Seven graduates of Montana State University Billings or its predecessor, Eastern Montana College, were presented with Outstanding Alumni Awards Thursday afternoon.
A new award was also introduced this year, to recognize an individual who has demonstrated support of MSU Billings despite not having graduated from the university. The awards were presented Thursday by the MSU Billings Alumni Association.
All award recipients will be celebrated during the 2018 Outstanding Alumni Awards luncheon on Friday, April 20, at noon in the Northern Hotel Grand Ballroom. The winners were:
♦ Brenda Dockery — After a 25-year tenure in advertising and media sales, Dockery joined the MSU Billings faculty as an adjunct instructor of marketing. Her students know her for an experience-based course style that prepares them for real-world work demands. Besides being a mentor to students, she is recognized as one by colleagues, too. In 2008, she received the Excellence Award for Non-Tenured Faculty.
♦ Craig Pierson — Pierson began his career in education as a substitute teacher in School District 2. He was encouraged by his peers to become certified to teach, and has been a chemistry instructor at Billings Central Catholic High School since he graduated in 2001. Before becoming a teacher, Pierson earned his Ph.D. in chemistry from Pennsylvania State University.
♦ Merry Lee Olson — Olson was described as a tireless visionary by her nominator. As CEO at YWCA Billings, she oversees a $1.6 million annual budget, $2.2 million in assets, three synergistic programs, 40 employees, 100 volunteers, two facilities, YWCA land holdings and its funding initiatives.
♦ TerraBeth Jochems — Diagnosed with dyslexia at an early age, Jochems has played an integral part in bringing resources to Billings for others who struggle with the disorder. Partnering with Harvest Church and the Better Billings Foundation, she created 3H Tutoring and teaches through the literacy ministry.
♦ Rita Wells — The orchestra specialist for School District 2 and president of the Billings Education Association, Wells graduated suma cum laude from Eastern Montana College in 1987. She has worked as a music teacher for 26 years, including 25 years in Billings Public Schools. She retired from teaching in 2016, and continues to serve the Billings education community as the president of the Billings Education Association.
♦ Shane Fairbanks — Fairbanks, a Billings Central Catholic High School social studies instructor , graduated from MSU Billings in 2007. The 2018 Billings Catholic Schools Educator of the Year, Fairbanks has worked closely with MSU Billings to develop dual credit courses in U.S. history and history of western civilization.
♦ Nathan Haney — A Billings attorney and partner in Karell Dyre Haney PLLP, Haney graduated from MSU Billings in 1996 with a BSED-English (major) and Spanish (minor). He proceeded to the University of Montana Law School and graduated with his J.D. in 1999. Nate earned his Master of Laws degree in taxation from New York University in 2000. At St. Pius X Church, he is a member of the Finance Council and is currently studying as a deacon candidate. He is a member of the Billings Downtown Rotary Club and on the Billings Catholic Schools board.
♦ Steve Arveschoug — Arveschoug, the honoree who is not a graduate of MSU Billings, is the executive director of the Big Sky Economic Development Authority and Economic Development Corporation. He leads economic development efforts for Yellowstone County and the Billings’ community. An alumnus of Montana Tech, Arveschoug, with his board of directors and his staff at BSED, helped to raise and contribute more than $300,000 for the MSUB Yellowstone Science and Allied Health Building.