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Keeping our friends and supporters informed about what’s new and exciting at Rocky Mountain College


Dr. Vickie Christie looks forward to time for family, travel, and reading late into the night.

For some of the best teachers, the way to help students is to set the bar high and show them how to reach it. For Dr. Vickie Christie, that was at the core of her teaching at Rocky Mountain College. “If I had not met Dr. Christie, my life would never have been as good as it has been,” said Kara Graetz, RMC ’04. “One class with her changed the trajectory of my college education and my career. She taught me how to learn.” Graetz said Christie was “tough, but fair; demanding, but always encouraging, and basically didn’t let you do less than you were capable of.” For Graetz that meant landing a prestigious internship with NBC in New Continued on back page


Chester, Mont., native Philip Aaberg has performed with the Boston Pops, Peter Gabriel, Elvin Bishop, and at the Marlboro Chamber Music Festival. He has toured solo in Europe and Japan and released eight solo albums. In March he performed in the Great Hall of Prescott Hall, a special occasion to dedicate a new Bechstein piano donated in part by Dr. William and Merilyn Ballard. He delighted the full house with his stories and his compositions. More on Sweet Sound See Insider, Page 2

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Keeping our friends and supporters informed about what’s new and exciting at Rocky Mountain College


BY M I C H A E L R . M AC E -


A piano worthy of Queen Victoria is not what German, C. Bechstein, set out to accomplish when he began manufacturing pianos. He wanted something that would withstand the great demands imposed on the instrument by the virtuosi of the time, such as Franz Liszt. The result was a demand for his pianos by England’s reigning monarch, as well as others around the world. Bechstein was popular in all the great concert halls and palaces around the world. Now Rocky Mountain College’s Prescott Hall is home to one of the world’s finest instruments -- a Bechstein -- a splendid gift donated in part by Dr. William and Merilyn Ballard. The gift was celebrated on March 13 as acclaimed composer and pianist Philip Aaberg performed. Leo Tolstoy wrote that music is “the speech of angels, what feelings sound like, love in search of a voice.” Aaberg’s performance validated all those expressions of what music is. He is a Montana-born keyboardist and composer who studied music at Harvard on a Leonard Bernstein scholarship before paying his dues on the San Francisco blues scene. His wide range of abilities led to guest appearances on over 80 albums. He’s toured with artists as varied as Peter Gabriel, John Hiatt, Kenny Rogers, and the Doobie Brothers. Signing with Windham Hill in 1985, Aaberg made his eclectic background pay off through a series of solo albums that show off his rigorous keyboard technique, diverse influences, and his

“The speech of angels,” as Leo Tolstoy defined music, was never more sweet than it was when Philip Aaberg performed March 13 in the Great Hall of Prescott Hall. The audience was clearly moved by Aaberg’s compositions, which “washed away the dust of everyday life.” The concert was to celebrate a special gift from Dr. William and Merilyn Ballard, pictured with Aaberg. Now Rocky Mountain College’s Prescott Hall is home to one of the world’s finest instruments – a Bechstein concert piano.

colorful compositional style. What better way to inaugurate a world class instrument with a world class musician. But this event was about more than a gift of a piano. It was confirmation of a core appreciation for music at this College, a value we share year after year with the community. No other institution presents free public concerts as frequently as does our College with its choir and band. From jazz ensembles to the annual Lessons

and Carols, from churches to the Babcock Theatre, our students, taught by an inspired faculty, share their wonderful talents with an appreciative public. The piano also represents an important component in musical performance at RMC. It demonstrates the wisdom and foresight of its major donors, Bill and Merilyn Ballard. Bill is, by training and occupation, a scientist, but he would no more exclude a love for beautiful music from his life than discovering and developing new petroleum resources. Another writer, Kurt Vonnegut, wrote that “music proves the existence of God.” And so it does, with a universal language that quiets wayward instincts for conflict and confrontation. We can certainly use more music in our world. Philip Aaberg showed how marvelously that could raise our spirits and make our hearts soar. Mr. Aaberg and the Ballards showed that with creating a new source of music, proving what Tolstoy wrote is very true, “Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” This was an evening when we delighted in how clusters of many notes could be gathered into sounds that made our hearts soar. Thank you Bill and Merilyn. Thank you Philip. We filled our Great Hall with love, friendship, purpose, and music. It’s hard to beat that combination.


The Montana Logging & Ballet Company, featuring a famous quartet of RMC alumni, winds up nearly a half century of performing with its farewell concert to benefit RMC art scholarships. Their last public concert will be at 7:30 p.m., Babcock Theatre. Tickets are available at six City Brew locations: 1640 Grand Ave., / 405 Main Street, Suite D, / 2425 King Ave., Suite C, / 802 Shiloh Crossing Blvd., / 1131 North 27th Street/ and Billings Heights on the corner of Main & Hansen; Ernie November, 919 Grand Ave., RMC Bookstore; and the ticket Kiosk at the Rimrock Mall. Online tickets are available at Ticket River: https://www.ticketriver. com/event/2939-montana-logging-and-ballet-company. For more information contact Bob Fitzgerald, (406) 431-3357 or Vicki Davison, RMC director of advancement, (406) 657-1005 / 2

Courtesy MLBC




Bucy currently holds the office of executive assistant attorney general of Montana and is a candidate for Montana attorney general, TRiO is a series of federally funded but while at RMC, Bucy was programs designed to help first generaa first-generation college tion, low-income or disabled students student. succeed in college. Services for Aca“My growing up was a demic Success (SAS) represents TRiO pleasant experience and it at Rocky Mountain College, serving Left: “We have a 15-month old,” Zach Gavin said,” so I am very grateful for what SAS has done wasn’t until I started looking 250 students this year. for not only myself, but also my family.” at colleges that I realized how Zach Gavin, a RMC junior, received Middle: Senior Angela Stewart received her third SAS scholarship and used it on a trip to China – much money the Bucy family her first experience abroad. a scholarship through SAS, which he didn’t have,” she said. “RMC Right: As a theatre major, Catherine Kenney was thankful for her scholarship, but also the other used to supplement tuition expenses did a great job of fi nding benefits to SAS, such as tickets to cultural events in Billings. and support his family while he comscholarships for me, and I’m pletes his degree. very proud of the education that I received.” ship, but also the other benefi ts of SAS, “We have a 15-month old,” Gavin said, “so Bucy’ s time at RMC strengthened her desuch as tickets to cultural events in Billings. I am very grateful for what SAS has done sire to serve, and she left seeking opportuni“It’s such a huge blessing to fi ll in that for not only myself, but also my family.” ties where her work made an impact -- which gap with fi nancial diffi culties,” she said. Senior Angela Stewart received her third led to her current candidacy. “And Elizabeth [McNamer] makes sure SAS scholarship and used it on a trip to Understanding the obstacles many SAS I know every time tickets are available China -- her first experience abroad. students may face, Bucy left the group with through SAS.” “Being in a different country opens your a message that motivates her work. Zach, Angela and Catherine shared perception of the world so much, and as “What I’ve learned is that through stories similar to those of the other forty a non-traditional student, I couldn’t have leadership, having faith and truly believing students at the TRiO event, and with the done that without SAS,” she said. in what you’re doing, you can make a difevent’s keynote speaker, RMC alumna Pam As a theatre major, sophomore Cathference,” she said. Bucy (’91). erine Kenney was thankful for her scholar-

Forty-three students shared stories of achievement on Wednesday, March 15, at the TRiO Day event.


One of the most important and enduring events at Rocky Mountain College brings together students and those who make it possible for students to attend RMC. The annual Scholarship Luncheon recognizes a relationship that is at the heart of a private college: supporters willing to endow scholarships for the next generation. “If not for people like you, there would not be people like me, the first member of my family to graduate from college,” said Jessica Olson, a 2011 communication studies honor graduate who earned scholarships that helped her achieve remarkable academic goals while participating in musical and theatrical performances. Jessica was an ambassador, cheerleader, and work 3

study in Admissions. She worked hard, but “every minute of my time here was worth it,” she told attendees to the luncheon Feb. 21 in the Great Hall. Olson’s talk capped a half dozen grateful remarks from students on scholarships who were seated with alumni and friends who provided those scholarships. Olson will not be the last in her family to take advantage of the opportunity to attend RMC with scholarship help. Her sister, Nikita, is a sophomore this year. And Olson post grad? “I landed a perfect job. I am the executive director of the Billings Youth Orchestra, working with the community to create opportunities for our community’s talented young musicians,” she said. The luncheon is always a “wonderful way

to celebrate that special kinship between our donors and our students,” said Obert Undem, RMC director of planned giving.

Jessica Olson is the new executive director of the Billings Youth Orchestra. The 2011 RMC graduate spoke at the annual scholarship luncheon about how much scholarships meant to her achieving her goal of becoming the first member of her family to earn a college degree.

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BY C A R L A . H A N S E N -

When I walk into the Bair Family Student Center for meetings in the Selover Room, or into the Fortin Education Center where the Board of Trustees frequently meets, or into Prescott Hall where I have meetings with President Mace, I am always reminded of the legacy of purpose and participation of those predecessor stewards who served Rocky Mountain College so selflessly and diligently. Phillip and Alice Fortin, Alberta Bair, George Selover, and Amos Prescott, to name a few, whose names on buildings and conference rooms are a small measure of their devotion to the life of the College. Two more of those wonderfully generous and kind supporters of RMC are worthy of mention here. Sam E. McDonald, Jr., with his wife, Judith, were advocates for RMC for many decades. Their donations helped create Wendy’s Field, as well as paying for numerous renovations to existing facilities. Sam was a tireless philanthropist in

Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Rocky Mountain College

the community at large, benefiting Billings Central, MSU-B, and many other worthy organizations. Judith died September 22, 2011; Sam died February 20, 2012, which ended his service to this Board. A second friend of the College is without peer. Patti Morledge, like her husband, Dr. Charles Morledge, had an affiliation with RMC dating to when she was child. Her mom was once RMC’s sole admissions counselor; her dad, Cloyd Conner, came as superintendent to the Congregational Churches of Montana and was a Billings Polytechnic Institute trustee, RMC’s predecessor. She and Charlie held their wedding reception in the Great Hall, which she devotedly decorates for the seasons so that it is always a showcase for the College. The couple created landscaping miracles on campus and renovated a building that some felt was not salvageable, now named Morledge-Kimball Hall. We’re blessed to have had this remarkable woman continue to serve on the Board of Trustees after Charlie died in 2007, but she decidedly deserves retirement from that service.

Our mission states, “Rocky Mountain College educates future leaders through liberal arts and professional programs that cultivate critical thinking, creative expression, ethical decision making, informed citizenship, and professional excellence.” That is a mission the McDonald and Morledge families have a shared commitment to. We welcome new members to the Board of Trustees as we thank those who served before. We are pleased to announce that all four trustee candidates have accepted to serve our RMC Board: Rod Kastelitz with EBMS, Shawn Herringer with SM Energy, Ralph Spence with Spence Accounts and Ralph Spence Oil Company in Texas, and Mike Walker with NAI Business Properties. I am confident they will bring the same purpose to RMC’s fulfillment of its mission.


The 1956-‘57 Rocky Mountain College Battlin’ Bears were inducted into the Ring of Honor during a ceremony on Feb. 25, 2012, at halftime of the men’s home basketball game between RMC and Montana Tech. One of famed coach Herb Klindt’s favorite basketball teams, the ‘56-‘57 team, became the fourth team to be featured in the Ring of Honor, which is prominently displayed on a wall at one end of First Interstate Bank Court at Fortin Education Center. “The group that you see on that team are people who have graduated from Rocky, gone on to be successful in many different roles in their personal lives, and continue to make Rocky an important part of their life,” said Robert Beers, RMC athletic director. 4

Members of the Battlin’ Bears 1956-‘57 team inducted into the RMC Ring of Honor were applauded at halftime. They included (left to right): Don Sherman, Rich Alberta, LeRoy Bender, Jim Peterson, Bill Ryan, John Flanagan, Chuck Frost, Darrell Sevier, and Dan Freund.

The 1956-‘57 Bears, with many players coming from small towns surrounding the Billings area, compiled a 19-6 record, won the Montana Collegiate Conference and defeated rival, Eastern Montana College, during all four of their meetings that season.

Along with Klindt, seven players on the 1956-‘57 team are already members of the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame: Rich Alberta, Bill Ryan, Don Steele, Dan Freund, Don Sherman, Gordon Stoddard and Jim Peterson.


A daughter, who is a Rocky Mountain College honor student, and her mother, an independent small business person, provided inspiration at the “Micro Business Brew” event hosted March 8th by RMC Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE). “Becky Stahl’s story was really welcomed and appreciated,” said Dr. Karen Beiser, RMC assistant professor of business administration and economics. Stahl, owner of Becky’s First year RMC student Ketura Stahl, right, earned a Berries, told the story of valedictorian presidential scholarship, but also counts on how she developed a hobby the support of her mom, Becky. -- making jellies and jams -into a business that is helping her daughter, Ketura, attend RMC. Ketura, a valedictorian from Absarokee High School, earned a president’s scholarship to attend the “college of her dreams,” according to Becky. “Rocky is such a great college, and one she loves,” Becky added. “That’s inspiring to me.” According to Beiser, Becky’s talk was inspiring for future small business owners. “She hit all the right notes about the challenges and rewards of operating a small business, and she was a terrific speaker,” Beiser said. Stahl is the 2010 winner of the Small Business Administration’s Home-based Business Award. Selling jams and jellies at farmer’s markets, she continually expanded. Now her best selling products, with names like “Traffic Jam,” are sold in 80 different stores principally in Montana, Wyoming, and North Dakota. At the Micro Business Brew event, the SIFE students put their talents to the test; planning, organizing, marketing and overseeing the small business event. Covering topics such as banking, marketing, accounting, entrepreneurship and economic development, local experts offered insight to small business owners in the Billings area, according to SIFE member, Justin Arney. “The Micro Business Brew event was a tremendous success,” Karen Beiser, faculty advisor to SIFE, said. “All of the presenters covered important areas important to small business owners or those thinking of starting a small business.” Joining Stahl as presenters and sponsors were Dick Potter, CPA; Kim Sapone of Acclaim Advertising; Jeremy Morgret, Stockman Bank; Rebecca Hedegaard, Small Business Development Center; and a representative from Sam’s Club. 5

COMING EVENTS MARCH 31 The RMC Jazz Ensemble will be performing a concert in Taylor Auditorium, Losekamp Hall, with a special guest artist, jazz trumpeter Pablo Masis. The concert will be at 7:30 p.m. and will feature the guest artist with the RMC Jazz Ensemble. For more information, Anthony “Tony” Hammond, RMC visiting instructor/director of bands, (406) 238-7283 / tony.hammond@

APRIL 14 RMC’s Billings Canstruction, Rimrock Mall, to benefit Billings Food Bank and Family Services. Planet 106.7 Radio will broadcast live as five canned goods structures are created. A sixth will be built spontaneously, based on donations received that day. For more information, contact Bo Walker, an RMC student who is helping organize it, via email and/or Jill Washburn, RMC Campus Corps leader, (406) 598-4176 /

APRIL 17 The annual RMC Academic Awards Banquet will be held from 5:30 – 7:00 p.m. in the Bair Family Student Center. The banquet is free to all RMC students, faculty, staff, Board of Trustees and their families. This annual event honors senior level RMC students who have excelled academically. If you plan to attend, please contact the Dean of Students Office for tickets, (406) 657-1018 /


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READY FOR NEW CHAPTERS Continued from font page

York City, which “I never thought I could get.” Dr. Christie knew Graetz could get it, and Graetz, who recently was named director of WorkSafe Montana, got it. “It was an extraordinary experience and a real confidence builder,” she said. The desire to spend more time pursuing her interests -- like travel -- convinced Christie that it is time to wind up her career as professor of communication studies. Christie says, “I have had many interesting chapters in my life, and my chapter at Rocky was good.” She started at Rocky Mountain College in 1995, when the communication studies program was a minor, offering approximately four courses. Christie’s work grew it to a major, and now the program has three professors. Her former students are in law schools and graduate schools earning doctorates; one is the Communications/Marketing Coordinator for the Billings Police Department; and another directs national projects for a pharmaceutical company. Former students share that Dr. Christie demanded a lot from them and often said when giving a tough assignment, “This will be fun.” She wanted them to learn to love learning. Christie said it now is “time to embrace a new chapter in life.” What is she most looking forward to in retirement? “Actually, I’m looking forward to staying up late reading,” she laughed. “That’s a

pleasure you can’t really enjoy when you’re teaching.” In a more serious vein, “I look forward to traveling and hiking and my own projects, unfettered by everyday routine.” She will continue her work through Humanities Montana at the Montana Women’s Prison where she has facilitated a series of “Reflect” sessions. Reflect is a statewide program that sponsors community readings and conversations. During a recent leave of absence, she practiced embracing change; in the past thirteen months she has traveled to Argentina and Ecuador with her daughter, enrolling in Spanish language schools and volunteering at an organic farm. She wants to travel to South America every year and spend a month immersed in Spanish. She and her husband will spend 16 days on a raft trip down the Colorado River of the Grand Canyon this fall. A native Montanan, Christie grew up in Butte and on a ranch in Eastern Montana. After graduating from the University of Montana with a bachelor’s degree in communication, she earned a master’s degree in communication at the University of New Mexico, and then joined the faculty


at Anchorage Community College in the University of Alaska system. After giving a paper at a conference in Japan, she realized that she wanted to live there. In the early 1980s, she took a position at the Language Institute of Japan in Odawara. While in Japan, she traveled to many Pacific Rim countries, and concluded her stay in Asia with a three-month journey in Nepal and India. “I tell my students that I made just short of a complete circle of the globe when I settled in Billings,” she said.  She earned her doctorate at the University of Kansas in 1995, starting at RMC shortly afterwards, coaching the debate team and teaching. “Growing up I knew I wanted a life of rich experience, and, professionally, I have been fortunate to have many good experiences. I have taught at Harvard University, University of Alaska, Language Institute of Japan, and RMC, done a Fulbright in Belarus and taught in the Semester at Sea program, journeying to nine countries while I talked about the roots of democracy and watched whales. My next chapters are sure to have opportunities to learn and to grow,” she said.


Photographs appearing in Rocky Now, unless otherwise noted, are by Dave M. Shumway, RMC staff photographer and web content manager.

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March 2012 - Rocky Now  

RMC newsletter for the college community.