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Montana to be celebrated at Carousel fundraiser

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UM President's home

Hal Stearns’ fervor for all things Montana and the photographic eyes of Rick and Susie Graetz will be paired Sunday in a special venue to raise money for A Carousel for Missoula.

A two-hour program called “This is Montana” starts at 3:30 p.m. at the University of Montana president’s residence at 1325 Gerald Ave.

Stearns, a retired teacher, historian and public humanities presenter, is married to Sheila Stearns, the interim president at UM. Guests at the fundraiser can also tour the 2½-story home built in 1928 by Nels Lennes, head of the UM math department. Its 16 rooms replicated those of his wife Harriet’s family home in Chicago. It became the UM president’s house in 1974.

Stearns said for Sunday’s event a collection of 20 Montana paintings and photos from the Montana Museum of Art and Culture will be displayed in the house. They are the works of the likes of Edgar S. Paxson, Karl Bodmer and George Catlin, as well as modern Missoula artists such as Walter Hook, Monte Dolack and Mary Beth Percival.

While Sheila Stearns doesn’t live in the president’s house, she and Hal have hosted official UM events there since she assumed the helm in December.

“For some people who’ve never been in the house, it’ll be nice for them to see it,” Hal Stearns said. “This might be the one time the president’s house is the official domain for us.”

Theresa Cox, executive director for the Carousel, described the afternoon event as an “armchair journey through Montana.”

The Graetzes will divide the state into seven regions and show and describe photos from each. Hal Stearns will follow with impromptu stories.

Graetz, who founded Montana Magazine in 1970, is a geography lecturer at UM and director of UM’s Crown of the Continent and Greater Yellowstone Initiative. Susie Graetz is managing editor of the University of Montana Press. Their photo essay was featured in last Sunday’s Territory section of the Missoulian.

Sunday’s fundraiser is a follow-up to last spring’s “Let Me Tell You a Story About a Horse” at Caffe Dolce, when Stearns and other luminaries from the area told their own stories.

Cox said while that one was deemed a success, “it didn’t raise as much money as we would have liked. It was rather expensive to put on.”

The $100-a-seat event featured a full dinner. This year’s event will serve fine wines and “light provisions.” There’s room for only about 50 people at a time.

“If it turns out we get more than 50, we’ll do two seatings and run through the program at 3:30 while half the people wander through the house, then switch and do a second seating after that,” Cox said.

Reservations are $60 per person and are available by calling the Carousel at 406-549-8382 or visiting its gift shop in Caras Park.

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Outlying communities, transportation, history and general assignment

Outlying communities, transportation, history and general assignment reporter at the Missoulian

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