Golden Graduates to be honored during MSU Billings commencement

MSU BILLINGS FOUNDATION NEWS—The MSU Billings Alumni Association launches its first-ever Golden Graduates Alumni Program May 3-4. Alumni who graduated in 1969 or prior will participate in a reunion-based celebration during the university’s commencement weekend.

Twenty-one Golden Graduates will return to their alma mater for the program. These alumni graduated over a span of 30 years – from 1939 to 1969. For the first time in more than five decades for some alumni, they’ll tour the MSU Billings campus, meet the chancellor, and reconnect with classmates.

Montana native Jill (Conwell) Shea is traveling from Tacoma, Washington, for the Golden Graduates program. Shea graduated from then Eastern Montana College in 1967 with a Bachelor of Science in English Education and spent her career teaching in the Tacoma Public School District. Now 74, Shea says she is most looking forward to touring campus, seeing the changes that have taken place, and creating new memories during her visit to Billings. She hopes the experience will help her “feel like a Montanan again.”

“I left Eastern knowing that I was prepared – not once did I ever think otherwise. In the fall of 1967, I walked into a public, inner-city high school in Tacoma to teach junior English, confident that I could and would do what was expected of me,” Shea said. “Montana also prepared me because I felt I could pick myself up by my own bootstraps and do just about anything because I was from Montana.”

On Saturday, May 4, Golden Graduates will meet another alumnus, Carl Ueland, who has been selected as this year’s commencement speaker. Then, in golden regalia, the alumni will participate in the 2019 MSU Billings Commencement Ceremony with the university’s new graduates. Each Golden Graduate will receive a commemorative diploma plaque in recognition of their lifetime achievements since their own graduation.

From the Eastern Montana College of Education class of 1963, alumnus Lloyd Mickelson is another Golden Graduate looking forward to commencement weekend. Mickelson earned a Master of Education in English from EMCOE and taught at Billings Senior High School for 24 years before retiring in 1982.

“I wanted to be a teacher when I was six years old,” said Mickelson. “I always wanted to play school.”

Mickelson hopes to compare notes with alumni who attended during the time he was taking courses and to be part of the ceremonies that celebrate a new graduating class crossing the stage.

“I’m looking forward to all of the activities that are planned, and certainly visiting with and hearing Dr. Edelman’s plans for bettering the education [at MSU Billings]. I firmly believe that he is certainly on the right track,” said Mickelson.

In reflection of their experiences since graduation, both Shea and Mickelson said they are very proud to support MSU Billings today.

“I think it’s important to have a legacy, and this will be part of my legacy to make this contribution to my college,” Shea said.

“To graduate from college, it gives me great pride to still be part of the educational community, to support that community, and to be honored by this institution within that community,” said Mickelson.

The public is invited to a free commencement barbecue on Friday, May 3 from 4-7 p.m. to celebrate the Golden Graduates and the graduating class of 2019. Located at 2615 Virginia Ln. in Billings, the MSU Billings Foundation will host the barbecue, and parking is available in the lot at the corner of Virginia Lane and Rimrock Road.

The MSU Billings Commencement Ceremony at MetraPark on Saturday, May 4 is also open to the public. The ceremony begins at 10 a.m., and admission is free. The Alumni Association is seeking volunteers to assist during commencement. Those interested in volunteering may call (406) 247-5781 for more details.

Additional information about the Golden Graduates Alumni Program is online at msubfoundation.com/golden-graduates, or contact Gillette Vaira, director of Alumni Relations, at (406) 657-2253 or gillette.vaira@msubillings.edu.