University Relations and Communications

Stearns to serve as interim chancellor at MSU Billings

April 18, 2014



University Relations, 657-2269  


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — Montana State University President Waded Cruzado announced Friday the appointment of Sheila Stearns, Montana commissioner emerita of higher education, as interim chancellor of MSU Billings effective May 5.


Sheila Stearns

Stearns will replace Rolf Groseth, who retires as chancellor following MSU Billings’ commencement on May 3.


“We really appreciate that Sheila has taken this appointment on and believe she is the best possible interim solution for us,” Vice Chancellor of Administrative Services Terry Iverson said.


Stearns retired in 2012 as Montana’s commissioner of higher education and has since been a senior fellow and consultant for the Association of Governing Boards, providing advice to boards of trustees and governing boards of colleges and universities throughout the United States and the Pacific Islands.


“I’m very pleased to be following such a fine chancellor and all-around good guy,” Stearns said in a news release from Montana State University. A native of Glendive, she said she was happy to be able to spend time in Billings, where several members of her family live and which has always been like a second home to her. “I’m happy for the opportunity to spend time at a beautiful campus with people I know and care about, and help in the transition.”


Cruzado said the MSU Billings campus could not be in better hands.


“Commissioner Emerita Stearns has an encyclopedic knowledge of higher education in the state of Montana and beyond,” Cruzado said. “We are extremely pleased that she is available to put that experience to use on behalf of MSU Billings as we move through this interim period.”


Cruzado said MSU Billings is in the middle of a search for a permanent replacement for Groseth, and expects to have a new chancellor in place July 1.


Stearns served as Montana commissioner of higher education from 2003 to 2012 working with 21 regents, four college presidents, eight chancellors, 10 college of technology deans, five community college presidents, two governors, two state superintendents of public instruction and hundreds of lawmakers. She returned to her native Montana to accept the job as commissioner from Nebraska, where she served as president of Wayne State University. Prior to that, she was provost, and then chancellor, of Western Montana College in Dillon.


Stearns received all her degrees from the University of Montana, including a bachelor's degree in English and history, a master's degree in history and a doctorate in educational administration and supervision. She worked six years as a teacher and librarian in middle schools before becoming an administrator at UM. She is married to Hal Stearns, a retired Missoula public school teacher.


“Sheila is a great person and we look forward to her leadership and working with her toward our institution’s goals,” Iverson said.


Groseth announced his retirement as chancellor at MSU Billings in January after serving in the position since 2010. He retires from the MSU system after a career that began in 1977 when he was hired as the director of student activities for the Bozeman campus.


Chancellor candidates from Texas, Missouri, New York and Wisconsin are finalists for the position of Montana State University Billings chancellor, and will visit Billings for interviews and open public forums from April 21-25.


The finalists for chancellor, in the order they'll visit campus, are:

  • Ricardo Maestas, special assistant to the Texas State University System chancellor. He is also a professor at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas, and has a doctorate from the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education at the University of Michigan. His open forum will be held at 4:30 p.m. April 21 in the library building, room 148.
  • Michael Droge will visit campus April 22 and his open forum begins at 4:30 p.m. in Library 148. He is president of Park University in Parkville, Mo., has worked at Texas Woman's University and has a doctorate in physiology and biophysics from the University of Texas Medical Branch.
  • Margaret Madden's visit will be April 23, with a 4:30 p.m. public forum in Library 148. Madden is provost and vice president for Academic Affairs and a professor at State University of New York. She has previously worked at Long Island University, Lawrence University and Franklin Pierce College and earned a doctorate in psychology from the University of Massachusetts.
  • The final visit will be from Mark Nook on April 25, with a 4:30 p.m. public forum to be held at 148 Library. Nook is the senior vice president for academic affairs for the University of Wisconsin System. He previously held positions at University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and St. Cloud State University. He has a doctorate in astronomy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

To learn more about each chancellor candidate, visit


PHOTO ABOVE: Sheila Stearns, Montana commissioner emerita of higher education, will begin her duties May 5, after the retirement of MSU Billings Chancellor Rolf Groseth,.and will serve until a new chancellor is chosen.