Distinguished Alumni Award

Each Homecoming, the University of Montana Alumni Association honors outstanding alumni with Distinguished Alumni Awards. University alumni and friends are invited to nominate, on an individual basis, a graduate or former student for this award. 

Recipients of the award are individuals who have distinguished themselves in a particular field and who have brought honor to the University, the state or the nation. The University of Montana Alumni Association Board of Directors Awards Committee focuses on career achievement, professional honors, professional membership/directorship, community service and UM or UMAA recognition or service in selecting recipients.

Deadline for nominations are 5 p.m. | Friday, Feb. 21, 2020.

Download the 2020 nomination form.

For questions, contact Jodi Moreau by phone - 877-UM-ALUMS or email jodi.moreau@umontana.edu. 

The Office of Alumni Relations and Alumni Association strongly encourage nominations that reflect the diversity of our alumni.

2019 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients

Daryl Baldwin ’96, M.A. ’99

Daryl BaldwinCultural preservationist and Miami Tribe of Oklahoma citizen Daryl Baldwin has greatly influenced the field of linguistics in his work to revitalize the “sleeping” language of Myaamia.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in wildlife biology from UM in 1996 and a master’s degree in English linguistics with a minor in Native American studies in 1999.

In 2016, Baldwin received a “Genius Award” from the MacArthur Foundation for reviving the Myaamia (Miami) language. Despite the absence of native speakers, he used archival materials and the work of linguistic reconstruction by Dr. David J. Costa and, with the support of his family, raised his four children to speak Myaamia.

Baldwin has served in numerous director, board and advisory positions in organizations seeking to revive other Native languages around the globe, such as the Endangered Language Fund and the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma’s Cultural Resources Advisory Committee. His work with the Myaamia language has set a precedent for archive-based revitalization of “sleeping” languages worldwide and given hope to Native cultures whose languages are in danger of not being passed on or spoken.

Baldwin now is director of Miami University’s internationally recognized Myaamia Center, which he founded in 2001. As director, he leads a group of researchers and educators dedicated to preserving Myaamia language, culture and history.

Baldwin has received multiple grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities for his work on revitalizing endangered languages. He also is co-director of the National Breath of Life Archival Institute for the Indigenous Languages of North America.

Lana Richards Batts ’68

Picture of Lana Richard BattsReferred to as the “Grand Dame of Trucking,” “Queen of the Road” and “One of Trucking’s Best Known and Most Articulate Advocates,” Lana Richards Batts has blazed a trail as a leader in the male-dominated trucking industry.

Batts graduated from UM with a bachelor’s in political science and history in 1968, and she holds a master’s degree in politics and public affairs from the University of Miami.

She began her career at the American Trucking Associations for 20 years and, as senior vice president of government affairs, transformed its large lobbying staff into a powerhouse before becoming president of the Truckload Carriers Association. She served on multiple trucking company boards, government agency advisory boards and professional nonprofit transportation-oriented boards.

In 2003, Batts started her own mergers and acquisition firm, Transport Capital Partners – the first boutique investment trucking firm managed by a woman – and in 2011 co-founded Driver iQ, a fast-growing trucking background screening company.

Batts was the first female and non-multimillionaire to receive the S. Earl Dove Award, the top award of the trucking industry, in 1994. She twice was named Woman of the Year by the Women’s Transportation Seminar. She also became the first female to earn Professional Truck Driver Institute’s Lee Crittenden Memorial Award in 2006.

Still a widely sought-after speaker for the trucking industry, Batts has been featured in and written numerous articles. She also serves on boards outside of transportation, such as the Glacier National Park Conservancy board of directors and the Montana Audubon’s development committee, applying her knowledge gained as a leader to better conservation efforts.

Batts credits her success to receiving her liberal arts education at UM and marrying her college debate partner, Joseph Batts ’68.

Dennis Eck ’67

Picture of Dennis EckDennis Eck has impacted multiple people and organizations throughout Australia and the U.S.

After earning a bachelor’s in history and political science from UM in 1967, he enjoyed a successful grocery retail career.

While at Coles Myer, Australia’s largest retailer, he developed an education program for employees to earn up to a master’s degree, helping more than 10,000 people receive educational knowledge for satisfying full-time work. He also led community outreach programs for high school dropouts in Australia, which had a 90% success rate in returning them to full employment. All received a GED, and many went on to further education.

In the U.S., with Eck’s leadership for Ulta Salon Cosmetics & Fragrance, the company experienced extensive growth to more than $20 billion in market value. It is considered one of the top U.S. companies for women.

Eck is the largest individual shareholder and director of Cellmid, an international Australian-based corporation/biotech accelerator with patents for cataclysmic illnesses cancer, heart inflammation and more, and research conducted globally.

Eck earned the Astute Business Leader of the Year title in 2000 in Australia for his service on numerous business committees in the U.S. and Australia.

Passionate about supporting women in business and politics through causes such as Planned Parenthood and Emily’s List, Eck and his wife, Gretchen, funded a program with the University of California-Irvine to save the hair of women undergoing radical chemotherapy.

At UM, the Ecks have contributed more than $8 million to renovate the Liberal Arts Building with electrical and technology upgrades, student lounge/gathering spaces, a lower-level auditorium theater-style classroom, an accessible elevator and an entrance off the Oval. They have further given back to the University through their Native American Scholarship Fund and the NEW Leadership Program.

Elizabeth “Beth” Schenk ’81

Picture of Elizabeth "Beth" SchenkDuring her 34 years as a nurse, Elizabeth Schenk has led the way in sustainability in health care.

Schenk earned a bachelor’s degree in botany from UM in 1981 and then received a bachelor’s in nursing, a master’s in health care innovation and a doctorate in nursing. Through her work in multiple positions at Providence St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula, she has shown her passion for reducing pollution generated by the health care industry.

Schenk developed one of the first hospital workplace recycling programs in 1992, and, for more than 25 years, spearheaded environmental stewardship efforts at St. Pat’s. Her efforts have saved nearly $1 million annually through staff choosing safer chemicals, diverting landfill waste and conserving energy.

Her work has helped create plans for a reduction in health care pollution within the Providence St. Joseph Health system – the nation’s third largest nonprofit health system employing 40,000 nurses – and the Nurses Environmental Awareness Tool, used across the U.S. and eight other nations.

Schenk is on the board for the international Alliance of Nurses for Healthier Environments, among other professional organizations, and has received many honors, such as Health Care Without Harm’s 2017 Charlotte Brody Award for Nursing Leadership in Environmental Health. She was inducted into the American Academy of Nursing as a Fellow in 2018.

She is a former board member on UM’s Institute of Health and Humanities, a volunteer for many community causes and an assistant research professor at the Washington State University College of Nursing, focusing specifically on environmental stewardship in health care. Schenk also is a founding member of Montana Health Professionals for a Healthy Climate.

Mandy Smoker Broaddus, M.F.A. ’03

Picture of Mandy Smoker-BroadusMandy Smoker Broaddus is an educational advocate for Native Americans, humanities leader, consultant and well-known writer, as well as a member of the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of Montana’s Fort Peck Reservation.

She received her Master of Fine Arts in creative writing at UM in 2003 and also holds degrees from Pepperdine University and the University of California-Los Angeles.

As the director of Indian education for Montana’s Office of Public Instruction for nine years, she earned recognition statewide and nationally for her efforts to implement Indian Education for All across the state and close achievement gaps for American Indian students. In her current role as a practice expert in Indian education, Smoker Broaddus works throughout the Pacific Northwest for education equity and inclusion.

She earned the 2015 National Indian Education Association Educator of the Year award. In 2016, she was inducted into the Lemoore High School Foundation Hall of Fame for her advocacy of Native American education, and President Barack Obama named her to the National Advisory Council on Indian Education.

Smoker Broaddus received the Montana Governor’s Award for Excellence in Performance in 2017, and recently was appointed to serve as one of the state’s two poet laureates for the next two years.

In addition to published articles related to Native American education, she has written a collection of poems titled “Another Attempt at Rescue” and earned a regional Emmy award in 2014 for her work as a writer on the PBS documentary “Indian Relay.”

As the governor’s nominee on the Humanities Montana board of directors, Smoker Broaddus currently advocates for Native projects and partnerships resulting in funding for humanities efforts across all Montana reservations. She often is invited as a keynote speaker and workshop leader across the nation.

The Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients also have their names engraved in bricks on the University's Oval.

Bricks on the Oval