University Relations and Communications

Billings student and daughter of MSU Billings staffer wins 'Salute to Freedom' award at National History Day competition

June 29, 2015



Dr. Tom Rust, Montana National History Day coordinator, 657-2891
Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269


Abby Roberts to attend grand opening of U.S. Freedom Pavilion in New Orleans in January


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — A Billings middle school student and daughter of a Montana State University Billings staff member will be representing Montana at the opening of a new wing of the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.


""Abby Roberts, who competed in the National History Day Contest with a state-winning online interactive project on the Pony Express, won the national award at the competition and will be representing Montana as the state’s winner in the “Salute to Freedom” contest.

Abby is the daughter of Brent Roberts, director of the MSU Billings Library.


Abby and her family were in Washington, D.C. earlier this month as part of the finals of the National History Day competition. Her state-winning project was an interactive online history of the Pony Express.


The project started as an assignment for Abby’s eighth-grade U.S. history class at Lewis and Clark Middle School this spring. The school, along with others in Montana, has a partnership with the National History Day organization. Coordinated by the History Department at MSU Billings for the past three years, Montana’s National History Day has seen growing interest from schools around the state.  Dr. Tom Rust, an award-winning history professor at MSU Billings, puts together the National History Day program.


As part of the national competition this month, the National WWII Museum held its “Salute to Freedom” contest, in which 51 students win an all-expense-paid trip to New Orleans to participate in the Grand Opening of the U.S. Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center. One student was chosen from each of the 50 states and from Washington, D.C. to be a part of that event, set for January, 2013.


The contest, made possible by the museum’s unique partnership with The Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest, called on qualifying students to submit an application and respond to two essay questions. Winners were chosen based on their knowledge of the past and its connection to the future as well as their knowledge of their state's role during the war. Winners were named during the National History Day awards ceremony, earlier this month in College Park, Md.


In advance of her journey to the National WWII Museum, Abby will select and write captions for five images that represent her state’s contribution during World War II. These images, along with a short essay linking the images and emphasizing the state’s role in the war effort, will become part of a special exhibition at the Grand Opening celebration.


“These student historians are our future and it is vitally important that they know of the sacrifices made by the ‘greatest generation’ in the name of freedom,” said Dr. Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller, president and CEO of The National WWII Museum. “We couldn’t be more thrilled to host these 51 students and their chaperones for the Grand Opening of the US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center.”


Winners and their chaperones will arrive in New Orleans prior to the festivities in January, spend two nights in downtown New Orleans and participate in the Grand Opening celebration. Travel costs, the hotel stay and meals for each student and a chaperone will be covered by The National WWII Museum. The students and their chaperones will be among the first visitors to enter the US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center.


The Museum’s new pavilion will pay tribute to all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces that were active in the war. The pavilion will contain a spectacular collection of macro artifacts including a restored B-17G Flying Fortress and an interactive submarine experience based on the final mission of the USS Tang. A special section will feature a wall displaying images of all 464 WWII Medal of Honor recipients and interactive kiosks which allow visitors to access the military and personal history of each recipient.


The National WWII Museum tells the story of the American Experience in the war that changed the world — why it was fought, how it was won and what it means today. Dedicated in 2000 as The National D-Day Museum and now designated by Congress as America’s National WWII Museum, it celebrates the American spirit, the teamwork, optimism, courage and sacrifice of the men and women who served on the battlefront and the Home Front.


For more information, visit For more information on the Montana National History Day competition, call Rust at contact Rust at 657-2891 or e-mail him at


PHOTO ABOVE: Abby Roberts, left, and her father, Brent, pause for a photo in the Capitol Rotunda during the National History Day competition earlier this month in Washington, D.C. Abby won an award through the “Salute to Freedom” contest at the national competition that was sponsored by the National World War II Museum. By winning the contest, she won a trip to New Orleans in January for the grand opening of a new wing of the museum.  Brent Roberts is the director of the MSU Billings Library.