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Distinguished AlumniMeet five exceptional alumni who boldly embody the spirit of UM through leadership.
Each year, the University of Montana Alumni Association recognizes alumni who have brought honor to the University through service and leadership in a variety of industries. This year, five UM alums will receive Distinguished Alumni Awards for expanding the boundaries of cultural preservation, transportation, business, healthcare sustainability and education.
Miami Tribe of Oklahoma member Daryl Baldwin ’96, M.A. ’99, of Liberty, Indiana, has influenced the field of linguistics for his work to revitalize the “sleeping” language of Myaamia. Through analyzing archival materials, building on linguistic reconstruction and even raising his family with the language, Baldwin revived the language despite the absence of native speakers – which earned him a “Genius Award” from the MacArthur Foundation in 2016. He now serves as director of Miami University’s Myaamia Center, an internationally recognized research center he founded in 2001 to help preserve the language and culture. His leadership in other organizations, such as the Endangered Language Fund, has given hope to Native cultures whose languages are in danger of not being passed on. Baldwin also works as director of the National Breath of Life Archival Institute for the Indigenous Languages of North America.
Lana Richards Batts ’68, of Lakeside, has blazed her path as a leader in the male-dominated trucking industry. For 20 years, her work as senior vice president of government affairs for the American Trucking Associations transformed its large lobbying staff into a powerhouse. After serving as president of the Truckload Carriers Association, Batts started her own mergers and acquisitions firm, Transport Capital Partners, and in 2011 co-founded the fast-growing trucking background screening company, Driver iQ. She became the first female and non-multimillionaire to earn the top award of the trucking industry in 1994 – the S. Earl Dove Award – twice was named Woman of the Year by the Women’s Transportation Seminar and also was the first female recognized with the Professional Truck Driver Institute’s Lee Crittenden Memorial Award in 2006. She is widely sought-after as a spokesperson for the trucking industry today.
Dennis Eck ’67, of Corona del Mar, California, has improved multiple organizations through technology, unique business solutions and education. While enjoying a successful grocery retail career, he developed an education program for employees at Coles Myer, Australia’s largest retailer, as well as community outreach programs to bring high school dropouts back to full employment and education. Eck earned Australia’s Astute Business Leader of the Year title in 2000. Under Eck’s direction, the U.S. company Ulta Salon Cosmetics & Fragrance experienced extensive growth from 100 to 1,400 stores. Eck and his wife have supported women in business and politics through multiple causes and funded a program with the University of California Irvine to save the hair of women undergoing chemotherapy. At UM, the Ecks have contributed more than $8 million to renovate the Liberal Arts Building and created the Native American Scholarship Fund and the NEW Leadership Program.
During her 34 years as a nurse, Elizabeth “Beth” Schenk ’81, of Missoula, has led the way for sustainability in health care. Through her work in multiple positions at Providence St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula, she has spearheaded environmental stewardship efforts to reduce healthcare-generated pollution, saving nearly $1 million annually. Schenk created one of the first hospital workplace recycling programs in 1992, and her innovation has led the way for pollution reduction plans within the Providence St. Joseph Health system – the third largest nonprofit health system in the nation – and development of the Nurses Environmental Awareness Tool, used across the country and internationally. She serves on multiple professional and volunteer boards and is an American Academy of Nursing Fellow and assistant research professor at the Washington State University College of Nursing. Schenk also is a founding member of Montana Health Professionals for a Healthy Climate.
Mandy Smoker Broaddus, M.F.A. ’03, of Helena, is an educational advocate for Native Americans, humanities leader, consultant and well-known writer. She also is a member of the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of Montana’s Fort Peck Reservation. As director of Indian education for Montana’s Office of Public Instruction for 9 years, she earned multiple recognitions for her efforts to improve access and close achievement gaps for American Indian students. Some of these include the 2015 National Indian Education Association Educator of the Year award, nomination to the National Advisory Council on Indian Education by President Barack Obama in 2016 and the Montana Governor’s Award for Excellence in Performance in 2017. A published poet and Emmy-award winner, Smoker Broaddus just was appointed to serve as one of two poet laureates for the state of Montana. She now practices as a regional Indian educational consultant throughout the Pacific Northwest.