Four outstanding University of Montana graduates will receive 2012 Distinguished Alumni Awards during Homecoming weekend festivities Sept. 21-22. The awards are the highest honor presented by the UM Alumni Association. This year’s distinguished alumni are Doug Chadwick of Whitefish, Don Molloy of Missoula, Thomas Riggert of Brisbane, Australia, and Joseph Valacich of Tucson, Ariz.
Chadwick graduated from UM in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree in wildlife biology. He has traveled the globe to research and report on wildlife conservation issues, publishing 29 books and 168 magazine articles along the way. He is the critically acclaimed author of “The Fate of the Elephant,” “A Beast the Color of Winter,” “The Company We Keep: America’s Endangered Species” and “Enduring America.” He is a frequent contributor to National Geographic Magazine and other scientific publications.
Chadwick also has appeared in numerous wildlife documentaries and he played a significant role in getting the grizzly bear listed as a threatened species by giving presentations before the secretary of the interior. He is the director and founding board member of Vital Ground, a nonprofit foundation that has safeguarded more than 600,000 acres of habitat for grizzly bears and other wildlife.
Molloy graduated from UM in 1968 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and in 1976 with a juris doctorate. He served as one of five U.S. District Court judges in Montana from 1996 to 2011, when he assumed senior status. In 2001, he became chief judge for the District of Montana. As a federal judge, Molloy presided over some of the most closely watched cases in state history. He punctuated his illustrious career with a slew of famous decisions during his final year on the bench, including his ruling that Yellowstone grizzly bears should not be taken off the endangered species list.
Molloy is the founder of the Judicial Institute with the Federal Court – a three-day intensive training session that gives Montana high school government teachers hands-on exposure to the judicial branch. Prior to his career as a federal judge, he ran a highly successful private practice as a civil litigator in Billings for more than 20 years. In 1993, he was named Montana Trial Lawyer of the Year by the Montana Trial Lawyers Association.
Riggert earned a bachelor’s degree in wildlife biology from UM in 1962. One of Australia’s most influential conservation biologists, he has dedicated more than 45 years to solving complex environmental issues surrounding commercial development, land rehabilitation, waterway protection and waste management. Riggert laid the foundation for environmental planning strategies in Australia, where he recently completed a $55 million river decontamination project that transformed a hazardous wasteland into a wetlands sanctuary.
His research efforts also have stretched to countries such as Antarctica, Africa, Iceland and Greenland. His wildlife documentaries have appeared on BBC and he has lent his expertise to National Geographic Magazine as a consultant and contributor. He currently lectures students on environmental engineering at the Southbank Institute of Technology in Brisbane, Australia.
Valacich received a bachelor’s degree in computer science in 1982 and a master’s degree in business administration in 1983, both from UM. He currently is a professor of management information systems at the University of Arizona. He previously was a distinguished professor in the MIS department at Washington State University, where he built a world-class MIS program that currently is ranked as one of the top 20 research programs in the world. Valacich has led development programs for several large companies, including AT&T, Boeing and Microsoft. In 2006, he was recognized as one of the top 20 information systems researchers in the world. A prolific writer and scholar with nearly 200 conference and journal articles, he currently is a senior editor at MIS Quarterly. He also has coauthored several best-selling textbooks.
The public is invited to attend a panel discussion featuring all four Distinguished Alumni Award recipients at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 21, in the UC Ballroom on UM mountain campus. An awards ceremony and reception will follow.