Montana State University

Stearns to serve as interim chancellor at MSU Billings

April 18, 2014 -- MSU News Service

Sheila Stearns, Montana commissioner emerita of higher education, will begin her duties May 5, after the retirement of MSU Billings Chancellor Rolf Groseth and will serve until a new chancellor is chosen.   High-Res Available

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571


Montana State University President Waded Cruzado announced today the appointment of Sheila Stearns, Montana commissioner emerita of higher education, as interim chancellor of MSU Billings.

Stearns will replace Rolf Groseth, who retires as chancellor following MSU Billings’ commencement on May 3.  Stearns will begin her duties on the Billings campus on May 5.

Stearns retired in 2012 as Montana’s commissioner of higher education and has since been a senior fellow and consultant for the Association of Governing Boards, providing advice to boards of trustees and governing boards of colleges and universities throughout the United States and the Pacific Islands.

“I’m very pleased to be following such a fine chancellor and all-around good guy,” Stearns said. A native of Glendive, she said she was happy to be able to spend time in Billings, where several members of her family live and which has always been like a second home to her. “I’m happy for the opportunity to spend time at a beautiful campus with people I know and care about, and help in the transition.”

Cruzado said the MSU Billings campus could not be in better hands.

“Commissioner Emerita Stearns has an encyclopedic knowledge of higher education in the state of Montana and beyond,” Cruzado said. “We are extremely pleased that she is available to put that experience to use on behalf of MSU Billings as we move through this interim period.”

Cruzado said MSU Billings is in the middle of a search for a permanent replacement for Groseth, and expects to have a new chancellor in place July 1.

Stearns served as Montana commissioner of higher education from 2003 to 2012 working with 21 regents, four college presidents, eight chancellors, 10 college of technology deans, five community college presidents, two governors, two state superintendents of public instruction and hundreds of lawmakers. She returned to her native Montana to accept the job as commissioner from Nebraska, where she served as president of Wayne State University. Prior to that, she was provost, and then chancellor, of Western Montana College in Dillon.

Stearns received all her degrees from the University of Montana, including a bachelor's degree in English and history, a master's degree in history and a doctorate in educational administration and supervision. She worked six years as a teacher and librarian in middle schools before becoming an administrator at UM. She is married to Hal Stearns, a retired Missoula public school teacher.

Groseth announced his retirement as chancellor at MSU Billings in January after serving in the position since 2010. He retires from the MSU system after a career that began in 1977 when he was hired as the director of student activities for the Bozeman campus. The Chicago-area native has a bachelor's degree from Michigan State University where he was also an All-American in swimming. He earned his master's degree from Iowa State University and his doctorate from the University of Florida. Groseth also served two years in the U.S. Army, including a 12-month tour of duty in Vietnam.

Groseth served in a variety of positions at MSU including dean of students, vice provost for students affairs, executive assistant to the president, and the MSU System coordinator and interim chancellor at MSU-Northern. Groseth is married to Jaynee Drange Groseth, who retired last fall as executive director of the MSU Alumni Association following a 38-year career at MSU.


Tracy Ellig (406) 994-5607,