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BILLINGS (AP) - Billings businessman Michael Mace, who has served as Rocky Mountain College's interim president since October, was named the permanent replacement Wednesday.

Mace, a former Rocky trustee, replaces Thomas Oates, who resigned in October.

Board Chairman James Almond said Wednesday trustees made the move because they've been pleased with Mace's work.

Almond added that the board wanted someone with extensive business experience to strengthen Rocky's finances, and Mace fit the bill.

"A business mind-set is essential to any business today, and Rocky is a business venture as well as an institution to educate students," Almond said.

Budget-tightening measures and donations eliminated a $750,000 deficit that was on the books when Oates left. And a recent $3 million gift from an anonymous donor increased the college's endowment to $24 million.

Mace is chief executive officer and chairman of D&M Industries, which manufactures doors, architectural hardware and windows. D&M is a subsidiary of Sterling Acceptance Corp., of which Mace is founder and CEO.

Mace, 54, has a bachelor's degree in business from Montana State University and a certificate from the Carlson Graduate School of Management at the University of Minnesota. The program follows an MBA curriculum designed for senior executives of Fortune 1000 companies.

Almond said a growing number of small, private colleges have leaders whose experience is in business, rather than academics.

Rocky is fortunate to have well-qualified vice presidents to oversee the academic side of things, Almond said.

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