New Full-Tuition Scholarship Honors Sen. Lee Metcalf ’36

Lee MetcalfWhen Lee Metcalf enrolled in what was then the Montana State University School of Law, he likely had little expectation that he would later find himself fighting on the beaches of Normandy. Like many law school graduates of his generation, World War II proved an unwelcome, but necessary, diversion from law practice. For Metcalf, a former football player at Stanford University and class of 1936 law alumnus, it seems only to have enabled him to persevere in the rough and tumble world of politics. Metcalf, the first native Montanan to be elected to the U.S. Senate in 1960, would go on to make a name for himself in the United States Congress as a champion of conservation. He also was nicknamed “Mr. Education” for his work to support federal aid for students.

Now, thanks to a gift from the Lee and Donna Metcalf Charitable Trust, a new generation of law students interested in pursuing a career in environmental law or related fields will have the opportunity to defray the cost of education with a renewable, full-year of paid in-state tuition and fees – approximately $12,500 – the first such full-tuition scholarship of its kind at the School. “Well before issues of natural resource conservation and environmental quality became fashionable, Lee was a leader in shaping national policies for these vital concerns. Lee was a proud product of the law school and would have been a believer in the Natural Resources and Environmental Law Program,” said Helena attorney Peter “Mike” Meloy, a trustee of the Trust. Donna Metcalf carried on her husband’s legacy after his untimely death in 1978. A U of M J-School grad, she was a longtime member of the Wilderness Society, a founding member of Forever Wild Trust and a trustee of the Ruth Mott Trust. “Helping students, particularly those students with an interest in environmental law and related fields as Lee and Donna had, is something the Trust is proud to do,” added Meloy, noting that Montana’s Great Bear and Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness areas were created as a direct result of Metcalf’s efforts in Congress.

Former Congressman Pat Williams recognized Metcalf’s Montana roots as a likely motivating factor in his pioneering conservation work. “Lee Metcalf was an environmentalist senator before we knew what the word environmentalism meant,” said Williams. “Growing up in the Bitterroot, sheltered by those majestic mountains, must have given Lee a very high regard for nature, because he spent a career in the courts and in the U.S. Senate protecting it.”

The School’s Natural Resources and Environmental Law Program continues to attract students from around the country, and its Pace Environmental Moot Court Team competed in the final round and wrote the third highest scoring brief in the nation this past year. “Water, energy and public lands present the types of challenging issues that our graduates will continue to study, and this gift will help us recruit the brightest minds,” said interim law dean, Greg Munro. “We are very grateful to the Trust for choosing to honor Senator Metcalf’s important legacy and for helping us continue to develop resources for our students.” The Lee and Donna Metcalf Law Scholarship will be awarded to an entering member of the class of 2018.