The President’s Perspective


Categories: Campus , Academic

Sheila Stearns enjoys a brisk winter day on the Oval during one of her final days as UM president.
Sheila Stearns enjoys a brisk winter day on the Oval during one of her final days as UM president.

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language.

And next year’s words await another voice.”   - T.S. Eliot, “Four Quartets”

Dear Friends,

It has been an honor to serve the University of Montana as president. In this, my final Montanan column, I could shout from the Main Hall carillon how optimistic I am about the future of our University. 

Many of you ask me, what is the University like these days? It is stunning. I have met hundreds of students. They are bright, creative and independent in ways that inspire me. Our faculty is world-renowned for its expertise. I hope most of you saw the recent "NOVA" episode on PBS featuring Professor Doug Emlen. Stunning is an understatement. UM employees serve students steadfastly and with individual attention, no matter how much change swirls around us. They know what’s important. 

Recently on a snowy day, I stood in front of the Davidson Honors College with Dean Brock Tessman. He gave me a gift of sketches of trees on the Oval from the four seasons of my presidency. For those of you who know UM’s deans, like Brock, you know their extraordinary backgrounds. Most have come to Montana from all over the country. Not only do they take a personal interest in student and faculty success, they also inspire donors to the highest levels of philanthropy in UM’s history.    

It has been a year of challenge and change. We researched the sustainability of every program to set priorities for growth. We reduced personnel expenses by giving many faculty and staff the voluntary opportunity to pursue other goals. We emphasized retention of students and timely graduation. We stepped up recruitment in Montana and beyond.

We had fun! Students packed the Dennison Theatre during the opening week of classes, stomping their feet to the beat of a charismatic video created by our film students. Their energy could have blown down the curtains. My husband, Hal, “the First Dude,” brought postcards to every campus event, spreading them like Johnny Appleseed to anyone who promised to mail them as a message from the University. There are kids around the country who believe they received a personal postcard from Monte, our Griz mascot. Hal and I will always be proud citizens of Griz Nation.

“And next year’s words await another voice …”

That voice belongs to Seth Bodnar, our 19th president, featured in this issue. I admire his leadership, his heart for service and his relentless pursuit of excellence with integrity. As I watch him in action this winter, I know that a bright future for UM is as predictable as the sunrise over Mount Sentinel.

“And to make an end is to make a new beginning.”

Thank you,

Sheila Stearns, Outgoing UM President

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