University
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Photos courtesy of Montana State University
Photos courtesy of Montana State University
Photos courtesy of Montana State UniversityPhotos courtesy of Montana State University

If the old adage holds that every picture tells a story, the portraits arranged in neat rows in the President's Conference Room in Montana Hall tell a saga.

That story reflects the history of Montana State University and begins with the first portrait, that of clear-eyed August Ryon. A Columbia College-educated professional engineer, Ryon served as president for only one year -- 1893. However, in that year he set the foundations for the university's future academic excellence when he insisted on a curriculum that emphasized engineering, agriculture and the arts rather than merely mechanical trades.

In the 116 years that followed, MSU has had just 11 presidents: Reid, Hamilton, Atkinson, Strand, Renne, Leon Johnson, McIntosh, Tietz and Malone, who died unexpectedly 10 years ago while still in office. And finally, Geoff Gamble, who ushered in a new era for the university along with the new century.

Each has left his mark on the institution that has evolved to become to one of the top 96 research institutions in the country and a center for academic excellence in the region.

Perhaps that was prophesied by James Hamilton, MSU's third president. Even though Hamilton instituted the "education for efficiency" creed that was emphasized at MSU for decades, he told a commencement audience that he envisioned that MSU would include "the best in literature, art and philosophy ... assembling along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains, the great continental backbone."

In its 116 year history, MSU has had just 11 presidents.
Waded Cruzado next will step into the MSU presidential queue. As she assumes her post early next year, she will immediately change the profile of MSU's leaders. She is the first woman to join the group, the first with Hispanic roots, and at the age of 49, she is among the youngest.

"I know that, with all of us working together, the best days of this great institution are ahead of us, Cruzado wrote recently to the students, staff and faculty at MSU. "I look forward to working with all of you in continuing this record of accomplishment."

Waded Cruzado named MSU's 12th president


Waded Cruzado has been selected as MSU's 12th president. She is the first woman and first minority to hold the presidency in the university's history.

Cruzado will assume the presidency around the first of the year, said Clayton Christian, vice chairman of the Montana Board of Regents and head of the presidential search committee.

"MSU's new president will be a tremendous leader for the university, the community and the state," Christian said.

Cruzado, 49, is currently executive vice president and provost of New Mexico State University. She holds a bachelor's in comparative literature from the University of Puerto Rico, MayagŁez; a master's in Spanish from the University of Texas, Arlington; and a doctorate in humanities from the University of Texas, Arlington.

"I am honored to be the next president of such a superb institution," Cruzado said. "MSU is deeply dedicated to its students and to the state. I look forward to continuing its tradition of excellence."

"She was our first choice," said Commissioner of Higher Education Sheila Stearns. "She will bring great leadership to MSU and to Montana. This is a very good day."

Cruzado was selected from a pool of more than 60 candidates who applied for the position and was one of three finalists who visited the MSU campus in late September and early October.

"The feedback we received from her campus visit was glowing," Christian said. "Students, faculty and staff, as well as community members, were all very positive in their comments about her. We have a new president who is really going to do great things for our students and our state."