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Don Blackketter has been a quiet force, a demonstrably effective leader for Montana Tech, and he will be missed by many in Butte and in the Oredigger community worldwide.

The contribution he has made was particularly evident Friday as he, ConocoPhillips CEO and Tech alum Ryan Lance, and Sen. Steve Daines toured the school’s new Student Success Center. During Blackketter’s tenure, his drive and vision have brought progress and positive change.

The Student Success Center and the Natural Resources Research Center and the University Relations Center are physical manifestations, and significant ones, but his success has also come with a steady hand on the tiller, day-to-day decision-making that has strengthened the school. A perfect example, in our view, is the way Blackketter handled the cheating incident two summers ago that threatened the school’s educational integrity. He was firm, thoughtful, and transparent in his handling of the situation, all of which considerably lessened its long-term effects.

Even as Montana Tech has evolved from a school of mines to a more diversified engineering school to a special-focus institution with a respected nursing school, Highlands College, and more, it has remained true to its roots and sense of place. Montana Tech has always been a beacon of opportunity for Butte, and Blackketter’s leadership has focused that beam all the more brightly on the community. The school’s current “Be the First” campaign is an excellent example – extending a hand to Butte students who have a chance to become their families’ first generation of college graduates. It is a program near to Blackketter’s heart, as he is the first in his family to get a college education.

His leadership has been a significant factor in encouraging transformational gifts from alumni like ConocoPhillips’s Lance, who donated $1 million to the Student Success Center, and Butte’s own Bob Morris, whose $1.5 million gift to fund new electrical engineering labs was announced Friday.

Blackketter and his wife Vicki, who has been active in community affairs, particularly fund-raising for SafeSpace, will both be greatly missed, and we wish them well in their future endeavors.

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