History of Rocky Mountain College
Rocky Mountain College is the oldest college in Montana. Its history demonstrates a commitment to excellence and an openness to all points of view. Adversity has led to strength through the joining of a liberal arts tradition and the heritage of practical training for specific careers. The union of three distinct religious traditions has resulted in a church-related college that considers all questions in an open and non-sectarian manner.
In 1877, a small group of Methodists met in Bozeman to establish a school in a principal area of the territory. The committee included former governor Benjamin J. Potts and minister-missionary Brother William Van Orsdel. The committee encountered roadblocks along the path to success, so a contingent from Deer Lodge, Mont., decided to establish the Montana Collegiate Institute in 1878 with three faculty, about two dozen students, and tuition of only $15 to $25.
Four years later, the Presbyterian Church assumed control and chartered the College of Montana with three brick buildings and an initial student population numbering 160. Tuition has risen to $5 per month. Meanwhile, in 1889, the Methodist Episcopal Church opened Montana University, later changed to Montana Wesleyan University, located in Helena. The assets, organizations, and traditions of these Presbyterian and Methodist institutions merged in 1923 under the aegis of Intermountain Union College in Helena. In 1904, two decades prior to the founding of Intermountain Union College, two brothers from Maine, Lewis T. and Ernest T. Eaton, leased the abandoned campus at the College of Montana and renamed it the Montana College and School of Manual Arts. In 1908, the brothers moved to Billings and established the Billings Polytechnic Institute, using the same blend of practicality, cultural arts, and civic and religious training of youth in its curriculum. Earthquakes seriously damaged the Intermountain Union College buildings in 1935, and after a brief move to Great Falls, Intermountain Union College accepted an invitation to relocate on the Billings Polytechnic Institute campus. As affiliates, the institutions developed integrated programs and then merged into a single college, named Rocky Mountain College by student vote, in 1947.
The College maintains this proud blend of traditions as part of its heritage. One enduring tradition, the Candlelight Dinner, heralds the anniversary of the day Billings Polytechnic Institute moved from downtown Billings to its present location. The event was so named because on moving day in 1910, there was not yet electricity in the buildings, and a supper of cold sliced meat, cold boiled potatoes, cold baked beans, and donuts was served by candlelight. Since then, that first meal has been honored each year with a Candlelight Dinner. The tradition is observed nationwide and in foreign countries as Rocky Mountain College alumni from far and wide convene for their Candlelight Dinners approximating the atmosphere, if not the menu, from that first supper.
Another more recent, but equally popular, tradition is the Yule Log Dinner and the Lighting of Losekamp. This Christmas ceremony involves the College community in a celebration of the beauty, spirituality, and sentiment of the season.
Since the merge of Intermountain Union College and Billings Polytechnic Institute in 1947, Rocky Mountain College has been fortunate to have the following presidents as leaders:
- William D. Copeland – 1947-1951
- Herbert W. Hines – 1951-1958
- Philip M. Widenhouse – 1958-1966
- Lawrence F. Small – 1966-1975
- Bruce T. Alton – 1975-1986
- James J. Ritterskamp, Jr. – 1986-1987
- Arthur H. DeRosier, Jr. – 1987-2002
- Thomas R. Oates – 2002-2005
- Michael R. Mace – 2005-2012
- Dr. Robert J. Wilmouth – 2013-Present
Rocky Mountain College continues its tradition of joining practical skills and the liberal arts. All the strains of our history are valued as students are prepared to be leaders in the 21st century.
Rocky Mountain College educates future leaders through liberal arts and professional programs that cultivate critical thinking, creative expression, ethical decision making, informed citizenship, and professional excellence.
Rocky Mountain College is affiliated with the United Church of Christ, the United Methodist Church, and the Presbyterian Church (USA). The College is non-sectarian in spirit and program. The College actively upholds the importance of religious faith and the necessity for religious tolerance and free inquiry. It encourages classroom discussion of the religious roots and implications of academic questions whenever relevant. Students are encouraged to develop and/or strengthen their religious beliefs, while the religious convictions and questions of all members of the College community are taken seriously.
Cindy L. Kunz, Administrator
Founded in May of 1990, the Institute for Peace Studies at Rocky Mountain College operates under a 28-member board of advisors, with the administrator and the board chair reporting directly to the Rocky Mountain College Board of Trustees. Its administrator, assisted by part-time staff, workstudies, and community volunteers, works year-round to bring programs like the Festival of Cultures, Peace Village, and "We Are Women" conferences to the region. Outreach includes going into the classroom with Rocky Mountain College's international students and sharing a diversity program and bringing the "Second Step" conflict resolution curriculum to rural and reservation elementary schools. The Institute facilitates an upper-division political science class (Bross Peace Seminar) during each Spring Semester, challenging students to review areas of current conflict and areas where peace has been successfully maintained or restored. Each year, on the stage of the Alberta Bair Theater, the Institute presents the prestigious Jeannette Rankin Peace Award and the Edith Gronhovd Peace Essay Awards and features a noted peacemaker along with outstanding entertainers who come together for an evening titled "In Praise of Peace." The Institute's mission, "seeking through education to explore and promote alternatives to violence in the behavior of individuals, groups, organizations, communities, and nations," continues to attract members from a wide variety of ethnic, political, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Speakers are available, and visitors are welcome. The Peace Institute is located in Alden Hall 103. Contact the Institute via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 406.657.1042.
The campus of Rocky Mountain College occupies approximately 60 park-like acres in a residential section of Billings. Deciduous and evergreen trees, shrubs, and perennials make the campus particularly welcoming.
- Alden Hall, 1937: This attractive stone and stucco building, the gift of the Alden Trust and founded by the late George Alden of Worcester, Mass., served as a residence hall for men until 1973. Currently, it houses faculty offices and the Institute for Peace Studies.
- Anderson Hall, 1970; 1998: Anderson Hall offers traditional residence hall housing for 72 students, with common restrooms, showers, and kitchens. One of the campus' most popular spots, the ASRMC lounge, is located in the basement. The Yoder Lounge, a comfortable space for study, computer use, and relaxation, connects Anderson to Widenhouse Hall. Anderson Hall is named for Lula Anderson, a member of the first graduating class of Billings Polytechnic Institute.
- Aviation Hall, 1989; 2012: This stucco building, located on the corner of Rimrock Road and Augusta Lane, houses the aviation program.
- Bair Family Center for the Sciences, 1981: Named for the family of Montana pioneer and rancher, Charles M. Bair, Rocky Mountain College's major science facility houses the science and mathematics disciplines and is complete with classrooms, laboratories, seminar rooms, and faculty offices. It also houses the nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectrometer. The facility was made possible by a major gift from Alberta M. Bair, daughter of Charles M. Biar, together with gifts from other donors to the Second Century Fund.
- Bair Family Student Center, 1961; 1997: Located in the center of the campus, north of the RMC Green, this structure houses the dining room, snack bar, bookstore, game room, Fraley Lounge, campus mail services, the offices of ASRMC, career services, and the office of the dean for student life. The building has been extensively expanded and remodeled.
- Lillis Chapel, 2007 : Located in the lower level of the Bair Family Student Center.
- Billings Studio Theatre, 1971: This building affords an excellent facility for dramatic productions, as well as a commodious lecture hall, which seats 250. It was built in cooperation with the Billings Studio Theater community drama group.
- Rocky Mountain College Bookstore, 1961; 1997: The College bookstore, stocked to meet students' needs for books and supplies, is located in the Bair Family Student Center.
- Eaton Hall, 1909: Originally known as Science Hall, this building, the gift of a group of pioneer businessmen in Billings, houses administrative offices. The hall is named for the founders of Billings Polytechnic Institute, Lewis T. and Ernest T. Eaton.
- Educational Resource Center, 1958; 1999: This building houses the Paul M. Adams Memorial Library; computer equipped writing, data, and business classrooms; and a distance learning center. The library, now the largest part of the ERC, contains a collection of over 85,000 books and periodicals accessible via the library's computer catalog. The ERC also houses the Alice Giddings King Memorial Archives, the College's heritage archives, and collections belonging to the United Methodist Church and the United Church of Christ.
- Flight Training Operations, 2007: Aircraft with modern navigation and avionics systems provide basic training resources for students. The location at the Billings Logan International Airport provides close access to flight training and Class C airport operations.
- Fortin Education Center, 1969: Fortin Education Center houses several academic programs, a gymnasium, auxiliary exercise areas, a swimming pool, a health suite, a large lecture hall, classrooms, laboratories, and offices for faculty and administrators. It is named for Philip Fortin, a Billings businessman and philanthropist.
- Intermountain Equestrian Center: Located nine miles from campus, Rocky Mountain College contracts facilities that include two large heated indoor arenas, two extensive outdoor arenas, round pens, numerous trails for leisure riding, and top-notch stabling for 75 horses.
- Jorgenson Hall, 1964; 1998: This residence hall consists of 48 apartment units with private entrances. On the west end of campus, Jorgenson is a fine retreat for our upperclassmen, nontraditional and married students, and students with families.
- Losekamp Hall, 1917: This sandstone building, designed in a modified Collegiate Gothic style, was a gift of the late John D. Losekamp, a pioneer merchant of Billings. It houses the music and theatre arts programs and the Ruth and Vernon F. Taylor Auditorium, which is used for drama productions, recitals, and other special events. Losekamp houses studios, practice rooms, and classrooms.
- Morledge Facility Services Building, 2001: This structure, provided by a generous gift from Dr. Charles and Patti Morledge, houses equipment used to maintain the campus buildings and grounds.
- Morledge-Kimball Hall, 1914; 2009: This stone and stucco building, part of which formerly served as a residence hall for women, was named for the principal donors, the Morledge family of Billings, Mont., and the late Mrs. Flora Kimball of Portsmouth, N.H. This lovely facility houses twenty-two faculty offices and seven classrooms.
- Prescott Hall, 1916; 2001: This stone building was erected through the generosity of the late Amos L. Prescott of New York City. The Great Room, a large paneled room with a wood-and-beam ceiling and large fireplaces, is used for special College events. Before 1961 it served as the College's dining hall. Extensive renovations and expansions were completed in fall 2001. It currently houses administrative offices and serves as a gathering place for the campus community.
- Rimview Hall, 2004: Located on the western edge of campus, this residence hall provides 200 private rooms within a suite-style complex (four students with private sleeping quarters per suite). Each suite is equipped with a micro-kitchen and 1.5 baths. Occupancy of this facility is restricted to students with sophomore status or higher.
- Rocky Village, 1973: Rocky Village is a business and housing development on the south campus.
- Technology Hall, 1922: This sandstone structure contains offices, classrooms, an art gallery, art studios, laboratories for the computer science program, and the College's maintenance department.
- Tyler Hall, 1930: This beautiful sandstone building designed in the Collegiate Gothic style is architecturally one of the finest on campus. This gift of Mrs. G.W. Mehaffey of Brookline, Mass., is a memorial to her father, the late W. Graham Tyler. It served until 1971 as a men's residence hall. It now houses faculty offices and facilities for the teacher education program.
- Widenhouse Hall, 1961; 1998: Dedicated in 1973 to the memory of Philip M. Widenhouse, third president of Rocky Mountain College, this residence hall provides traditional and suite-style accommodations for 176 students. Each room has a private bathroom and kitchenette with a refrigerator, sink, and microwave with adjoining storage rooms and personal laundry facilities.
Rocky Mountain College is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities and by the Office of Public Instruction for the State of Montana for the preparation of elementary and secondary teachers. The physician assistant program is accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA), and the aviation program is accredited by the Aviation Accreditation Board International.