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Endowment Honoring The Dennisons Nears $1 Million

Alumni and friends are ensuring future generations will remember the way President George Dennison and his wife, Jane, shaped The University of Montana. Trustees of The University of Montana Foundation, University alumni and community members have contributed more than $850,000 toward an endowment to honor the Dennisons.

President Dennison plans to retire Aug. 15 after 20 years of leading his alma mater. The George M. and Jane I. Dennison Doctoral Fellows in History Endowment will support fellowships in the UM Department of History, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

The initial fundraising goal for the endowment is $1 million, with a long-term goal of a $3 million endowment that funds four $30,000 fellowships. The first $850,000 in gifts came from alumni and friends with personal connections to the Dennisons.

Jan and Jerry Norskog of Bigfork gave $100,000. Norskog earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts from UM in 1973. Currently leading efforts to reduce mortality in cancer with Genyous Biomed, Norskog remains involved as a trustee of the UM Foundation and the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation.

"Jan and I wanted to join other donors to recognize and honor George and Jane Dennison for their leadership role in the historical transformation of The University of Montana into a university for the 21st century," Norskog said.

 The UM Foundation sent a letter to all University employees last week inviting them to contribute to the endowment. In early June, the foundation will mail a letter about the endowment to all alumni who graduated during the years President Dennison served, as well as community members and friends of the University.

Dennison is the longest-serving president in UM history. Dennison’s achievements as president include overseeing a nearly 50 percent increase in enrollment, a 138 percent increase in American Indian student enrollment, and the construction and improvement of numerous buildings. During his presidency, grant research funding increased from $7 million to $71 million. The partnerships Dennison built with alumni and friends led to $500 million in private gifts to the UM Foundation. The Montana Grizzlies football team never had a losing season during Dennison’s 20-year tenure.

Montana Commissioner of Higher Education Sheila Stearns said, "The legacy of President Dennison will stand in Montana history as a remarkable leader who always addressed the big picture of UM’s role in Montana, but balanced that with emphasis on success for individual students."

Contributions to the Dennison Doctoral Fellows in History Endowment may be made online at or mailed to the UM Foundation, P.O. Box 7159, Missoula, MT 59807. Names of donors who contribute to the Dennison Endowment by July 15 will be included in a commemorative book that will be presented to President and Mrs. Dennison upon his retirement.

For more information, visit or call Ric Thomas, UM Foundation vice president for development, at 406-243-5615 or e-mail