February Letter to Alumni from Gillette Vaira

We’re experiencing many firsts as we relaunch the Alumni Association. We’ve helped bring Homecoming back to campus after a decades-long hiatus; we’ve started Buzzin’ Beyond Billings, which brings university leaders, alumni, and students together throughout the state and nation; and we’re unveiling the Golden Graduates Alumni Program, where we’ll honor alumni who graduated 50 or more years ago.

As the Golden Graduates Alumni Program debuts during the 2019 commencement weekend, I’ll be personally celebrating my 10th anniversary as a graduate of MSU Billings. I’m hopeful that the program we’re implementing for the first time this year will exist 40 years from now – when I’ll have the opportunity to participate.

Reflecting on a legacy

Attending college was an expectation in my family. My great-grandma, grandma, and mom all graduated from college before me. And MSU Billings has been the college of choice for several of my relatives. In fact, the first person in my family to attend what was then called Eastern Montana College was my great aunt, Mary Rehbein Lawrence.

The oldest of 15 children, Mary was one to make her own way. She taught in the rural schools in Richland County during World War II, when there was a shortage of teachers. Then, she attended summer sessions at EMC and earned her degrees. Mary went on to teach for 34 years in both urban and rural settings, including the Pine Hills School for Boys in Miles City, St. Labre Mission in Ashland, and Miles Community College in Miles City.

Mary left a legacy – and she did it with a foundation she obtained at our alma mater. Although she passed away at the age of 94 in 2005 – during my first semester at MSU Billings – she would have been a Golden Graduate this year! I have a feeling that she would have proudly worn her golden regalia as she shook our chancellor’s hand. And she would have enjoyed the company of other alumni during the Golden Graduates Alumni Program.

Golden anniversary

If you are a Golden Grad or have a Golden Grad in your life, help us make this program successful. Celebrate your legacy and the legacies of the thousands of alumni who’ve graduated from our great institution. This is history in the making, and you won’t want to miss it.

With enthusiasm,

Gillette Vaira, M.A.
MSU Billings Class of 2009
(406) 247-5781 | gillette.vaira@msubillings.edu