UM Celebrates Grand Opening of Blackstone LaunchPad, Charter Day and Academics

February 05, 2014

MISSOULA – The University of Montana will celebrate its 121st birthday with a day of activities recognizing entrepreneurship, academics and exemplary campus and community members on Thursday, Feb. 13. All events are free and open to the public.

The celebration will kick off at 10 a.m. with a grand opening of UM’s Blackstone LaunchPad in the University Center North Atrium. Blackstone LaunchPad will help UM students jumpstart their own businesses. A $2 million grant announced last summer established a partnership between UM, Montana State University and Headwaters RC&D to introduce entrepreneurship as a viable career option and provide students with a network of venture coaches and entrepreneurial support to transform new ideas into sustainable companies.

An open house of the Blackstone LaunchaPad office space will be held after the grand opening until 5 p.m., as well as from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 14. The office space is located in the University Center Room 250A, located on the north side of the building.

Following the grand opening, participants can discover UM student work by visiting interactive displays at 10:30 a.m. in the UC North Atrium. Displays will include a sample course from the Montana Digital Academy; new solar thermal systems and a sneak peek at Missoula College’s 2014 Shell Eco-marathon preparations; and multimedia projects from Environmental Reporting students who spent winter session studying the impacts of population on the environment in two distinct locations in India.

The noon-hour birthday party, which will feature free cupcakes and entertainment, will be held in the University Center Atrium.      

Daphne Koller, professor at Standford University and co-CEO and co-founder of Coursera, will deliver a keynote address exploring technology’s role in learning. The address is slated for 2 p.m. and will be held in University Center Rooms 326-327.

The day’s activities will conclude with the annual Charter Day awards ceremony, which will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the University Center Ballroom. Missoula Mayor John Engen will attend the awards ceremony to present an official proclamation of University of Montana Day. A reception will follow the ceremony.

UM Provost Perry Brown will preside over the presentation of 2014 Charter Day awards, which recognize exemplary campus and community members. The award recipients follow:

Montana Alumni Award: Kitte Robins is a retired educator and ongoing learner at the University of Montana. This award recognizes a former UM student for extraordinary service to the University. Among many other volunteer activities, Robins is a founding member of the UM Alumni Association’s Community Lecture Series and former president of the Montana Osher Lifelong Learning Institute Council.

Associated Students of UM Student Service Award: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Clay Skeens, Iraq War veteran, studies resource conservation at UM. This award recognizes distinguished service and achievement. Skeens is president of the Missoula chapter of the Student Veterans Association, an organization that provides military veterans with the resources, support and advocacy needed to succeed in higher education and following graduation.

Robert T. Pantzer Presidential Humanitarian Award: Kimber Haddix McKay is a professor and medical anthropologist who has studied marriage and family systems in Nepal, East Africa and Central America for more than 20 years. This award recognizes those who create a more humane learning environment at UM. McKay has involved numerous UM undergraduate and graduate students in her research and publications, teaching them about the role of research and project monitoring to improve the quality of international aid programs.

Neil S. Bucklew Presidential Service Award: John L. and Marilyn J. Olson are longtime contributors to the University and their hometown community of Sidney. This award recognizes extraordinary effort to foster an understanding of UM’s needs and strengths throughout the community and the state. John, a UM graduate, is president and CEO of Blue Rock Companies and a former chairman of the University of Montana Foundation. Marilyn is a former member of the Montana Arts Council and a charter member of P.E.O., Chapter BA.

Tom Boone Town and Gown Award: Erick Greene and Elizabeth Covelli Metcalf. This award recognizes faculty members who foster a deeper understanding between the University and Missoula. Greene is a professor in the Division of Biological Sciences and the Wildlife Biology Program. He is passionate about teaching, as well as communicating the results of scientific research to the general public. Metcalf is an assistant professor of parks tourism and recreation management. She works collaboratively with scientists and agencies to understand natural resources issues in Montana.

Outstanding Volunteer Award: Adair Deborah Kanter is the radiology supervisor at Curry Heath Center and former director of the X-ray department at Missoula General Hospital. This award recognizes the contribution of many hours of uncompensated time to UM to help meet the needs of the campus community. Kanter’s greatest interest over the years has been the well-being of international students at UM. 

Outstanding Service to the External Community Award: Terry D. Berkhouse has been the director of Internship Services at the University of Montana for 26 years, and simultaneously has directed Academic Enrichment since 2011. This award recognizes exceptional service to the off-campus community and positive contributions to the overall mission of the University. Berkhouse was the inaugural president of the Northwest Career Educators and Employers Association and participates in numerous local, regional and national organizations.

John Ruffatto Memorial Award: Bradley Edward Layton is an assistant professor in the Department of Applied Computing in the Missoula College, where he directs the Energy Technology Program. This award recognizes UM faculty who bring practical, applicable business principles into the classroom. Layton has more than 70 publications and abstracts spanning fields from nanotechnology and biotechnology to his latest passion, sustainable energy technology.

George M. Dennison Presidential Faculty Award for Distinguished Accomplishment: Anya Jabour is a professor of history and the co-director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program. This award recognizes distinguished accomplishments that have brought significant recognition to UM at the regional and national levels. Jabour has published five books and currently is writing a biography of social work professor and social justice reformer Sophonisba Breckinridge with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

George M. Dennison Presidential Staff Award for Distinguished Accomplishment: Jodi Normand Todd began her employment with UM in 2002. This award recognizes distinguished accomplishment within the employee’s work unit that brings excellence, merit, distinction or glory to UM. Todd twice received the Dean’s Award for Extraordinary Service to the College of Forestry and Conservation, and currently is a grant support specialist for the College of Humanities and Sciences.

For more information about Celebrate Academics and Charter Day events, call Claudine Cellier, assistant to the provost, at 406-243-4689, email; or call Angela Weisenburger, UM Office of Alumni Relations on-campus events coordinator, at 406-243-6439 or email



Western Montana


Contact: Claudine Cellier, assistant to the UM provost, 406-243-4689,; Angela Weisenburger, UM Office of Alumni Relations on-campus events coordinator, 406-243-6439,