29th annual Wine & Food Festival nets $300K

Surprise $100K scholarship match is a highlight of the evening

Billings, Mont. (Oct. 7, 2021) – The MSU Billings Foundation celebrated the 2021 Wine & Food Festival Saturday, Sept. 25, marking its 29th year of world-class cuisine, fine wine, live and silent auctions, and more – and raising nearly $300,000 (net) in support of student scholarships.

“Scholarships give students the freedom to pursue their studies in-depth and explore their full intellectual potential,” said featured student speaker James Unzaga. The chemistry major is a 2021 recipient of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and will soon pursue a doctorate in biomaterials science. “Tonight’s Festival is what started it all for me. I owe you a tremendous debt of gratitude for giving me the future my mother always hoped I’d have. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you.”

Unzaga’s inspiring words prompted the 400 attendees to raise their bid cards again and again. The high point of the evening was the announcement of a $100,000 matching gift from the David Johnson Trust in support of Yellowjacket Access Scholarship.

“Donor support changes our students’ lives and ultimately changes our community, state, and the world for the better,” said President & CEO Bill Kennedy. “David’s generosity not only puts us halfway to goal on our Yellowjacket Access Scholarship project, but he’s also issued a good-hearted challenge to other donors. Let’s step up for students and make an MSU Billings education possible.”

The Yellowjacket Access Scholarship is a retention initiative that strategically targets students whose persistence is most impacted by financial need. The Foundation aims to raise $200,000 — that’s 200 students who will be $1,000 closer to crossing the finish line, diploma in hand.

With its inception nearly 30 years ago, the Wine & Food Festival firmly planted its roots in volunteer-led fundraising. Typically held in May and marked by a week-long festival, the 2021 fundraiser was rescheduled to fall and consolidated to a single evening because of COVID-19 concerns.

“The past year has been a challenge for everyone, but our long-time volunteers created a breath-taking gala experience,” said Senior Development Officer Jeanne Moller. “We are humbled by our volunteers’ enormous sacrifices every year to improve students’ lives at MSU Billings.”

Planning is underway for the 2022 Wine & Food Festival commemorating the signature fundraiser’s 30th anniversary with a week of wine, food, and fellowship from May 9-14, 2022.

To get involved or learn more about Wine & Food Festival, visit msubfoundation.com/wine-foodor contact Senior Development Officer Jeanne Moller.