Christine Wilcox opened a lot of books in graduate school.
Now her annual gifts are helping open a whole new chapter for the library.
When Christine Wilcox began pursuing her master’s degree at the University of Montana, she noticed a need—and an opportunity—inside the walls of the Mansfield Library. “I studied Spanish language and literature, so I needed to consult a lot of source material. Often it was difficult to find what I needed, and that kind of opened my eyes: the library was an important part of campus, a place that touched everyone, and yet it didn’t have a set of any real constituents to support it. The various schools ask their alumni to support them, but there’s no one really asking for money for the library.”
But Wilcox didn’t start by asking others for money. She put her own money where her heart was. “I approached the library, asked about what their needs were. They talked about a poetry corner, and I knew that was a place I could help. So I did some fundraising, and gave money to help establish the poetry corner in the library.”
Wilcox’s roots at UM run deep. Clear back to the beginning, in fact. Her great-great grandfather was none other than Oscar J. Craig, the first President of UM. Yes, that Craig, the namesake of Craig Hall. “My parents have some great photos of him during homesteading,” Wilcox says. “My father went to UM, and Missoula is where I grew up, so that’s really where my heart is, even when I’m not there.”
After earning an undergraduate degree from Stanford University in international relations, and after working for companies headquartered in Mexico and Argentina, Wilcox felt her heart being pulled back to Missoula. “It was a good fit for me to go back home and study. I love the creative writing program there, and I met a wonderful professor, Eduardo Chirinos, who convinced me I should study Spanish literature. He’s so prolific, and an amazing person, and it was a great experience just being able to study with him.”
After such a positive experience, Wilcox says giving back was simply a natural next step. “When people give to UM, I feel they make every penny go so far. They really do a great job,” she says. “I’ve always been really interested in raising money for the library, primarily because it’s a place every student uses. It’s such an important part of the University. That’s why I’m excited about raising funds for the Library Learning Commons project.” The Learning Commons, one of President Royce Engstrom’s Presidential Initiatives, seeks to reinvent the library by creating a dynamic learning environment where students can work and learn in group settings, have better access to technology and be better prepared for the workforce upon graduation.
That, of course, is something Wilcox has been excited about since her days in graduate school. “I really enjoy giving back to UM, and especially something like the library, because it contributes to everyone’s experience there. For people who are considering giving, but not sure where, this is a place where every dollar can really be used well. The people at the library are so prudent with the money they do get, and there’s just a great need there.”