MISSOULA – George M. Dennison, who served as president of the University of Montana from 1990 to 2010, died Tuesday, Jan. 3, after a battle with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He was 81.
“George was not only our longest-serving president, he was among our finest,” UM President Sheila Stearns said. “With his expansive vision, tenacity and optimism, he seemed to think the University of Montana could take over the world. That confidence was always half-scary and completely contagious. The University of Montana has lost a wonderful champion, and I’ve lost a dear friend.”
Dennison passed away the morning of Jan. 3 surrounded by family. His family is planning for a celebration of life in May, and details will be shared as they become available.
Dennison began a lengthy relationship with UM in Missoula by earning a B.A. in history with highest honors in 1962 and a history master’s degree in 1963. He earned his history Ph.D. from the University of Washington in 1967.
His tenure as UM president was a time of sustained growth and accomplishment. Student enrollment increased nearly 50 percent, from 10,055 in 1990 to nearly 15,000 in 2009. The University also added 1.3 million square feet during his tenure as president, which equates to 20 percent more total usable space. He also built a culture of philanthropy among UM alumni and friends, increasing the campus endowment from $17.3 million to $120 million. He completed two fundraising campaigns for buildings, scholarships and other needs.
He was awarded many awards and honors during his career, and his extensive curriculum vitae mentions scores of presentations, research reports, publications and special administrative assignments. He is the author of two books, including “Montana’s Pioneer Naturalist: Morton J. Elrod,” which was published this past September by the University of Oklahoma Press.