August 15, 2008


Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269


917 students have applied for degrees


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — Montana State University Billings will celebrate its 81st commencement convocation on Saturday, May 3, 2008 at 10 a.m. at MetraPark in Billings. The 917 students who have applied for degrees in 2008 is the largest graduating class in the university’s history.


Commencement activities are free of charge and open to the public.


The commencement address this year will be provided by Tim Cahill, an award-winning adventure and travel writer from the Livingston area. 


A founding editor of Outside magazine, Cahill is the author of scores of magazine articles and nine books, including “Pecked to Death by Ducks,” “Jaguars Ripped My Flesh” and “Lost in My Own Backyard: A Walk in Yellowstone.”


He began his travel writing in 1975, a time when the subject matter had only a small appeal. Cahill, however, knew that there was a literate audience for his style of writing and he has experienced wide success since, both in magazine and book formats.


“Some of my magazine pieces,” says Cahill, “seem like old friends staggering in a bit late to a dinner party. A few of them may be limping or have an arm in a cast. Some of them are guys who have been lost in the desert, who have been beaten up by sacred Himalayan rivers, who have suffered a crisis of courage in a cavern half a mile underground. Some of them drink too much or laugh too loud. There are in entirely too good a mood.”


In addition to his writing, Cahill is also co-author of the Academy Award-nominated documentary “The Living Sea” as well as the IMAX films “Everest” and “Dolphins.”


Others who will address graduates at commencement include Tiffani Fehlmann, of Livingston, president of the Associated Students of Montana State University Billings; Kris Carpenter of Billings, a member of the governor-appointed Local Executive Board for MSU Billings; and Julie Seedhouse, director of Alumni Relations.


Also at commencement exercises, five faculty and one retired administrator will be presented with emeritus status. They are:

  • Susan Baack, who is retiring as a general education instructor at the College of Technology. Baack has worked for 16 years at MSU Billings and helped create the general education department at the COT. She is an award-winning teacher who held department chair and team leader positions.
  • Dr. Gary Behm, who is retiring as professor in the Department of Music this spring. Behm has a distinguished career that spans 29 years at MSU Billings, 27 of which he served as department chair.
  • Dr. Linda Christensen, who is retiring this spring as a special education professor in the College of Education. A widely published teacher and mentor at MSU Billings for 29 years, Christensen has presented papers in the fields of teacher education, rural special education and psychological aspects of chronic illness. She has also widely advocated for programs that teach elementary and high school students about peers who have disabilities.
  • Dr. Tom Hinthorne, who is retiring as a management professor at the College of Business. Hinthorne has been director of the college’s Small Business Institute for 12 years and since 1993 he has guided the development of about 250 student business plans.
  • Dr. Thomas Zwick, who is retiring after 35 years as a geology professor in the Department of Biological and Physical Sciences. Besides a distinguished teaching career, Zwick has honored his profession through the publication of 10 scholarly publications in the physical sciences and has presented research at 26 professional meetings.
  • Mr. Curt Kochner, who retired in 2006 as the vice chancellor for student affairs. Kochner, who worked for more than two decades serving students and will be given the rank of Administrator Emeritus. Over the course of his career at MSU Billings, Kochner worked to find new ways to serve student needs, including the creation of the Advising Center and Academic Support Center.

The MSU Billings Commencement Convocation Procession will be led by: Grand Marshal, Dr. Stephen Coffman, professor of communications; Faculty Marshal Dr.David Davison, professor of educational theory and practice and professor of mathematics; and Graduating Senior Marshals Betsy Kunsman of Billings and Joshua Anderson of Hardin as they walk down the aisle framed by members of the 2006 Ivy Guard.


Dressed in white and holding garlands of ivy, the select Ivy Guard members form an honor guard during the academic procession and recession.  The Ivy Guard members are outstanding women students who have demonstrated good scholarship and service to the university through academic and extracurricular activities. Members are chosen each spring, following nomination by members of the faculty.

MSU Billings’ first Ivy Guard was organized in 1963 to serve as an honor guard at the annual Awards Convocation. The Ivy Guard's participation at the Commencement Convocation began in 1966.


Sue Hart, professor in the Department of English and philosophy, is the Ivy Guard coordinator. The 2008 Ivy Guard leaders are Christine Haaland of Roundup and Amber Kelly-Nash of Billings.

A barbecue-reception honoring the graduates will be held in the Student Union Building on the MSU Billings main campus (1500 University Drive) following commencement.


For more information about this year’s commencement exercises, call the MSU Billings University Relations office at 657-2266.