Holiday huckleberries to the season of thanksgiving. In keeping with recent tradition, the Missoulian editorial board is extending the spirit of Thanksgiving a little longer this week, and sharing an all-huckleberry edition of our weekly huckleberries and chokecherries feature.
First, a thick slice of huckleberry pie to Mike Boehme, Steve Nelson and the four University of Montana freshman football players and other volunteers who kept up a Thanksgiving tradition of giving away dozens of turkeys to residents of Bonner this week. For the past five years the owner and manager of Bonner Mill have delivered turkeys to each of the 43 mill homes along Highway 200, and in doing so, helped brighten the entire neighborhood with their generosity.
A cornucopia of huckleberries to the Missoula Food Bank and its thousands of dedicated supporters, among which the employees of Missoula Federal Credit Union stand out for a massive contribution of 50,000 pounds of potatoes and onions – the largest donation in the history of the local food bank. Their efforts helped give Missoula an edge in the annual Can the Cats food drive, a competition with Bozeman’s Montana State University supporters to see which city can collect the most food and funds for the hungry. The Griz may have lost last Saturday’s game against the Bobcats but Missoula took the victory in this year’s food drive, raising nearly $140,000 and more than 250,000 pounds of food.
Speaking of the Griz, maroon and silver huckleberries are due to Bob Stitt, who has led the football team with class and grit since 2015. This week UM athletic director Kent Haslam delivered the news that Stitt’s contract would not be renewed beyond the end of January 2018. Stitt, who racked up 21 wins over his three years at the helm of the team, accepted the decision with characteristic dignity, Haslam noted. Haslam spoke for all of Griz Nation when he added, "I have nothing but respect for him and for the way he has operated with integrity. He's worked tirelessly to advance this football program and this university.”
A second helping of maroon and silver huckleberries to another outgoing UM leader, the much-appreciated Sheila Stearns, who will step aside as president when Seth Bodnar comes on board in January 2018. A former Montana Commissioner of Higher Education, Stearns was tapped to guide the university during a time of unprecedented turbulence and put it on more stable footing so its new president could immediately begin leading the institution forward, instead of having to dig out of an enrollment and budget hole first. While Stearns has certainly accomplished this mission, she has also had to make a number of difficult, sometimes unpopular decisions. Yet even her critics would agree that over the course of the past year, UM’s first female president has been a strong advocate for higher education, a steadying force and a well-respected leader. For that, and for her service to higher education in Montana, she deserves our deepest thanks.