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George Dennison, former President of the University of Montana, dies

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George Dennison spent part of his life as the President of the University of Montana.

Dennison retired from the university in 2010 after serving as president for 20 years.

Dennison oversaw sustained growth at the university. UM’s enrollment increased from just over 10,000 in 1990 to almost 15,000 in 2009. He oversaw fundraising for the construction and remodeling of numerous campus facilities while the university’s endowment grew from $17.3 million to $120 million.

“George was not only our longest-serving president, he was among our finest,” interim UM President Sheila Stearns said in a statement. “With his expansive vision, tenacity and optimism, he seemed to think the University of Montana could take over the world. That confidence was always half-scary and completely contagious. The University of Montana has lost a wonderful champion, and I’ve lost a dear friend.”

Dennison was born in 1935 in Buffalo Hart, Illinois, and his family moved to Montana the next year. He graduated from Flathead County High School in 1953 and served in the U.S. Navy from 1953-57. He married Jane Schroeder in 1954.

George Dennison
Tom Bauer, The Missoulian via APIn a May 5, 2010 photo, University of Montana President George Dennison talks during an interview in his office at the University of Montana in Missoula. Former University of Montana President Dennison died Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017, due to complications from non-Hodgkins lymphoma, the school announced. He was 81.

He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history from the University of Montana in the early 1960s and a doctorate at the University of Washington in 1967.

Dennison’s career took him to stops at the University of Arkansas and the University of Washington. He then worked 18 years at Colorado State University in positions ranging from assistant professor to associate academic vice president and director of admissions and records. He served as provost and vice president for academic affairs at Western Michigan University for three years before taking the job at UM.

In a farewell message for UM’s Montanan magazine, Dennison wrote: “I have enjoyed every moment of the time I have had the privilege to serve as president of my alma mater.”

He is the author of two books: “The Dorr War: Republicanism on Trial, 1831-1861″ published in 1976 and Montana’s Pioneer Naturalist: Morton J. Elrod,” which was published in September.

Dennison is survived by his wife of 62 years, Jane, and two sons: Robert, a retired teacher and coach in Tecomseh, Kansas, and Rick, the offensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos, along with seven grandchildren and a great-grandson.

A celebration of Dennison’s life will be held in May.

The Denver Post contributed to this story.

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