Friday, November 16, 2018


Elouise Cobell                Mary Lynn Lukin                      Denise Juneau

They touch every area of the university, ranging from Montana State University’s first female mathematics teacher to one of the country’s first Extension poultry experts to MSU’s first female president. And now the public can know more about the stories of the Extraordinary Ordinary women who have molded the history of MSU with an exhibit at the MSU Library and an expansive website.
The 125 “Extraordinary Ordinary Women” who impacted the university were selected this summer by the MSU President’s Commission on the Status of University Women from nominations submitted by the public is part of the university’s year-long quasquicentennial celebration. Three of those women include Elouise Cobell, Denise Juneau and Mary Lynn Lukin, all hailing from Blackfeet Country.
MSU President Waded Cruzado said the list shines a light of recognition and appreciation on women who have been leaders, problem solvers and innovators throughout the university’s history, whether they were widely recognized or were relatively unknown during their time on campus.
“This list, which is not exhaustive, demonstrates how the pivotal contributions of scores of brilliant MSU women made Montana State the dynamic university it is today. It should also give us inspiration and hope for the future about how the daughters of the land-grant university in the future will excel in everything they do,” Cruzado said.
Rebecca Belou, co-chair of the commission that selected the honorees, said more than 400 nominations poured in from across Montana, recognizing those who have had an impact on the status of women at MSU and inspired others by their example. The 125 honorees were picked from those nominations. Women from every era of the university were represented as well as a diverse representation of race, age and academic or service areas.
The women were honored at a private reception on Nov. 2, and were also introduced at MSU’s home football game on Nov. 3 against Cal Poly.
Nika Stoop, a member of the selection committee, said the accomplishments of the women on the list are truly extraordinary.
“The vast array of these women’s accomplishments is amazing,” Stoop said. “When you read what they have done, it blows you away. I am inspired by this remarkable collection of women.”
Denise Juneau
Denise Juneau’s story takes her from Head Start to Harvard and from being a classroom teacher to a national education leader. Juneau is an enrolled member of the Mandan Hidatsa Tribes and a descendant of the Blackfeet tribe. She received her bachelor’s degree in English from Montana State University and did graduate work at Harvard and the University of Montana School of Law. Juneau worked as a teacher, lawyer and director of Indian education before she was elected Montana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction. She was the first American Indian woman in the country to be elected to an executive statewide office and was named National Indian Educator of the Year in 2009. She launched “Graduation Matters Montana,” an initiative that has increased Montana’s graduation rate to its highest recorded levels. School and business leaders, community members, students and families worked together to improve academic standards, expanding college and career readiness. Juneau was recently selected the new superintendent for Seattle Public Schools.
Elouise Cobell
Elouise Cobell (Niitsítapi Blackfoot Confederacy) was a tribal elder and activist, banker, rancher and lead plaintiff in the groundbreaking class-action lawsuit, Cobell v. Salazar (2009). This challenged the United States’ mismanagement of trust funds belonging to more than 500,000 Native Americans. She pursued the suit from 1996, challenging the government to account for fees from resource leases. In 2010 the government approved a $3.4 billion settlement for the trust case. Major portions of the settlement were to partially compensate individual account holders, to buy back fractionated land interests and restore land to reservations. It also provided a $60 million scholarship fund for Native Americans and Alaskan Natives, named the Cobell Education Scholarship Fund in her honor. The settlement is the largest ever in a class-action lawsuit against the federal government. Cobell also founded  the Blackfeet National Bank, the first national bank located on an Indian reservation and owned by a Native American tribe. In 1997, Cobell won a MacArthur genius award for her work on the bank and Native financial literacy. She donated part of that money to support her class-action suit against the federal government. In 2016, President Barack Obama awarded Elouise the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Mary Lynn Lukin
Mary Lynn Lukin, a member of the Blackfeet Tribe, received her degree in secondary education in 1967 and worked in student services at UCLA for six years before becoming the founding director of a variety of award-winning Montana State University programs that help underserved students including the Advance By Choice program (now known as TRIO). She also directed or coordinated the College of Engineering Minority Program, Minority High School Apprentice Program, the NSF Career Access Mentor Project and the AISES/NSF Young Scholars Program. She served on the steering committee for Women in Science and Engineering. Under her direction, the American Indian Science and Engineering Society received the national chapter of the year award three times. When she first enrolled at MSU, she thought she’d major in microbiology, but learned she didn’t want to work full time in a lab. Her interest in science, however, has endured as she emphasized science programs for Indian students throughout her career. Lukin was named Montana Indian Educator of the Year, received an MSU Alumni Association Blue Gold Award and was also a member of the MSU President’s Council of Elders. Lukin, who retired from MSU in 2005, now lives in her hometown of Browning.
One of Mary Lynn Lukin’s greatest contributions to MSU is that she was a role model for all students, but particularly Native women.

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