The President’s Perspective


Categories: Campus , Academic

UM President Sheila Stearns throws out the first pitch of a Grizzly softball game.
UM President Sheila Stearns throws out the first pitch of a Grizzly softball game.

Greetings from the pitcher’s mound!

There’s a long-standing ritual in Major League Baseball: America’s president throwing out the ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day. President William Howard Taft, donning a very official silk hat, initiated the tradition in 1910 in front of 12,000 fans – a record turnout attributed at least in part to that ceremonial pitch. Fast-forward more than a century: In a more modest capacity as president of the University of Montana, I had the opportunity to toss out the first pitch during the Big Sky Conference home opener for the Griz softball team.

I’m happy to report that, by all accounts from bystanders, I delivered a strike across home plate. That pitch had nowhere near the speed or precision of Michaela Hood, our incredible true freshman pitcher – who incidentally pitched a shutout the very next day. It feels good to be the first woman president at the University of Montana, the home of the only Division I women’s softball program in the state. Our fans experience the excitement of a great game and a powerful team of young women in an amazing new facility on our South Campus. When it is time for me to step aside with the announcement of the next UM president, my ceremonial first pitch will be a favorite memory.

Cheering for the Griz softball team is not unlike cheering for this University as a whole. We are a team, each bringing unique talents, overcoming obstacles and the occasional setback to come back to the field the next day to pursue our best performance and, ultimately, in sports parlance, to “get one in the win column.”

Winning abounds at the University of Montana by many metrics. We have dedicated world-renowned faculty who choose UM as the place to expand their research and teach. We have students who are second-to-none in their zest for learning and engagement. We have donors who generously support us with game-changing gifts. We have alumni who represent UM in truly exemplary ways. I am just one of 100,000-plus proud alumni – citizens of Griz Nation – who also has the rare honor to serve as UM president.

For my small opportunity to throw a presidential pitch and share the field with our Griz on an April afternoon dotted with some elusive springtime sunshine: I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

Sheila Stearns, President

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