Private Support for University of Montana Tops $50 million for Second Year in a Row

July 22, 2015

MISSOULA – The University of Montana has had another remarkable fundraising year. Private support for the University in fiscal year 2015 totaled $52.6 million, just shy of last year’s record-breaking total of $53.7 million.

UM received cash gifts, pledges, estate gifts and private grants from 14,014 individuals, corporations and private foundations nationwide. According to the UM Foundation, this funding is a critical supplement to tuition, fees and state appropriations, ensuring the University’s continued excellence.

“We are incredibly fortunate to have so many alumni and friends who care about the University of Montana and recognize the value of higher education,” said UM President Royce Engstrom.

UM Foundation, a separate nonprofit organization, takes the lead in the University’s fundraising efforts, raising and managing funds to support the University’s students, faculty and programs.

Earlier this year, in recognition of its outstanding fundraising efforts, the UM Foundation received an Educational Fundraising Award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education for overall improvement in its fundraising performance. CASE is an international association of educational institutions and has recognized exceptional development programs with this award each year since 1959.

Through the UM Foundation, donors provide support for areas across campus, including substantial funding for scholarships and awards. The organization distributed $4.4 million in private scholarships in the 2013-14 academic year and $5 million in 2014-15. For the 2015-16 academic year, $5.2 million in private scholarship funding is available to the University. That’s a growth of $800,000 scholarship dollars in the past two years.

While scholarships remain a high priority for the Foundation’s fundraising activities, so does support for a host of other areas on campus. Donors this year supported classroom technology, faculty research, facilities improvements, student programs and more. Transformational gifts to the School of Law and Grizzly Athletics are just a few highlights among this year’s many notable contributions.  

“Years of cultivation and donor stewardship have helped us build this momentum,” said Shane Giese, UM Foundation’s president and CEO. “People are stepping up in record numbers with record amounts to support the University.”

Examples of this year’s giving include:

  • $10 million for School of Law faculty and students from Zander and Andy Blewett. In recognition of their gift, the law school was renamed the Alexander Blewett III School of Law at the University of Montana.
  • $7 million to help construct the Washington-Grizzly Champions Center from Kyle and Kevin Washington on behalf of the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation. Construction site preparation began in June, with construction slated to begin after the 2015 football season.
  • A substantial contribution for classroom technology upgrades in the Liberal Arts Building from Dennis and Gretchen Eck. Construction began in May.
  • $1.5 million for a distinguished professor of gifted education from Suzanne and Dave Peterson. Tracey Missett, the new distinguished professor, joins the UM faculty in August.
  • $500,000 to support technology infrastructure in the new Missoula College facility from Blackfoot Communications. Construction on the new MC building began this spring.
  • More than 1,700 households made donations of $1,000 or more.

A full annual report with financial information and other statistics will be available on the Foundation’s website,, in late September.

Contact: Melissa Wilson, UM Foundation assistant vice president for marketing and communications, 406-243-4609,