Before on the blog, I’ve talked about the intense pride Montanans have for the state. Well, the pride gets even more pronounced when we start talking about Universities. So I’m supposed to write a blog about the University of Montana, but where do I start? Do I start with the fact that Montana’s flagship University boasts the fifth most Rhodes Scholars of any public university in the country? Do I talk about luminaries like James Welch, Dick Hugo, Oscar-winner J.K. Simmons, and the plethora of NFL players that have graduated from UM? Do I talk about the powerhouse sports teams? Or do I talk about the beautiful campus filled with green spaces and gorgeous buildings (with only a few glaring exceptions)?
Let me start by saying that of the universities where I have gotten an undergraduate degree (and I only have one undergrad degree), UM is the best. I’m not saying that UM is perfect—the Liberal Arts building, for example, seems to have been designed by a madman with only a vague notion of how buildings work—I’m just saying that as a completely biased observer, I cheer for UM to win all of the things, even the sports I don’t understand.
Now I’m going to throw some (relatively) objective facts your way. The University of Montana was founded in 1893. In order to ensure that the University would be in Missoula, Missoula’s leaders made a deal with Helena to withdraw Missoula from the running for state capital and to support Helena over rival Anaconda. Since then, the University has been an integral part of Missoula. Many business logos feature maroon and silver (the U’s colors), everything from grocery stores to car washes and auto dealerships are named after the University of Montana Grizzlies. It’s still not unusual for stores to be closed during football games (because everyone knows that tailgating>capitalism) and the Griz are a staple of conversation at church coffee hour on Sundays. The campus is wedged between the town, the Clark Fork River, and Mount Sentinel, which is picturesque, idyllic, and makes things like expansion and parking an absolute nightmare, though the campus is gorgeous. For the most part the buildings are beautiful ivy-covered brick edifices (there are some glaring exceptions), and the Oval honestly puts all other university quads to shame. Before I go on, I want to give a shout out to the UM landscaping crew, because even in the dead of winter, they make sure the campus looks absolutely stunning.
As an institution, UM has been compared favorably to the Ivy League schools, as demonstrated by this real-life Facebook post:
“Princeton has 1 ply toilet paper. University of Montana has (mostly) 2 ply.
UM – 1, Princeton – 0.”
The University boasts the state’s only law school, one of the oldest Creative Writing programs in the nation, top ranked business and entertainment management programs, acclaimed programs in environmental journalism and Native American Studies, and world-class majors in everything from pre-med (with a ludicrously high placement rating) to poetry. It’s no wonder the school inspires such fierce loyalty in its alums.