MISSOULA – The University of Montana Foundation honored two of its most dedicated donors with the prestigious Order of the Grizzly award at the annual President’s Club Dinner on Sept. 29. The 2016 recipients, Bill and Phyllis Bouchee, have supported UM for more than 30 years and are known throughout Missoula for their involvement and generosity.
In 2001, the Bouchees established the Bill and Phyllis Bouchee Scholarship for a Montana student majoring in finance, which has since grown to provide three full-tuition scholarships each year. Just over 10 years later, the couple created the Bill and Phyllis Bouchee Family Football Scholarship for student-athletes. To date, 24 students have received scholarships thanks to the Bouchees.
With the largest scholarship offered in the School of Business Administration, they have set a standard for others to follow. Every year they attend the business school’s scholarship banquet and the Robert O. Lindsay Scholar-Athlete Honors Banquet to meet the recipients of their awards.
“Bill and Phyllis have provided incredible support to the University,” said Shane Giese, president and CEO of the UM Foundation. “The personal investments they have made over the years have had an exceptional and tangible impact on campus.”
Bill began his 41-year career in the finance industry at First National Bank, now First Montana Bank. He later transitioned to First Security Bank, where he supported countless promising young people on their journeys up the corporate ladder. As president for 13 years and later CEO and vice chairman, he not only guided the bank’s growth to over $600 million in assets, but also personally mentored many entry-level tellers to executive positions.
Scott Burke, one of the bankers who benefited from Bill’s mentorship and now president and CEO of First Security Bank, presented Bill and Phyllis with the award.
“Bill has a bigger heart than most people,” Burke said. “And Phyllis is half that heart. They’re very, very good people.”
The Order of the Grizzly award recognizes those who have made a significant impact on UM through their leadership and philanthropy. Bill and Phyllis exemplify these criteria not only through their financial investments, but through their volunteer service to the University.
Both are UM alums and were actively involved in campus life as students. Bill received his bachelor’s in business administration in 1963, lettered in football and was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. Phyllis was a member of the Mortar Board, Spurs and Kappa Kappa Gamma and graduated in 1965 with a bachelor’s in history and political science.
Since graduating, Bill has served as a member of the Grizzly Scholarship Association, Business Advisory Council, Business Drive Committee and National Advisory Board of Grizzly Athletics. Phyllis volunteered with the UM Alumni Association and later joined the staff and worked in alumni relations until 2009. She has also been involved in the UM Retiree’s Association. The pair can be spotted at nearly every Griz football and basketball game and continue to be actively engaged in Grizzly Athletics.
“We could not be where we’re at today without Bill and Phyllis’ consistent support,” said Kent Haslam, UM director of athletics. “That support is far more than financial – it has come with their own time, talents and passion.”
While the Bouchees are monumental supporters of UM, their philanthropy has touched numerous organizations throughout Western Montana, including the Missoula Art Museum, Community Medical Center, Five Valleys Land Trust, Missoula Food Bank and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
Bill and Phyllis previously have received UM’s Community Service Award, and Bill is a former recipient of the Neil S. Bucklew Presidential Service Award and School of Business Administration Distinguished Outstanding Alumnus Award.
The Bouchees’ sons, Mike and Bob Bouchee, are also UM alums, graduating from the School of Business Administration and the College of Humanities and Sciences, respectively.
The UM Foundation established the Order of the Grizzly in 1965 to honor individuals who sustain an active interest in Montana and whose accomplishments contribute to the welfare of the state, nation and world. Recipients are awarded a bronze statue of a grizzly bear, the mascot of the University, sculpted by late art Professor Rudy Autio.