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Les Cook

LES P. COOK

In 1900, the first 39 students at the Montana State School of Mines attended classes in Main Hall pursuing degrees in mining or electrical engineering. Funding and land came from the Enabling Act of 1889, which admitted Montana to the Union and allocated 100,000 acres of public land to establish a state school of mines. Today, Montana Technological University offers over forty-five programs on two campuses with an enrollment of over 2,400 students.

As the 12th Chancellor of Montana Tech, I am incredibly proud of our rich history, our legacy, and the impact our graduates have had on the world around us. Likewise, I am incredibly grateful our university is immersed in a community that has had a profound effect on the world and is not only rich with history but rich with pride and people. People who value education; people committed to making a difference; people willing to extend a hand and provide support to those who walk within our halls; and quite simply, people that care.

Since our arrival some five months ago, Steph and I have witnessed countless acts of service, collaboration, and care that make us proud to be Orediggers and most certainly part of Butte, America. We're impressed with the spirit in this community and drive to bring projects to completion such as Stodden Park, and the Spirit of the Columbia Gardens Carousel, the energy and commitment to host events such as "Music on Main," Uptown Butte Art Walk, the Montana Folk Festival and Saturday Farmers' Markets. The local happenings are robust and something to embrace and be proud of.

I'm also grateful to those who have dedicated their lives to Montana Tech and to making sure our students succeed. Community members such as Rod and Mary Lee James, who have welcomed student-athletes into their home for weekly meals for almost 40 years. Father Patrick Beretta, who provides nourishment to both the heart and soul, Tom and Wendy Downey for opening their home for University activities and supporting our international students and Dr. Nick DiGiovine and the team at Montana Orthopedics for working relentlessly to take care of our athletic teams.

Businesses like 5518, Headframe Spirits, Butte-Silver Bow, and many others who not only provide our students jobs while they are here, but personal and emotional support. Health care organizations that provide clinical opportunities for our nursing students, accounting firms offering apprenticeship possibilities for business students, and new partnerships are regularly cultivated as opportunities arise. The Mother Lode Theater, Copper Hill Choir, and other groups who welcome our students with open arms and involve them in their activities and performances as if they were always a part of them.

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Similarly, as a campus, we welcome opportunities to give back to the community. From "Trick or Treat Off the Street" in the residence halls, planting trees on repurposed soils, walking elementary kids to school, and construction students partnering on home builds with Habitat for Humanity. Student-athletes also visit every 4th-grade classroom in Butte as part of their "Tech Way" program, building relationships with elementary students, serving as a positive influence in their lives, and teaching core values such as respect, responsibility, and citizenship.

Montana Tech nursing students volunteer with Hospice, Butte Head Start, Butte Central Health Fair, and the Belmont Senior Center. The Student Nurses Association (SNA) have organized a clothing drive, volunteered for the Special Olympics Health Fair, EMT Memorial Fundraiser, First Aid Station at the Empty Bowl Fundraiser, "Be the match" swab day, and Band-Aid collection for Sacramento. Students also do clinical at the food banks and the Knights of Columbus Free Lunch program working with Butte's homeless population and individuals with food insecurities.

Once they graduate, many of our students continue on this journey as engaged and committed citizens working for employers such as NorthWestern Energy, St. James Healthcare, WET, Pioneer Technical, Kinetic Fitness, Montana Department of Transportation, Montana Precision Products, CCCS, Montana Resources, Town Pump, REC Silicon, Butte-Silver Bow, and many others. In the end, it's about people, it's about a combined mission, it's about what we accomplish together, and the synergies created are significant.

I thank you for rolling with the Diggers and supporting our faculty, staff, and students by wearing Digger gear, flying the Tech colors, and quite simply, showing that you care. There is a sense of delight in the phrase "Butte, America – it's a big damn deal"—the work we do together surely reinforces this. The Butte community is essential for Montana Tech, and Montana Tech is essential for the community. In this time of thanks, I am incredibly grateful to be at this institution and in this community. The future is bright for both, and I'm excited about all of the possibilities as we go forward together.

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Les P. Cook is chancellor of Montana Technological University.

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