Impact of Giving: Connie Landis
Connie Landis had a genuine heart, a listening ear, a gentle touch, and an encouraging voice. Her laugh was infectious, often triggered by her wicked sense of humor. She had an adventurous spirit and an artist’s eye. These are the brushstrokes with which she painted life.
She had a passion for all things art. To this passion Connie devoted herself, first teaching as a roving elementary art teacher in Wisconsin, then moving to Billings where she taught high school art at Billings West High School.
“She always felt art was the neglected step-child, in a sense, compared to math or science. And she felt that art was extremely important to all people, not just those talented at it. Art is for everybody,” recounted husband Bob.
In 1978, Connie became a professor at Eastern Montana College (now Montana State University Billings) teaching both in the art and education departments. “She wanted to teach higher education, so the two worked together – EMC and her desires,” said Bob. At 44 she earned a doctorate in art education at the University of Wisconsin which prepared her to teach future elementary teachers and art majors how to teach art. Her passion was then magnified many times.
“It opened her eyes to art education at a higher level,” said Bob. In her 36 years at MSU Billings, Connie earned multiple teaching awards and became the chair of the art department. In the classroom Dr. Landis insisted on projects relevant to the young teacher’s needs. She also insisted that written work must not only have content but also be grammatically correct. She mixed her high expectation with a good deal of fun, believing learning goes best when one can enjoy the experience.
Across the years, Connie touched the lives of so many – the students she was honored to teach, the teachers she was privileged to mentor, the friends she treasured, and the family she loved.
“The scholarship was her idea. When we wrote out our wills ten years ago that was a very important part of it,” remarked Bob. “Connie was interested in continuing education at every level, whether it was elementary, secondary, or college. The scholarship is a way of helping young people become like her – to become teachers and to help spread art.”
In August 2015, Connie was stolen by cancer.
In her memory and in fulfillment of her last great work, her husband Bob established the Connie Landis Memorial Scholarship Endowment at Montana State University Billings to provide financial assistance to art and elementary education majors for years to come. The first scholarship was awarded for academic year 2016-2017.
A quote, attributed to Edgar Degas, a French painter and one of the founders of Impressionism, states, “Art is not what you see, but what you can make others see.” Connie showed the ’Jacket Family a world made vibrant by inclusiveness, access, and encouragement. The Landis’ gift will color the lives of educators and artists for generations.