MISSOULA – Terry Payne built his career around the “three Cs” of Clients, Colleagues and Communities. Now, the 1963 University of Montana alumnus and founder of PayneWest Insurance is being honored for his deep commitment to supporting and serving those around him.
The University’s new Terry Payne Catalyst Award recognizes Payne’s extraordinary contributions to UM and the communities of Montana and the region. The award was announced at a Montana University System Board of Regents event on Nov. 16.
“With this prestigious award we acknowledge that leadership in service to others is one of society’s most important pillars and that leaders who, like Terry, take action to build up people and communities should be held in our highest esteem,” UM President Seth Bodnar said.
“We are deeply humbled and forever grateful for the transformational impact Terry has had not just at UM, but also throughout the Montana University System and in communities across the state and region.”
UM will bestow the award upon leaders who demonstrate Payne’s level of commitment to community and business leadership, volunteerism and philanthropy, and who inspire others to improve lives and serve communities. The award will be conferred by UM periodically as worthy candidates are identified.
"I am deeply grateful for this award. However, in the words of my friend, Tom Scott, ‘It is “We,” not “Me,”’ that deserves recognition,” Payne said.
Payne got his start in 1972, when he launched a Missoula-based insurance agency that evolved into PayneWest Insurance, which became the largest privately owned insurance broker in the Western U.S. and one of the top 10 employee-owned insurance brokers in the country until it was acquired by Marsh McLennan Agency in 2021.
Operating as Marsh McLennan Agency’s Northwest regional hub, more than 750 PayneWest employees continue to provide insurance services through offices across Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington.
Throughout his career, Payne has maintained that it’s the employees who have made his enterprises a success.
“While I might come up with ideas and spur initiatives, it is our colleagues that perform the service and do the work that has made our companies successful,” Payne said. “Throughout my life, I have been blessed with family, colleagues, clients and friends who are behind whatever success I have enjoyed. Plus, we all have had the joy and benefit of being based in the State of Montana, while also serving the great states of Idaho, Oregon and Washington.”
Payne’s contributions as a business leader reach far beyond the insurance industry. He previously served on the UM Foundation Board of Trustees and on the board as a director for several large corporations, including the Washington Companies and the First Interstate BancSystem Inc.
Terry, his wife, Patt, and their family also are generous philanthropists whose contributions have created opportunity and access in communities throughout Montana and the region. They are passionate supporters of higher education, having given significant gifts to the University of Montana, Montana State University, Gonzaga University and Carroll College.
At UM the Payne family’s contributions have reached every corner of campus. Their giving has included investments in the Payne Family Native American Center, which since 2010 has been a gathering place and second home to Native students and their families, as well as tribal visitors and scholars from across the state and across the nation; a number of student scholarships, including the Payne Family Impact Scholarships that have allowed Montana high school students who are not Pell-eligible but face significant financial need to pursue higher education; and the newly opened Montana Museum of Art and Culture building – the museum’s first permanent home – which was supported by a lead gift from the Payne family.
“Terry’s leadership and remarkable commitment to elevating opportunity and quality of life for all Montanans is what makes him such a force for positive change,” said Cindy Williams, president and CEO of the UM Foundation.
The Payne family’s numerous gifts to other Montana organizations reflect their deep care for community. Their giving has included contributions to the City of Missoula, Missoula Public Library, Partners Hope Foundation, Mountain Home Montana, Shodair Children’s Hospital, Watsons Children’s Shelter and many more.
A respected and admired leader, Payne’s honors have included UM’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2006 and an honorary doctorate in 2014. He is a 2008 recipient of the UM Foundation’s Neil S. Bucklew Presidential Service Award and a 2015 recipient of the Order of the Grizzly Award. He was inducted into the Montana Business Hall of Fame in 2016 and received MSU’s Presidential Medallion in 2019. In addition, Payne received an honorary doctorate from Gonzaga University in 2022.
Contact: Dave Kuntz, UM director of strategic communications, 406-243-5659, firstname.lastname@example.org.