About Alumni


Betty Preat WetzelBetty Preat Wetzel ’37, Bigfork, who celebrated her 100th birthday November 7, has embarked on a century’s worth of adventures since her birth in 1915.

A native of Roundup, the tennis enthusiast won the 1936 Montana State Tennis Championship—in singles and doubles—before graduating from UM with a journalism degree the next year. After spending a few years in New York City upon graduation, she moved back to her hometown to work for the Record-Tribune, the newspaper her father founded. There she met her future husband, Winston, and they married in 1940. The couple and their four children lived in Glendive, Whitefish, and Missoula before moving in 1966 to Dacca, East Pakistan [now Bangladesh], where Winston was an education adviser and Betty worked in a cholera research lab. While overseas, Betty wrote freelance articles for numerous publications and was a regular contributor to Montana Magazine. Her book, Missoula: The Town and its People, was published in 1987.

Once the family returned stateside, Betty worked at Wellesley College and as the first public relations director for international development organization Oxfam America. She and Winston always knew they wanted to return to Montana, so they purchased lakefront property and moved to Bigfork upon retirement.

In 1990, Betty published another book, After You, Mark Twain—A Modern Journey Around the Equator, based on a trip the couple took retracing Mark Twain’s journey in Following the Equator. It included stops in Hawaii, New Zealand, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, and South Africa.

When she was just shy of eighty years old, Betty embarked on a ten-day, 140-mile pack trip in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, and The New York Times published an article about her adventure in its travel section.
Though she’s ventured across the world and back, Betty’s heart always remained in the Treasure State. “Montana is truly beautiful,” she told the Bigfork Eagle. “And so are the people.”


Bob RehfeldBob Rehfeld ’50, Lewiston, Idaho, earned a letter playing tackle for the Grizzlies football team in 1945 and graduated with a degree in forestry in 1950. Seventy years later, his granddaughter, Reagan Colyer, proudly sports the letter she earned as a member of UM’s cross country and track teams. The two are pictured here at the Inland Empire Challenge in Lewiston last October. Reagan is the latest in a long legacy of Grizzlies in the family, which include her dad, Jim Colyer ’77, four uncles, an aunt, and nearly a dozen cousins who are either current UM students or alumni.

William ReynoldsDr. William A. Reynolds  ’52, Missoula, received the Centennial Legacy Award from the Montana chapter of the American College of Physicians, the largest medical specialty organization in the country. Bill practiced internal medicine in Missoula for thirty-eight years.

Walter J. Lonner ’56, M.A. ’61, Bellingham, Wash., received the Distinguished Contributions to the International Advancement of Psychology Award, the American Psychology Association’s most prestigious award. Founder of the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology in 1970, Walter has spent his entire career studying the influence of culture on thought and behavior and is considered a pioneer in that specialty.


Rick DeMarinisRick DeMarinis ’61, M.A. ’67, Missoula, received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the UM Creative Writing Program during the 2015 Montana Book Festival. DeMarinis has written ten novels and seven collections of short fiction. His novel The Year of the Zinc Penny is a New York Times Notable Book. His short stories have appeared in several noteworthy journals, including Esquire, The Atlantic, Harpers, GQ, The Paris Review, and The Iowa Review. He taught creative writing for twenty-five years as a professor at San Diego State University, Arizona State University, and the University of Texas at El Paso. He served as a visiting writer at a number of prestigious writing programs, most recently the Master of Fine Arts program at UM in 2002.

Dan Bieri ’62, M.A. ’64, Sydney, Australia, visited the North Pole on the world’s largest icebreaker, a Russian ship, as part of an organized excursion in July. He also assisted a sea ice research team as the official recorder while on the ice. 

Gwen and Michelle AndersonGwen Anderson ’63, Belgrade, and Michele Robinson, Butte, visited the home and cooking school of David Carpita ’66 in Remy-de-Provence, France, in October.

Leon Washut ’65, Vero Beach, Fla., and his cousin Karen Ballek co-wrote and published We Are One Family: Polish Immigration to Sheridan County, Wyoming 1890-1920. It highlights stories of ethnic Poles, many who came from villages that dotted the mountains and foothills of the Carpathian Mountains. Although they adapted to a new life, their deeply held beliefs and traditions from their rural Polish culture became firmly rooted in Sheridan County. We Are One Family is the result of eight years of research, which included reviewing family histories, reading personal memoirs, interviewing descendants of immigrants, and sifting through ship manifests, naturalization documents, census data, and other documentation. Leon and Karen also traveled to Poland to conduct interviews and gather information.

Jane Susann MacCarterJane Susann MacCarter ’67, Livingston, wrote Twice Upon a Kiss, a novel that weaves together archeological adventure, prehistoric warfare, contemporary romance, and modern medical drama. Omnific published Twice Upon a Kiss in August.

Karen Larson Gookin ’69, retired in 2013 from Central Washington University in Ellensburg after twenty-nine years teaching technical writing and argumentation in the CWU English Department. Most recently, she retired from the Yakima Symphony Orchestra, where she played piccolo and flute for over twenty years. Karen and her husband, Larry ’71, will remain in Ellensburg but plan to “RV” throughout the Northwest, including regular visits to Montana.


Larry Gookin ’71, Ellensburg, Wash., retired last June from Central Washington University, where he served as director of bands and conducted the CWU Wind Ensemble for thirty-four years. During his tenure at CWU, Larry received many awards, including the university’s Distinguished Professor of Teaching, the Washington Music Educators’ Hall of Fame, and the University of Oregon’s Distinguished Alumnus in Arts. Larry also recently retired as artistic director and conductor of the Seattle Wind Symphony, which he founded. To honor Larry in his retirement, a number of Pacific Northwest band directors commissioned David Maslanka of Missoula to compose a piece for him. Larry conducted the new piece, St. Francis, at his final concert with the CWU Wind Ensemble on June 7.

William MarcusWilliam Marcus ’74, Missoula, retired in 2015 after a forty-year career in Montana public broadcasting. William began his career in public media as a student working part-time at KUFM, before the station affiliated with National Public Radio. He became news director a few years after graduation and took over as the director of the Broadcast Media Center at UM in 1995. Four documentaries William produced won regional Emmy Awards, and Night of the Grizzlies, which chronicled the infamous deadly bear attacks in Glacier National Park, was the most-watched production in MontanaPBS history. William is perhaps best known as host of Backroads of Montana, which highlights Montana’s rural communities and the residents that make them unique. Even in retirement, he plans to produce at least a few more episodes.

James R. Murray ’76, Bethesda, Md., was inducted as a Fellow into the American College of Trial Lawyers, one of the premier legal associations in the country. James is a partner in the insurance coverage practice at Dickstein Shapiro in Washington, D.C., and is a member of the firm’s executive committee. He was a UM Distinguished Alumni Award recipient in 2014.

Tom Vandel ’77, Portland, Ore., has written a new book in collaboration with a Portland artist titled Driving Strangers: Diary of an Uber Driver. It combines short, pithy musings on his experiences as an Uber driver with artist Karen Wippich’s oddly intriguing portraits. The book is available on Amazon, and, according to its description, also makes a nice cheese plate.

Moraine Byrne ’78, Arvada, Colo., is a marketing, management, and business consultant who founded Moraine Byrne Associates in 1993. The firm focuses on senior living, health care, and nonprofit management. She currently leads strategic business initiatives for Covington Senior Living in Atlanta.

Hicks FamilyGary Hicks ’76, Rochester, Minn.; Lance Ketterling ’78, Hettinger, N.D.; Robert Shacklett ’78, M.S. ’80, Okanogan, Wash.; and Mark Sanda ’77, Chaska, Minn., pose for a photo on campus while visiting Missoula in October for their “quadrennial gathering.” The UM grads have gotten together every four years, without fail, since 1987.


Laurie BlaunerLaurie Blauner ’80, Seattle, won the 2015 Leapfrog Fiction Contest for her novel The Solace of Monsters, which will be published this fall.

Laura Barr Sargent ’82, Marblehead, Mass., is the author of a series of e-books called Hop on Reading, which use a structured approach to help young readers overcome dyslexia and other reading impediments. Laura left Montana in 1982 to sail the world and has worked with struggling readers for many years in various countries and cultures. She earned a master’s degree in education from Harvard University in 2005.

Dennis Brooke M.B.A. ’87, Tacoma, Wash., is a writer whose novel The Last Apostle is slated for release in February.

Chuck HamiltonChuck Hamilton ’88, Evanston, Ill., and his parents, Susan and Don Hamilton, J.D. ’66, Great Falls, visited Havana, Cuba, as members of the Thunderbird Rugby Football Club. The team played two matches against the Cuban National Team as part of the Mojito Rugby Tour II.

Rick Rasmussen ’88, Hayden, Idaho, is the CEO of Northwest Specialty Hospital in Post Falls, Idaho. Prior to that, he served as the hospital’s CFO.


Julie MichaelJulie Meslow Michael ’90, Los Angeles, is president of the Los Angeles-based advertising agency Team One. Before being named president last summer, she served as the premium brand agency’s executive director of account management and in several other senior management roles. 

Colonel John HarrisonColonel John Harrison ‘92, M.P.A. ’98, Colorado Springs, Colo., concluded his thirty-two-year U.S. Army career in October as the executive officer to the three-star deputy commander of the U.S. Northern Command at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado. John, pictured third from left, received an early commission from UM-ROTC in 1989 as a sophomore and graduated in the winter of 1992. John will retire in the Treasure State with his family.

John AshleyJohn Ashley ’93, Kila, published Glacier National Park After Dark: Sunset to Sunrise in a Beloved Montana Wilderness, which he calls a “combination guide book, travel journal, historical narrative, photo essay, and astronomy primer.” It features stunning time-lapse images of Glacier’s night skies.

Larry GravesLarry Graves ’93, Topeka, Kan., was promoted to the labor relations team in human resources for Westar Energy, Kansas’ largest electric utility. He previously served as director of the company’s Tecumseh Energy Center for three years.

Andi HomesAndi Holmes ’93, Plains, the owner and pharmacist of Plains Drug, received a Health Mart Community Healthcare Excellence Award in April. Only ten pharmacies in the country received the national award in 2015.

Veronica “Nici” Vance ’93, Clackamas, Ore., received the Oregon State Police Employee of the Year award in August for her work with human skeletal remains through Oregon’s Medical Examiner Division. She provides skeletal recovery, identification, and forensic anthropology services for law enforcement agencies throughout Oregon. She has worked for the Oregon State Police as a forensic scientist and the state forensic anthropologist for twenty years.

Michael Earl Craig ’94, Livingston, will serve as the 2015-17 Montana Poet Laureate, a designation that recognizes and honors a citizen poet of exceptional talent and accomplishment and encourages appreciation of poetry and literary life across the state. Michael has written four books of poetry: Can you Relax in My House; Yes, Master; Thin Komono; and Talkativeness. A farrier who composes his poetry on a manual typewriter and mentors high school creative writing students, Michael has received accolades from national publications and has been invited to read in cities across the country.
Carrie Thiel ’95, M.A. ’10, and  Barbi Webber ’82, both of Kalispell, co-wrote Surviving Disordered Eating: One Bite at a Time, published last spring. Barbi is a licensed wellness coach, mentor, and motivational speaker, and Carrie works as a licensed clinical professional counselor in private practice. Their book contains practical tips and strategies, ideas for family members, and resources for professionals.
Lee Douglas van der Voo ’96, Portland, Ore., a reporter whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Slate, and The Atlantic, has been supported by the Fund for Investigative Journalism and an Investigative Reporters and Editors Freelance Fellowship. Lee is the author of a forthcoming book about the relationship between sustainable seafood, working communities, and Wall Street. In addition to receiving national awards for her work from Investigative Reporters and Editors and the Society of Environmental Journalists, Lee received special recognition for Oregon’s top reporting prize, the Bruce Baer Award, three times in five years. She currently investigates and reports for InvestigateWest at invw.org.
Chris FairbanksChris Fairbanks ’98, Los Angeles, tours the country as a stand-up comedian. He has appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live and several Comedy Central shows, including Premium Blend, Last Comic Standing and Reality Bites Back.
Vincent Trimboli ’98, Eagle, Idaho, is the public affairs manager for the Idaho Department of Transportation. He is responsible for directing all aspects of media relations, marketing, and communications statewide and acts as the department’s chief spokesperson.


Parker BixbyParker Bixby M.M. ’00, Mercer Island, Wash., is the Mercer Island School District band director. He was featured in the October 2015 issue of the national music education magazine The Instrumentalist. In the article “Pursuit of Excellence,” Parker details the individualized learning approach he and his team use to engage and teach students. “Instead of working toward trophies or rankings, we motivate through the pursuit of excellence,” he told the magazine. “That is our goal.”
Mary Anne HittMary Anne Hitt  ’02, Shepherdstown, W.Va., is a director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. She and her colleague Bruce Nilles were included on Politico’s “50 for 2015” list, which the political news organization calls its “guide to the thinkers, doers, and visionaries transforming politics in 2015.” “This year, we were in the company of the likes of Pope Francis, Bernie Sanders, Janet Yellen, Justice Anthony Kennedy, and John Oliver,” Mary Anne writes. “It’s great to have the good work of so many people recognized on such a big stage, and it’s a big honor for me to represent them.”

Aaron Roos and Andrew RizzoAaron Roos ’02 and Andrew Rizzo ’07, Missoula, organized and curated the inaugural Montana Film Festival, held October 1-4 at the Roxy Theater in Missoula. The festival featured more than thirty films, including animations, international, and local indigenous cinema, and several Montana-made films. Aaron and Andrew both are currently earning their master’s degrees in digital filmmaking through UM’s School of Media Arts.

Mandy Smoker BroaddusMandy Smoker Broaddus, M.F.A. ’03, Helena, directs the Indian Education program at the Montana Office of Public Instruction. She received the 2015 Educator of the Year Award from the National Indian Education Association for her work to improve education for Native Americans and all students across Montana.
Matthew Fitzpatrick M.S. ’03, Frostburg, Md., earned tenure and was promoted to associate professor at the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science Appalachian Laboratory. He studies biological diversity, which includes genetic variation within species, as well as groups of interacting species in forests, shrublands, and streams. His research often focuses on how organisms responded to past climate changes and how that information can be used to develop future predictions about biological diversity and the spread of species.
Fredrick Lindahl M.B.A. ’03, Stockholm, Sweden, is the CEO of Flightradar24, an online service that provides flight tracking and mapping in real time. The service relies on volunteers around the world who have installed more than 7,000 receivers on roofs, towers, islands, and ships.
Mary HollowMary Hollow ’04, Helena, is the executive director of the Prickly Pear Land Trust, which seeks to protect the natural diversity and rural character of the Prickly Pear Valley and surrounding lands in Lewis and Clark, Jefferson, Broadwater, and Powell counties through voluntary and cooperative means. Before joining PPLT, Hollow worked on land protection and directed government affairs for The Nature Conservancy’s Montana chapter.
Mike Foote ’06, Missoula, Steven Gnam ’08, Wenatchee, Wash., and Mike Wolfe, J.D. ’09, Missoula, completed a minimally supported, 600-mile endurance run across the Crown of the Continent, one of the largest, most pristine ecosystems in North America. The crew started in Missoula and ended in Banff, Alberta. Both Foote and Wolfe are ultrarunners sponsored by The North Face who routinely compete in trail races of fifty miles or more. Gnam, a photographer whose work includes Crown of the Continent: The Wildest Rockies, told the Flathead Beacon the team embarked on the excursion to “raise awareness of the Crown of the Continent, the wildlife corridors that exist in the area, and show how the communities on either side of the border are connected.”
Alex Kraft M.F.A. ’06, Dahlonega, Ga., co-curated an exhibition titled 50 Women: A Celebration of Women’s Contribution to Ceramics at the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City.
Kristin Knight-PaceKristin Knight-Pace ’06, Healy, Alaska, and her husband plan to compete in the two longest sled dog races in the world—the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest and the 1,150-mile Iditarod—back-to-back in 2016. The couple runs a competitive racing kennel near Denali National Park, and Kristin is the lead backcountry ranger for the park. “My professors at UM taught me that hard work can be incredibly rewarding,” she writes. “The foundation that UM gave me to achieve dreams through my own effort and by my own hand has carried me all the way through life to the starting line of these races. We and our twenty-seven dogs are training almost every day of the year, working toward a common goal of traveling great frozen distances confidently and competently and having fun while we’re at it.”
Aaron Griffin M.Ed. ’08, Frenchtown, principal of Frenchtown Elementary K-4 School, was selected as Montana’s 2015 National Distinguished Principal. He traveled to Washington, D.C., in October for two days of activities recognizing honorees from all fifty states. Since taking the helm at Frenchtown Elementary in 2013, Aaron helped implement the Colt’s Community Learning Center and was active in re-establishing the Montana Behavior Initiative program, which takes a proactive approach to school discipline and communication with parents and students.
M. Shane RobertsonM. Shane Robertson M.M. ’08, Chesterfield, S.C., earned his doctorate in music education from the University of Georgia. He currently is the director of choral activities at Chesterfield and Cheraw high schools in South Carolina.
Elliot JacobsElliot Jacobs M.A. ’09, M.Ed. ’11, Hailey, Idaho, was awarded a Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching. Joined by his wife, Kate, and infant daughter, Cecily, he will spend the winter in Tangier, Morocco, teaching in local schools, taking classes at Abdelmalek Essaadi University, and researching Moroccan and American expatriate writers of the 1950s and ’60s. Elliot writes, “After six years of teaching in Idaho, this opportunity is a real thrill, and we can’t wait to learn more about the incredible culture of Morocco and spend time abroad as a family.”


Megan KruseMegan Kruse M.F.A. ’10, Seattle, was named to the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” list for 2015. Hawthorne Books published her debut novel, Call Me Home, in March 2015, with an introduction by author Elizabeth Gilbert. Her work also has appeared widely in literary journals and anthologies. Megan teaches fiction at Eastern Oregon University, Hugo House in Seattle, and at the Gotham Writers Workshop.

Alex PolliniAlex Pollini ’12, Los Angeles, pictured third from left, was the director of photography and shot the opening title sequence for the HBO miniseries Olive Kitteridge. He and his team were nominated for a 2015 Creative Emmy Award and attended the awards ceremony at the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles.

Zach Brown ’13, Bozeman, is a program specialist for the Ag, Water, and Climate Program at One Montana, a statewide program that aims to build and sustain basic connections between rural and urban Montanans. He also represents House District 63 in the Montana Legislature.