Celebrating 30 years of MSU Billings Foundation Wine & Food Festival

Jeanne Moller, Senior Development Officer

MSU BILLINGS NEWS—Talk with anyone around town about the MSU Billings Foundation’s Wine & Food Festival and undoubtedly, the name Jeanne Moller will come up. Her name is synonymous with the premier event that spans three decades. As she nears retirement, ending her long reign of the festival this spring, we will miss her, and we thank her for her many years of service and dedication to raising dollars for students at MSUB. But before we bid her farewell, let’s take a step back to how Moller rose to the top, heading up the wine festival.

Moller, a Billings native, spent her high school years at Billings Central before making her way to Eastern Montana College, now known as MSU Billings. She graduated in 1984 with a degree in business administration with an emphasis in marketing. Soon after college, she worked in business development and Leadership Billings programs for a decade with Forward Billings Economic Development Council, which later merged with the Chamber of Commerce.

Fast forward to the end of 1994 when Moller would step into a new career with the MSU Billings Foundation. The idea of serving the university that served her was only the beginning of what would now be her life-long career. During the first several years at the Foundation, Moller was responsible for the Wine & Food Festival, which at the time was still in its infancy. She was also responsible for the Alumni Association and worked on several special events for campus. As the festival grew, her job evolved into focusing exclusively on the Wine & Food Festival. “When I first started, I mostly observed my predecessor, and it was then that I developed a love for what the event is all about—helping students get a college degree,” said Moller.

In 1995, the opportunity came to take on the festival full-time, and that was when Moller jumped at the chance with enthusiasm and passion to serve the students at MSUB. “As a graduate, I had a vested interest in the university, and I wanted to make a positive impact in the lives of students on campus,” said Moller. Little did she realize how much the festival would evolve into the magnitude it is today. Never one to toot her own horn, Moller gives all the credit to the countless volunteers that came alongside her these many years to help carry the wine fest torch. “I never could have done it without the help of all the volunteers. This is a big responsibility, and it takes a village to let it all come together. Although I take great pride in my work, yet it’s not me, but our volunteers are the ones that make the event what it has grown into today,” she added.

When she retires this year at the end of June, Moller said it will be bittersweet because, on the one hand, she will miss all the volunteers, some of whom are family members she jokingly said she recruited over the years. On the other hand, she will see some of them as she has developed some life-long friendships along the way. “I feel so fortunate to have the friends I do, many I got to know working on the wine fest. They made my work enjoyable and easier,” she said.

“Although I have only worked directly with Jeanne at the Foundation for five months, I have always admired her work with the Wine & Food Festival through the years I spent on campus. She will be the first to give all the credit to everyone around her, which certainly is appropriate since it takes many wonderful people and volunteers to pull off this signature event. I am proud of how she humbly and gracefully manages it all and leads the charge to bring it all together. Many, many students will feel the impact of Wine & Food Festival scholarships for years to come, and I want to thank Jeanne for her role in that and congratulate her on a job well done. We wish her all the best in retirement,” said President & CEO of the MSU Billings Foundation, Krista Montague.

As she passes on the baton and moves to a new chapter of her life, Moller said she is grateful for the opportunity to serve and support the students at MSUB. She said her philosophy has always been to live the Golden Rule: “I try to treat others the way I would like to be treated. I always look for ways I can be of help to someone, whether it is to buy books for a student or raise money for college, I always look for ways I can serve others and contribute to the betterment of their lives.”

As preparation for the 30th Anniversary gets underway, Moller is in high gear for what will be her final event. “I always enjoy my job, and although I will miss the fun of doing it, I am looking forward to retirement. It’s time,” said Moller sheepishly. In the meantime, Moller and her team are hard at work getting everything ready for the big celebration, which will take place in the Montana Pavilion at MetraPark.

Purchase your ticket to the 2022 Wine & Food Festival. For more information about this story, contact Patricia Malia at pat.malia@msubfoundation.com.