MISSOULA – After James Wylder ‘51 and his wife, Frances ‘53, of Great Falls put their own kids through college, Jim started helping others. It meant something special, giving young people a boost when they needed it most.
“He was a great believer in education as a way to get ahead and develop yourself,” said Tim Wylder, the Wylders’ son.
Jim valued not only his classroom education but the experiences that the University of Montana provided him as an undergraduate in the late 1940s: playing on the tennis team, volunteering with student government and participating in the Silent Sentinel honor society.
Giving back to UM to support other students’ development seemed natural. As a businessman – first in the oil industry, then in the Coca-Cola bottling business in Great Falls – Jim understood the big picture: College degrees help individuals thrive in their careers, and a thriving workforce helps Montana’s economy grow. He also saw firsthand, when he met students at Griz games or special events, how higher education expands their worldviews.
A longtime supporter of UM and the University of Montana Foundation, he decided to leave a portion of his estate to support students. When he passed away in August 2014, the James M. and Frances M. Wylder Foundation established the James M. Wylder Presidential Leadership Scholarship.
Starting this autumn, the University will offer two exceptional Montana students the Wylder Scholarship. The award – among the most generous at UM – covers full tuition, fees, room, board, books and supplies for up to four years. The inaugural recipients, Hannah Pepprock and Keegan Whelan, graduated high school at the very top of their classes and are enrolled in UM’s Davidson Honors College.
Pepprock, a graduate of Havre High School, plans to study anthropology.
“For the past three summers I have worked as a tour guide at the Wahkpa Chu'gn Buffalo Jump,” Pepprock said. “This, along with my lifelong love of history and culture, has really piqued my curiosity about anthropology. I am really looking forward to the education that awaits me at UM.”
Pepprock notes that the Wylder Scholarship was the deciding factor in her choice to attend UM.
“This scholarship allows me to attend the University at no cost to me and my family, and even gives me the opportunity to study abroad or pursue a master’s degree. It was an opportunity I could not turn down.”
Whelan, who was a varsity swimmer at Butte High School, will major in pre-pharmacy.
“I chose the University of Montana for several reasons,” he said. “I can complete all six years of my pharmacy program at a school with a very high success rate on the licensing exam. My parents are both UM alumni. But receiving the scholarship from the Davidson Honors College and the Wylder family made my decision much easier.”
On the initial selection of the Wylder Scholars, Tim Wylder said, “My dad believed in UM’s excellence, and he would have really appreciated knowing students like Hannah and Keegan are here because of him.”