University Relations and Communications

MSU Billings alumni honored for service to university, state and communities

May 10, 2010



Julie Seedhouse, Director of Alumni Relations, 247-5780
Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — An artist, a poet, educators and business leaders were honored recently as outstanding alumni for Montana State University Billings.


The 28th annual Outstanding Alumni Awards recognized the accomplishments of six people selected by the MSU Billings Alumni Association. Outstanding alumni are recognized in three categories:

  • Distinguished Alumnus: Honors an alumnus who has distinguished him or herself through personal, professional and civic contributions, while bringing a sense of honor, pride and recognition to the University community.
  • Alumni Merit Medallion: Honors an alumnus who is dedicated to the advancement of education, exemplified by his or her commitment of professional expertise and/or volunteer service to Montana State University Billings.
  • Recognition for Exceptional Achievement: Honors four alumni who have distinguished themselves in fields ranging from business, professional, education, volunteer service to a community, public or civil service, or arts and sciences having impacted those fields while bringing a sense of pride and recognition to the University community.

Past recipients of these awards have included persons who have exhibited unusual courage, creativity, perseverance, originality of competency in their chosen field; raised the quality of life for others; contributed to and promoted the advancement of higher education; or distinguished themselves as leaders in their profession or area of interest.


This year’s recipients are:


Allyn CaltonAllyn Calton, Recognition for Exceptional Achievement. Calton is the director of marketing and niche publications at Billings Gazette Communications. She received her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration in 1982 and her master’s degree in Public Relations in 2002. She involved in the community through a variety of endeavors, including Camp Make-A-Dream, as a reading volunteer at Arrowhead School, is a trustee on the MSU Billings Foundation board and is involved in the Billings Clinic Classic.


Ivan SmallIvan Small, Recognition for Exceptional Achievement. Small is the director at St. Labre Indian School and received his bachelor’s degree from what was Eastern Montana College in 1977. Small has spent a lifetime in education, focused primarily on Indian education. Notably, he became involved in the “Call to Greatness” initiative after 33 Indian schools failed to make adequate yearly progress under No Child Left Behind requirements. With the help of the Office of Public Instruction, Small gathered school principals, superintendents and school boards together to work toward positively impacting student achievement. The “Call to Greatness” program is dedicated to the systematic improvement of standardized test scores on Montana’s reservation. Since the program was initiated, the test scores have improved.


Henry Real BirdHenry Real Bird, Recognition for Exceptional Achievement. The Garryowen rancher and educator is the current Poet Laureate for the state of Montana. Real Bird received his master’s degree in education from MSU Billings in 1990 and has worked since then on constantly improving the quality of life for students on the Crow and Northern Cheyenne Indian reservations.  Since 1992, he has been a visiting poet at dozens of schools across Eastern Montana and was named Montana’s poet laureate in 2009 by Gov. Brian Schweitzer.


John PollockJohn Pollock, Recognition for Exceptional Achievement. A professor of art at MSU Billings, Pollock received his bachelor’s degree in 1969 and has continued to teach and experiment with different art forms.  His focus lately has been on kitemaking. He developed a method of painting on nylon and making kites that are beautiful and captivating. These kites have won him numerous awards including the Grand National Champion Award and The Lee Toy Memorial Kite Artist of the Year Award at the recent 2009 American Kitefliers Association National Convention. The list of awards is numerous for his kites.


Wanda GrindeWanda Grinde, Distinguished Alumna Award. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 1966 and her master’s degree in elementary education in 1970, Grinde worked in education for more than 20 years. After retiring as a teacher and librarian, she began her public service career. She was elected to the Montana House of Representatives in 2004 and is currently the chair of the House Education Committee. Among her legislative successes are advocacy of full-time kindergarten and creation in 2009 of the Montana Virtual Academy.


Dave WarnerDavid Warne, Alumni Merit Medallion. After graduating from MSU Billings in 1972 with a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in mathematics, Warne started teaching at Billings West High, his alma mater. He always had a passion for coaching and found a new sport — speech and debate. After four years at West he pursued a master’s degree at Washington State University in Rhetoric and Communications in order to improve his coaching skills. He landed back in Billings and was debate coach at Senior High. The debate program grew to more than 50 students under his watch. After he left teaching, Warne worked for a chemical distribution company and continues to give back to the community and university, most notably with the MSU Billings Foundation.


Nominations are now open for the 2011 Outstanding Alumni Awards. More information can be found at or by contacting Julie Seedhouse, director of alumni relations, at 247-5780.


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