Alumni Philanthropy Supports Future Dean of UM Business School

January 29, 2016

MISSOULA, Montana  ̶  The University of Montana now has its first endowed dean’s position, thanks to the generosity of two UM families who came together to ensure the school will always have strong leadership.

Mark Burnham ’84 and Eric Sprunk ’86, together with their families, have each made a $1 million contribution to create the School of Business Administration’s (SoBA) Endowed Dean’s Chair. Their private support will enable SoBA to recruit an exceptional candidate to fill Dean Larry Gianchetta’s very big shoes. Gianchetta retires on June 30, 2016, after 41 years as a professor and administrator at SoBA. The $2 million endowment guarantees that funds to support the next dean’s salary and vision will be available in perpetuity.

“UM offers the best undergraduate business education, and the state’s only MBA program. It’s important that we have a strong leader to drive innovation,” said UM President Royce Engstrom. “Mark and Eric have made an investment in this school that will pay dividends far into the future.”

Burnham and Sprunk are both SoBA graduates who studied finance and accounting. They never met while they were students at UM, but connected thanks to service with the UM Foundation and a shared passion for advancing SoBA. Several months ago, they met up in Oregon, where they both live, and conversation circled around to the importance of leadership at their beloved alma mater.

“All things flow from the leader of an organization,” says Burnham. “The school has a great reputation, built over the last 30 years with Larry at the helm, and now we need to find the next great leader to move us forward.”

Sprunk agrees, adding, “Mark was really the catalyst of the idea, but we both feel strongly about leadership and want to give the new dean the ability to drive the advancements that are necessary for the future.”

Both men know a little something about leadership, having built successful careers on the backs of their UM educations. Burnham is the director of finance of Hawthorn Retirement Group LLC, a senior housing company, and managing principal of OZ Cap LLC, an advisory firm. Sprunk, after starting his career at PriceWaterhouseCoopers, joined NIKE Inc. in 1993 and has been with the company in various management positions ever since, currently serving as chief operating officer.

They have both been engaged with SoBA as volunteers, sharing their professional experience with the Business Advisory Council (Sprunk), the UM Foundation Board of Trustees (Burnham) and with students as guest lecturers.

“I love spending time on campus, especially spending time in the classroom with students,” Sprunk said. “I am a big believer in giving back to the communities that help make you, guide you and develop you.”

Although Burnham and Sprunk spearheaded the idea of endowing the dean’s position, their connection to UM is truly a family affair.

Burnham has more than a dozen family members who are alums or associates of UM, including wife Cheryl, a graduate of UM’s Skaggs School of Pharmacy; brother Charlie, also a SoBA alum; sister Mary Burnham Alke, an anthropology major; and Cheryl’s father, John Gordon, who received both a bachelor’s degree in history and his law degree here.

Sprunk’s mother, Rachel Sprunk Smith, was a 1984 UM grad and a longtime volunteer for the University and the UM Alumni Association. His son, Cooper, is currently a business major and plays on the Grizzly football team.

The Burnham family has generously supported faculty teaching and research at both SoBA and the School of Pharmacy. The Sprunk family has given broadly to many areas on campus, including Grizzly Athletics and the College of Visual and Performing Arts, where they created the Rachel Sprunk Smith Scholarship.

“Missoula has a special place in our hearts, and we look forward to many more moments of impact,” Burnham said.

Recruitment for SoBA’s new dean is ongoing, with new leadership expected in place by July 1, 2016. The application deadline is March 1, 2016, and a link to the job description can be found on the University of Montana’s job site.


Contact: Melissa Wilson, UM Foundation AVP, Marketing and Communications, 406-243-4609,