Endowed Funds Bring New Faces

Joshua Millspaugh had an internationally renowned record as a teacher and researcher at the University of Missouri’s School of Natural Resources. Last summer, he left the Midwest behind to join the faculty at UM as the new Boone and Crockett Professor of Wildlife Conservation.

“This is probably the only position, quite honestly, that I would have considered leaving Missouri for,” says Millspaugh. “It is such a unique opportunity that I couldn’t pass up applying.”

Endowed faculty members.Millspaugh is one of four new faces on campus this year who came to UM thanks to private support. Each was recruited, in part, because of a named, endowed position. Such opportunities are held in high esteem in the academic community and often come with enhanced salary lines and research funds. As such, they are powerful enticements to draw top faculty and administrators from other institutions.

Michihiro Ama came to UM from the University of Alaska Anchorage, accepting a position as the Karashima Tsukasa Associate Professor of Japanese Language and Culture. Thanks in part to the endowed fund, he will have resources to focus on his research, which centers on the trans-pacific development of Japanese Buddhism and Buddhism in modern Japanese literature.

“This endowed position is essential to our program,” says Ama. “I want to live up to the donor, Mr. Karashima’s, expectations for promoting Japanese language education and Japan studies at UM, as well as promoting exchange between Missoula and Kumamoto.”

Kumamoto, Japan has been Montana’s sister state since 1982 thanks to a relationship developed by former U.S. Ambassador Mike Mansfield.

For at least one new faculty member, the prospect of coming to UM itself was the biggest draw.

“The University of Montana is one of the top universities in the world for field ecology and wildlife biology,” says Jedediah Brodie, the new John J. Craighead Chair of Wildlife Biology. As chair, Brodie will be providing strategic direction and administration for the program, as well as teaching and conducting research. His focus is on mammal population ecology, species interactions and landscape connectivity in Southeast Asia.

“It’s an honor to be in a position named for John Craighead, and to be at the university in the town where he lived and worked,” he says. “The Craigheads left such an indelible legacy on the field of wildlife and conservation biology.”

The late John Craighead was a well-known researcher and conservationist who led the Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit at UM for 25 years. The endowed chair was established in his honor in 2005.

Brodie is passionate about taking Wildlife Biology at UM to the next level.

“I would like to strengthen our international connections,” he says. “There are so many universities, agencies, and NGOs in different countries with whom we could be exchanging knowledge and skills.”

Faculty aren’t the only ones who benefit from endowed positions – last winter, two donors collaborated to fund the Dean’s Chair at the School of Business. Mark Burnham and Eric Sprunk, together with their families, created an endowment with the explicit goal of hiring an exceptional dean to replace Larry Gianchetta upon his retirement.

“We both feel strongly about leadership and want to give the new dean the ability to drive the advancements that are necessary for the future,” says Sprunk.

Thanks to their support, the business school hired Chris Shook away from another named, endowed position; he was previously the Russell Professor of Management in the Harbert College of Business at Auburn University.

“The strong foundation of programs, people, funding and facilities were just a few of the things that drew me to this opportunity,” Shook says. “The support of the business community and alumni and friends was another. I am particularly grateful for the generosity of Mark Burnham, Eric Sprunk and their families in endowing the dean’s position.”

Funding for additional endowed positions continues to be a top priority for the University. In the last two years, a gift from Bill and Carolyn Franke and their family created two endowed faculty positions in forest conservation and watershed hydrology, while a posthumous gift from Carol Jean Byrnes and the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay endowed a professorship in finance, and Suzanne and Dave Peterson created an endowed professor of gifted education.

Pictured above (left to right): Michihiro Ama, Tracy Missett, Jedediah Brodie and Joshua Millspaugh all joined the UM faculty thanks to donor-supported positions.