About W.A. Franke

In 2016, William A. and Carolyn Franke and their family gave UM the largest single gift in its history. On. Nov. 18, 2016, the Montana University System Board of Regents approved the naming of the W.A. Franke College of Forestry & Conservation and the Franke Global Leadership Initiative in honor of this transformative $24 million gift.

The W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation will receive $18 million to support:

  • W.A. Franke Sustainability Fellows Program 
  • W.A. Franke Scholarship Fund 
  • W.A. Franke Fresh Water Conservation Initiative
  • W.A. Franke Endowed Graduate Fellowships in Wildlife Biology 
  • W.A. Franke Endowed Faculty Chair in Forest Conservation 
  • W.A. Franke Endowed Faculty Chair in Watershed Hydrology 
  • W.A. Franke Internship Fund 
  • W.A. Franke Innovation Fund 

Franke family at UM 
The decision to invest in UM was a family endeavor involving Bill and Carolyn’s five children: Dave, who oversees the family office, Franke and Company; Brian, a principal at Indigo Partners; Paige and Catherine, who are both educators; and Rebecca. Pictured to the right, at UM in November, 2016 (l-r): Paige Franke, Bill Franke, Carolyn Franke, Dave Franke, Johnny Franke, Brian Franke

The Franke family members are not UM alumni but have a deep appreciation for Montana. They believe strongly in the power of education, the importance of conservation and instilling a global perspective in today’s students. Over the course of the past decade, the family has developed a strong relationship with UM.

For the past eight summers, a UM faculty member or alum has been invited to speak to a group of the Frankes’ business partners during their annual Indigo Partners company retreat in Montana.

“As we became familiar with the educational opportunities, research and special programs at the University of Montana, it was clear to us the University is a hidden gem,” Bill Franke said.

“It is our expectation that the College of Forestry and Conservation’s work will help keep Montana the beautiful place that it is," said Bill Franke.

Bill Franke is the managing partner and founder of Indigo Partners, a private equity firm focused on worldwide investments in air transportation, and former CEO of several public companies, including America West Airlines. During his early career in the timber industry, Bill drove the Hi-Line and fell in love with the Big Sky Country. He and his wife, Carolyn, divide time between Texas and Arizona but have owned a home near Bigfork, Montana, since the 1990s, maintaining their connection to the beautiful forests, rivers and lakes of western Montana.

Video: This is Big: Honoring the Franke Family