Rural Institute Timeline


The Rural Institute was founded. Bob Crowe was named the first Executive Director.


The total budget for the Rural Institute’s second year was $271,216.


During its first decade, the Rural Institute focused on developmental disabilities and early childhood. Montana's early childhood and early intervention systems were a national model after which Part H (now Part C) of the federal special education law was organized.


Rick Offner became the Rural Institute Executive Director.


The Rural Institute became fully independent; the RI had been a satellite center of the Utah Exceptional Child Center at Utah State University.


Sandra Morris founded Child Care Plus, a model early childhood inclusion program.


In the late 1980s, nine-term Congressman Pat Williams of Montana served as the Chair of a U.S. House committee responsible for education, human services and disability-related issues. He recognized a need for a rural-focused Research and Training Center (RTC) and got the funding in the federal budget. The Rural Institute wrote a successful proposal in 1988; RTC:Rural has been funded at the University of Montana since. 

The first RTC:Rural grant was focused on health, technology, transportation, and telecommunication.

Tom Seekins was hired as the RTC research director. 


Alexandra Enders joined RTC:Rural to work on the technology initiatives through the RTC's Bozeman satellite office located at Montana State University.


Mary Morrison joined the University of Montana as an ASL interpreter. Mary became a national leader in services for students who are deaf and hard of hearing.


RTC:Rural's rural transportation research led to the development of the Toolkit for Operating a Transportation Voucher Program. RTC:Rural’s collaboration with the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL) addressed the lack of accessible transportation in rural communities.


MonTECH was funded to provide assistive technology to Montanans. The program was led by Peter Leech.


Timm Voglesberg became the Rural Institute Executive Director.


The American Indian Disability Technical Assistance Center (AIDTAC) opened its doors. It provided information, training, and technical assistance to Vocational Rehabilitation and employment support staff for 8 years.


The Montana Disability and Health Program was founded by Meg Traci.


Rosemary Hughes joined UM as a disability researcher. Rosemary’s research has focused on topics such as preventing interpersonal violence against people with disabilities and the impact of spinal cord injury on mental health.


The Montana Deaf-Blind Program was established. This project aims to build capacity to service students dually diagnosed as deaf and blind. Previous Deaf-Blind projects were run by Gail McGregor; the current program is run by Ellen Condon.


Equipment to help Montanans participate in wildlife viewing, fishing and hunting was secured through a Montana Access To Outdoor Recreation (MATOR) project. This program, started by Kathy Laurin, was eventually absorbed by MonTECH. Assistive technology for recreation continues to be available via MonTECH and Wheels Across Montana.


MonTECH was awarded $1 million to start the Montana Assistive Technology Loan program with Rural Dynamics in Great Falls.


Marty Blair became the Rural Institute Executive Director.


Funding was secured to develop Living Well with a Disability into what is now Healthy Community Living (HCL). HCL is a portfolio of programs to support the health and independent living goals of people with disabilities.

The UM OUTREACH personnel preparation program was funded in collaboration with the University of Montana School of Speech, Language, Hearing, and Occupational Sciences to prepare speech-language pathologists to work in rural schools.


Tom Seekins, director of RTC:Rural, received two prestigious awards for a lifetime of outstanding service to the disability field: the University of Montana Distinguished Alumni Award and the American Public Health Association Lifetime Achievement Award.

Craig Ravesloot became the director of RTC:Rural in 2016. Craig worked at the Rural Institute from 1988 to 2021.

Gail McGregor left the Rural Institute in 2016. Gail was the Education & Training director for many years. She supported the Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI) to develop, implement and grow tiered systems of support in schools. She also wrote and administered federally-funded personnel preparation grants in collaboration with the University of Montana College of Education.


Catherine Ipsen was named the RTC:Rural director.

The Rural Institute became the evaluation partner for the Montana Access to Pediatric Psychiatry Network (MAPP-Net) project.


The Montana Family to Family Health Information Center reopens at the Rural Institute.


The Rural Institute becomes the evaluation partner for the Montana Obstetrics and Maternal Support (MOMS) program.