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.

This year's Distinguished Alumni Awards recipients will be honored during Homecoming week with an awards ceremony and reception in the University Center Ballroom on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019.

Check back for 2020 nomination information.

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

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

2018 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients

Evelyn Adedoja Yeye Dada  ’83, M.P.A. Public Administration

Picture of Evelyn Adedoja Yeye-Dada

Evelyn Adedoja Yeye Dada of Abuja, Nigeria, began her career as a leader, collaborator and world-changer even before she came to the University of Montana.

As an employee with the New Nigerian Development Company, Yeye Dada became involved in economic development in Africa. From 1973 to 1990, she worked in human resources, finances and administration, serving on several committees as a senior management professional.

During that time, she attended UM as an international student and received her master’s degree in public administration in 1983.

After a brief period with the U.S. Peace Corps and the British Council, Yeye Dada worked at the United Nations for 20 years – from 1994 to 2014 – serving with the U.N. Children’s Fund Nigeria for 13 years and then the Food and Agriculture Organization.

With the FAO, she has worked in several countries throughout Africa, the Middle East and Europe, including at headquarters in Rome to help pioneer the Global Resources Management System initiative. Before her retirement, Yeye Dada was promoted to National Officer Grade C.

A lifelong leader, Yeye Dada continues to serve with the U.N. after retirement. In the last three years, she has traveled to the United Arabs Emirates and Ethiopia.

She also contributes to economic development within her hometown of Egbe, Nigeria, such as helping with the Egbe Air Strip project and distributing free Bibles, and she received a merit award from the king of Egbe in 2016 for her contributions.

Yeye Dada stays connected with UM and Missoula, and the school has honored her late daughter, Grace Adeogun – also an alumna – with a Memorial Brick on campus.

Paul Lewing ’69, B.F.A., '72, M.F.A. Art

Picture of Paul Lewing

Paul Lewing of Shoreline, Washington, followed his childhood dream of becoming an artist straight to the University of Montana, where he received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in art. He has worked as a professional artist since.

After graduation in 1972, he moved to Seattle, first making pottery and then working in ceramic tile beginning in 1986. He has been commissioned for more than 1,000 custom projects for clients all over the United States and the world, including by dignitaries in Sweden and Japan.

Lewing has painted numerous murals and presented seminars and workshops in every U.S. state and Canada. He is known for using the ancient technique of china painting with vivid color and has written two books on it, “China Paint and Overglaze” and “Water-Based Mediums for China Painting.”

His collections are in institutions ranging from the Seattle Art Museum to Providence Hospital in Washington to the Igneri Talleres Foundation in the Dominican Republic. He has served as president of both the Washington Potters’ Association and Northwest Designer-Craftsmen, and he is a member of the Studio Potter Network National Advisory Board.

Some of Lewing’s works include large tile murals for churches, colorful tub and shower wall tiles of ocean life, and painted tiling ranging from landscapes to portraits to wildlife.

A respected member of the art world, Lewing has served as juror at fairs and conventions throughout Washington and authored numerous articles. He also has taught art and ceramics to thousands of students.

William Marcus ’74, B.A. Radio/Television

Picture of William Marcus

William Marcus of Missoula began his radio-television career at the University of Montana and never left it. For four decades, he has captivated viewers and listeners with stories from around the state.

Marcus came to UM from the small, rural community of Wibaux, Montana, and graduated with his degree in journalism and radio-television in 1974. His start in radio began with a part-time student job with KUFM and then as a production assistant for Montana Public Radio in 1975. 

Marcus helped develop MontanaPBS before public television existed in Montana and bridged the divide between UM and MSU to deliver programming across the state. As director of Montana Public Radio/MontanaPBS and UM’s Broadcast Media Center, he worked with the School of Journalism to bring student work on air.

Marcus’ “Backroads of Montana” series has received numerous awards for highlighting the people and traditions of Montana, and he has earned four regional Emmy awards as an executive producer for the documentaries “Sun River Homestead,” “Evelyn Cameron: Pioneer Woman Photographer,” “Bicycle Corps,” and “For this and Future Generations.”

In 2010, his documentary “Night of the Grizzlies” had the most viewers of any Montana public television program. Other stories have focused on Indian girls’ basketball, cannabis, back-country outfitting and most recently, C.M. Russell.

In 2007, Marcus won a Governor’s Humanities Award from the Montana Committee for Humanities, as well as cultural achievement and distinguished administrative service awards upon his retiring in 2015.

He still serves as an active volunteer with MontanaPBS, Montana Public Radio and the Montana Arts Council.

Sara Peck ’66, B.A. Education

Picture of Sara Peck

Interested in oceans at an early age although she had never seen one, Sara Peck of Lakeside came to the University of Montana for a degree in zoology. Instead, she received one in education, and her life’s work has become a perfect combination of the two.

After graduating in 1966, Peck taught at Paxson Elementary and then moved to Hawaii, where she became passionate about coral reefs ecosystems while working at the Waikiki Aquarium.

Back in Montana, she started Ed-U-Dive Inc. to bring marine life study tours to multiple aquariums and museums, with clients from the Monterey Bay Aquarium to individual groups from Apple. She led tours to coral reefs all over the world.

Upon returning to Hawaii, at Kona, Peck established a charter school focused on science and technology at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii, and she became education specialist for the University of Hawaii. In her popular program, high schoolers learn everything they can about an ocean animal or plant to teach grade schoolers. She received a master’s degree in education from Heritage College in 1997.

A Hawai’i Sea Grant Extension Agent, Peck has published a long list of articles on marine science and wildlife. Her many volunteer efforts have established programs to protect the reefs surrounding Hawaii and provided educational resources for groups all around the world that monitor and preserve marine life.

She has received many grants and awards for her work by the State of Hawaii and several foundations, including the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Sheila Skemp ’67, B.A. History

Picture of Sheila Skemp

From outstanding history student leader at the University of Montana to well-known history professor and scholar, Sheila Skemp of Oxford, Mississippi, has become a groundbreaker in her field.

Skemp earned her undergraduate degree in history from UM in 1967, and she received a doctorate from the University of Iowa in 1974. She has taught for more than 40 years, rising from temporary visiting professor to full professorship at the University of Mississippi.

She taught at Ripon College, Western Connecticut State College, University of Iowa and University of Mississippi, winning outstanding teaching awards in 1985, 1990 and 2009. She also has authored numerous articles and six books on the Colonial and Revolutionary periods in American history.

Skemp’s works often focuses on unexplored areas of history. An expert on the little-known William Franklin, Benjamin Franklin’s illegitimate son and a British loyalist, she wrote “Benjamin and William Franklin: Patriot and Loyalist, Father and Son” and “William Franklin: Son of a Patriot, Servant of a King.”

Skemp is lauded as a community-builder and mentor by colleagues at Stanford, Princeton, University of Michigan, Fordham and more. After her dissertation adviser’s untimely death, she finished his work on “The Colonial Metamorphoses in Rhode Island.” She has presented around the country, from Alabama to New York.

Skemp became the Clare Leslie Marquette Chair in American History at the University of Mississippi in 2008 – its highest distinction possible. She has returned to UM to serve on the Alumni House of Delegates and attends Homecoming almost every year.

Watch the video of the 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award ceremony

Still capture from 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award ceremony showing President Seth Bodnar and sign language interpreter

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

Bricks on the Oval