Alumni Achievement Award
This award is given to a graduate from each MSU academic college with significant achievements in a specific field or endeavor since graduation. Specific selection criteria include: (1) distinguished professional achievement; (2) an outstanding record of service to the community; or (3) exemplary service to Montana State University.
Community has always been a driving force in Erica Aytes Coyle’s career. As the Executive Director of Haven, the Gallatin Valley’s nonprofit serving survivors of intimate partner violence, she has focused on engaging the community in ending violence and building connection.
Erica holds her Master of Public Administration and bachelor degrees in English literature and Spanish, all from Montana State University. She serves on the Board of the Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, providing resources and support to domestic and sexual violence prevention organizations statewide, while also advocating for legislation that best serves survivors.
Under her leadership and in partnership with the larger Haven team, the number of Haven's programs has doubled, the staff size has tripled, and the number of survivors served on an annual basis has increased by 60%. During her tenure, the organization has increased its focus on mobilizing the community as a whole to address and prevent violence and create community-wide change. To reflect this change, Haven is currently in the process of building a 16,0000 square foot shelter and community resource center where survivors can live with dignity and the community can connect over Haven’s mission.
A strong believer in the importance of cultivating resilience, Erica spends her time away from work with her husband and their two children, enjoying all the opportunities Montana offers.
Betsy Gaines Quammen is an environmental historian, conservationist, and writer. She earned her PhD in environmental history at Montana State University and MS in conservation policy at University of Montana. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, The New York Daily News, and the History News Network. Her first book, American Zion: Cliven Bundy, God, and Public Lands in the West was published in 2020. Her next book project, True West: Sorting Realities on the Far Side of America comes out in 2023. In the early 2000s, Betsy worked as a development director for the College of Letters and Science and currently serves on the College of Letters and Science Dean’s Advisory Board. She’s married to writer David Quammen and lives in Bozeman, Montana.
Dr. Cleveland is a Montana native who earned a B.S. in microbiology in 1966 and an M.S. in virology in 1967, both from MSU. He earned his Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Minnesota where he first discovered that mouse tumors expressed fetal antigens on the cell surface.
After receiving his Ph.D., Dr. Cleveland joined the faculty at UC San Diego where he developed and patented the first 96-well filter manifold for trapping cells and perfected the first diagnostic assay for tumor antigens using filter trapped tumor cells. This was the first of his many innovations and patents for diagnostic tests. While at UCSC, he was also instrumental in revising and revamping the university’s¾and eventually the entire UC systems’ technology transfer process.
In 1978, Dr. Cleveland and his wife Victoria started V&P Enterprises to design, manufacture and sell innovative research equipment. Today, the company sells more than 2,000 different products.
His many inventions and innovations in scientific research solutions include the pin tool which allows scientists to transfer very small volumes of liquids to wells of microplates, and the magnetic vertical tumbler stirrer machine which simultaneously and uniformly stirs the wells of multiple microplates. His inventions directly contributed to a host of scientific advances, including sequencing the human genome.
Patrick and Victoria have been generous supporters of the college and university, including the Department of Microbiology and Immunology’s Hilleman Lecture and Symposium Series. They have established an endowment to continue the funding for the program into the future.
Julianne Bye received her B.A. in political science from MSU in 1974. After graduating from MSU, she helped spearhead the creation of the Charter of the City of Billings in 1976 and the city commission government they still use today.
She then returned to Minnesota and continued to work in state and local politics and city planning for many years.
She earned her Master’s in Business Administration from the University of St. Thomas in 1985.
Julianne eventually took over operations of National Benefits Group, her family's retirement benefiting company, where she worked for the next 20 years.
Her career included service in local government and business. Most recently, she served as the Director of Individual and Planned Giving for the YWCA of Minneapolis. A position she held from 2006 until her retirement in 2015.
Julianne goes above and beyond in her commitment to MSU, including her commitment to establishing and funding MSU’s Political Science Scholarship, and serving on the College of Letters and Science’s Advisory Council.
We are extremely grateful for the support, time and effort Julianne has dedicated to the College of Letters and Science.
Marshall grew up just outside of Glacier National Park and worked as a trail guide in the park before coming to study at MSU.
He earned two bachelor’s degrees from MSU, one in earth science in 1962 and the other in geography in 1963.
After college, he worked for the USGS measuring glaciers in Alaska and then served as a Chief Cartographer for the Highway Commission.
Marshall then went on to enjoy a successful 31-year career with the Department of the Interior, holding various management positions with the Department of the Interior and the National Park Service across the country. He worked in numerous parks and historical sites including Glacier National Park and Acadia National Park.
He served in several senior management positions in Washington, D.C., including as a Regional Director with the Department of the Interior.
His final tenure of ten years was as the Assistant Superintendent for Science, Resource Management and Planning for Grand Teton National Park, from which he retired in 1994.
Marshall has volunteered with over 40 volunteer, nonprofit and governmental boards in Montana and Wyoming since the 1980s. These include the Consolidated Planning Board in Helena, Helena Citizens' Council, Rotary Club, American Planning Association, Masonic Lodge and Waterton Glacier National Peace Park, among others. He's also been involved at the state level in Wyoming with the American Red Cross and Boy Scouts of America.
Marshall currently serves as the President of the College of Letters and Science Advisory Board and has served on the Board since 2004.
Along with his wife, Elaine Gingery, they have three children and six grandchildren.
Gary received his business degree from MSU in 1968. He is especially proud of earning a full-ride football scholarship as a walk-on. During his time playing football for MSU, the team won three Big Sky Championships and beat the Grizzlies all four years.
After graduating from MSU, he entered the life insurance business. After two years as an agent, Gary started a career as an "Agency Builder." Over the next 40 plus years, he built large, successful agencies for Farm Bureau Insurance, Massachusetts Mutual and Western States Insurance.
Gary has an outstanding record of service to the state for his tireless efforts advocating on behalf of the mentally ill. He served for seven years on the Governor’s Mental Health Oversight and Advisor Council and Montana’s Youth and Young Adult Suicide Task Force. He currently serves as the president of the Montana chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Health or NAMI. NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. The association operates in every state with hundreds of local affiliates, state organizations and volunteers.
Gary was instrumental in the establishment of the Center for Mental Health Research and Recovery at MSU. The center was established in 2014 as a collaborative effort between MSU and the Montana chapter of NAMI. Researchers in the center work to address the mental health challenges unique to Montana and similar rural states by linking scientific discovery with innovative approaches to prevent, diagnose and treat mental illness. Gary remains very much involved in the center and its activities.
Dr. Michelle Larson, President and CEO, Adler Planetarium, Chicago, Illinois
As president of America’s first planetarium, Dr. Larson oversees a 21st century space science center that includes the institution’s landmark museum complex, exhibition galleries, and three theaters; a robust research enterprise; one of the world’s leading collections documenting the history of science; and an award-winning education and outreach program. Annually, more than 470,000 people visit the Adler, making it one of Chicago’s leading tourist attractions.
Dr. Larson grew up in Anchorage, Alaska and earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees in physics from MSU. An astrophysicist by training, her work has focused on neutron star astrophysics.
After her time at MSU, she completed her postdoctoral work in neutron star astrophysics at the California Institute of Technology, and became the deputy director of NASA’s Montana Space Grant Consortium where she coordinated research and education activities with students and faculty at 24 affiliate campuses and partners.
After leaving the Montana Space Grant Consortium, Dr. Larson became the deputy director of the Center of Gravitational Wave Physics at Pennsylvania State University, before becoming the vice provost and a physics professor at Utah State University. She has worked as a science education specialist and administrator at the University of California-Berkeley, the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and Pennsylvania State University.
In addition to her professional work, Dr. Larson has a talent for infusing the public with her passion for the stars. At the planetarium, she uses astronomy to engage people in science. She has touched thousands with her extensive knowledge of the stars over the years and we are proud that she is an alumna of the College of Letters and Science.
Irving Weissman, Virginia & D.K. Ludwig Professor for Clinical Investigation in Cancer Research,Stanford University
Dr. Weissman was raised in Great Falls, and started his scientific career at the McLaughlin Research Institute at the young age of 15. He attended Montana State College where he received a bachelor’s of science in pre-med in 1961. He went on to earn his M.D. at Stanford in 1965 and he has been there ever since.
His research has focused primarily on hematopoietic stem cell biology, and in 1998, Dr. Weissman became the first to isolate in pure form any stem cell in any species when he isolated the hematopoietic or blood-forming stem cell in mice. He subsequently isolated the human hematopoietic stem cell, the human neuronal stem cell, and the human leukemia stem cell. His work has opened up an entirely new area of scientific research with enormous potential for life-saving therapies.
In 2007 Dr. Weissman’s lab found a novel way to transplant new blood-forming stem cells into the bone marrow of mice without tissue-damaging radiation or chemotherapy, thereby effectively replacing their immune systems. An immune system transplant, much like a liver or heart transplant, would give a person with an autoimmune disease, such as MS, hope for a healthy cure.
During his long and distinguished career, he has trained and supervised hundreds of students and postdoctoral fellows, authored more than 750 scientific articles, and has numerous awards and honorary degrees for his research accomplishments. He is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and many other societies. His many awards include the Simon M. Shubitz Award for Excellence in the Field of Cancer Research from the University of Chicago in 2010 and the Robert Koch Prize, which is widely regarded as the leading international scientific prize in microbiology, in 2008.
Dr. Weissman is a pioneer at the forefront of a science that could change nearly everything about how we treat illness and disease, from heart disease to cancer. We’re proud of his Montana roots and that he is an alumnus of the College of Letters and Science.