Montana State University

MSU raises $20 million to meet Norm Asbjornson match; groundbreaking for Norm Asbjornson Hall set Sept. 22

September 19, 2016 -- By Anne Cantrell, MSU News Service

Asbjornson Hall winter exterior

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BOZEMAN — When Montana State University alumnus Norm Asbjornson pledged $50 million to his alma mater in 2014, he did so with a condition: That MSU raise an additional $20 million to enhance and expand the scope of the project. The university has met that match requirement and the entire project is moving forward on schedule, according to Chris Murray, president and CEO of the MSU Alumni Foundation, the fundraising arm of the university.

Hundreds of gifts have helped the university meet the match, with those gifts ranging from as little as $10 to as much as $5 million, Murray said.

MSU President Waded Cruzado expressed gratitude to all of the donors who have contributed to the project.

“Montana State University has incredibly committed, passionate and engaged supporters,” she said. “We are so grateful to each and every individual, family and organization that has contributed to this important project.” 

Murray noted that Asbjornson was determined to motivate others to contribute.

“Norm Asbjornson set the bar high with his challenge, in essence saying, ‘I’ll stretch if you stretch,’ Murray said. “It is inspiring to see so many generous donors who care deeply about MSU embrace that challenge and step forward to meet it.”

“I knew the challenge I put to MSU was tough, but I have learned never to let the weight of failure discourage me,” Asbjornson said. “I was confident that the university and the Alumni Foundation along with that pragmatic Montana work ethic would be successful in inspiring many to recognize the project’s value and contribute. I am thrilled to see the number of people who share my vision and have risen up to meet the challenge.”

Gifts were made in a variety of ways, including outright cash, matured estate bequests, payroll deductions and stock transfers, Murray said. He added that gifts came from alumni and friends of MSU, as well as from MSU faculty, administrators and staff. Donors were primarily individuals, but several corporate donations were given by alumni-owned businesses.

“We are thrilled that so many people have contributed to this effort, and we would like to share our sincere thanks with every person for their generosity and for their engagement with Montana State,” Murray said.

Several of the major donors whose gifts made a significant difference include Tim and Mary Barnard, the Gianforte Family Charitable Trust, the estate of Bill Wurst and the estate of Marjorie Thorson.

Construction of Norm Asbjornson Hall is scheduled to begin this fall. The approximately 110,000 square-foot building will house parts of the MSU College of Engineering and the MSU Honors College. The hall will anchor the university’s new South Campus Project – which will include a 550-space parking garage that is currently under construction and scheduled to be completed by January of 2017. Construction of Norm Asbjornson Hall is expected to be completed by January of 2019.

Brett Gunnink, dean of the MSU College of Engineering, said Norm Asbjornson Hall will help thousands of MSU students receive a top-notch education.

“Norm Asbjornson Hall will promote dynamic interdisciplinary engagement, meaningful student-faculty interaction and accelerated innovation that responds to and anticipates emerging trends in education, industry and society,” Gunnink said. “We are so grateful to everyone who has contributed to help make this important project a reality.”

The $20 million match will help fund a presentation hall within the building called “Inspiration Hall,” which will seat approximately 300 people. It will also help fund MSU Honors College space and the common collaboration spaces.”

Asbjornson said he is pleased his gift will help generations of MSU students to come.

“I believe we all have an obligation to thank those people and institutions who helped us along the way. I had a lot of help from Montana State and Winifred. I can't repay those who helped me, for they're gone, but I can support the next generation. It gives me great satisfaction knowing that others have taken this opportunity to stretch and give generously. I hope their experience of giving has been as rewarding for them as I have found it to be.”

A groundbreaking ceremony for Norm Asbjornson Hall is set for 3 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 22, on the corner of Grant and 7th on the MSU campus. Members of the public are invited to attend.

“I am excited for the amazing growth MSU and the College of Engineering are experiencing and I’m eager to see the new Asbjornson Hall promoting dynamic and collaborative opportunities between academic programs,” Asbjornson said. Our economy demands educated workers who understand teamwork and collaboration to find solutions for the challenges that lie ahead. Montana State is on track to deliver.”

The MSU Alumni Foundation continues to welcome gifts designated for the project. To learn more, visit

Contact: Chris Murray, president and CEO, MSU Alumni Foundation, (406) 994-2513 or

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