MISSOULA – Five outstanding University of Montana graduates will receive 2013 Distinguished Alumni Awards during Homecoming weekend festivities, Oct. 4-5. The awards are the highest honor presented by UM’s Alumni Association.
This year’s distinguished alumni are Dorothy Bridges of Minneapolis, George Dennison of Missoula, Jim Messina of Washington, D.C., Milton Parsons of Denver and Yoko Takeuchi of Tokyo.
Bridges, senior vice president at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, graduated from UM in 1980. She is responsible for community development, regional outreach and public affairs. Previously, Bridges was president of Franklin National Bank in Minneapolis and president of City First Bank in Washington, D.C. She is the only African-American woman to head a Minnesota bank and one of only a few nationwide. Bridges is on the board for the National Endowment for Financial Education and chair emeritus for the Northwest Area Foundation, which works to alleviate poverty in the Northwest. Her talent, determination and commitment to the urban community have earned her much recognition, including the designation of the Minneapolis University Rotary Club’s Citizen of the Year in 2003. She was the Iota Phi Lambda Sorority Business Woman of the Year in 2005, and in 2009, the Washington Business Journal named her as one of “Ten People to Watch.”
Dennison earned an undergraduate history degree 1962 and a Master of Arts degree in history the following year. During his 20 years as president of UM, Dennison guided its transformation into a world-class research and educational institution. He helped raise more than $500 million in private funds, research support increased tenfold, 720 privately funded scholarships were established, and UM awarded more degrees during the years he served than in its entire earlier history. As chairman of International Student Exchange Program, he helped UM develop into a leading international education organization. He was instrumental in establishing the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and the Payne Family Native American Center. Dennison was given the name Fast Buffalo Horse, a name he cherishes, by Chief Earl Old Person of the Blackfeet Nation. He chaired the Montana Commission on Community Service for 17 years and led UM’s Campus Compact board, which promotes civic engagement at the university level, to become one of the most successful branches in the nation.
Messina, who earned UM degrees in 1993 and 2009, was named Political Strategist of the Year by the Political Consultants Association for his role as campaign manager for President Barack Obama’s re-election in 2012. He helped run a successful Missoula mayoral campaign while still an undergraduate at UM, and in 1995, served as U.S. Sen. Max Baucus’ chief of staff and ran the senator’s 2002 re-election campaign. He also served as chief of staff to U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota and Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy of New York. In 2008, Messina was appointed chief of staff in Obama’s campaign for the presidency. In preparation for the president’s campaign for re-election, he met with some of the nation’s top business leaders, learning how to run what has been lauded as the most technologically savvy campaign in history. As deputy chief of staff in the White House, one of his many responsibilities was helping to lead the effort to pass the historic health care reform law and to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
Parsons graduated from UM in 1966. He has championed environmental stewardship, sustainability and social justice causes in his 35-year career with the U.S. Forest Service. A Vietnam combat veteran, Parsons continues to promote these causes through the award-winning Veterans Green Jobs, a nonprofit he co-founded in 2008 and still chairs. He served as the first national fisheries ecologist in the Forest Service, deputy director of legislative affairs, acting director for the Office of Tribal Relations and executive director of the Western Forestry Coalition. He served as a special assistant to the assistant secretary of state of Oceans and International Environment and Scientific Affairs. Parsons has drafted 10 bills that have become public law, representing some of the most far-reaching legislation on the management of public and private forestry lands in the world in the last three decades. His work has earned him many honors, including the Council of Western State Foresters Distinguished Service Award and the U.S. Department of State Meritorious Honor Award.
Takeuchi, who received a Master of Business Administration at UM in 1987, is a pioneer in the field of human resource management and an important role model to young Japanese women. Her master’s thesis, “Japanese Women in Business: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,” is still referenced as an excellent review of the place of women in Japan’s workforce. Takeuchi has held several positions as director or general manager of internationally known firms such as Chanel, Hermes, Chaumet, Louis Vuitton Japan and The Disney Store Japan, where she created a recruiting system to fill a new sales staff of more than 600 employees. As a general agent for Human Synergistics Japan, she provides tools and services for corporate culture renovation and organizational and individual development. She is an active member of the Japan Management Education Society and the Japan Management Ethics Society. Recommended to UM by former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Mike Mansfield, she has been instrumental in promoting the University to prospective students in Japan.
The public is invited to attend a panel discussion featuring all five Distinguished Alumni Award recipients at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4, in the University Center Ballroom on the UM campus. An awards ceremony and reception will follow.