A $5 million gift from an anonymous donor will launch the University of Montana College of Education and Human Sciences to a new realm, said Dean Roberta Evans.
"We've been dancing on the lawn," said Evans, head of the Phyllis J. Washington College of Education and Human Sciences.
The endowment will fully fund two new academic chairs in the college and honor Maryfrances Shreeve and son William Shreeve, "two exceptional regional educators," according to UM and Evans.
The Maryfrances Shreeve Chair in Teaching Excellence will pay for a "distinguished professor in the college's Department of Teaching and Learning."
The William C. Shreeve Chair in Educational Administration in the Department of Educational Leadership will support a professor "committed to translating theory into practice for future school leaders."
Evans said the magnitude of the gift will push the departments to new heights in a college with 39 tenure-track faculty, seven clinical faculty and two long-term adjuncts in all. At a time when UM is losing positions because of budget difficulties, the gift will increase the instructors in education and human sciences.
"Honestly, when I called this transformative, that probably was an understatement," Evans said.
The posts are in departments that have been growing, and the faculty who are selected will be people who understand the vision and direction of the college and can make contributions to leadership, she said. UM will announce the recipients of the chairs this fall.
Evans said the gift was structured in a "brilliant" way. The chairs will not only conduct research and refine theories, she said, but demonstrate findings on the ground.
"That is what was so beneficial about this particular gift," Evans said.
The support is particularly meaningful for UM at this time, said the UM Foundation's Kate Stober.
"UM never struggles for scholarship support, but faculty support is rare," Stober said in an email. "It is always notable when someone understands that great faculty are key to a student's educational experience."
She said the gift comes from an anonymous donor who wanted to shine the spotlight on two admirable educators, both deceased.
Maryfrances Shreeve was born in 1907 in Deer Lodge and earned her bachelor's and master's degrees from UM, according to a news release from UM. She taught throughout western Montana.
"Maryfrances Shreeve was a much-loved master teacher who served the children and the state of Montana for more than 37 years," said the news release. "She never met a child — no matter how gifted, poor, wealthy, talented or ordinary — who did not deserve every possible opportunity."
William Shreeve followed in his mother's footsteps and earned a bachelor's and master's degree in education from UM, according to the news release. UM described him as "an exceptional educator" who received his doctorate from the University of Northern Colorado and taught as a professor of education at Eastern Washington University.
"He was dedicated to training quality principals and school administration professionals for K-12 school systems, instituting many national award-winning programs during his tenure," UM said.