Montana State University nursing students gather outside a tent before a press conference announcing a $101 million philanthropic gift given to the MSU College of Nursing on Monday. MSU says the donation will be the “largest gift to a university nursing program in U.S. history and the largest philanthropic gift in Montana history.”

MSU announces huge gift to College of Nursing

BOZEMAN – Montana State University announced a philanthropic gift of $101 million for its College of Nursing from Mark and Robyn Jones, founders of Goosehead Insurance Inc., as they seek to help address one of the most defining challenges of our time — access to health care, particularly for rural and frontier communities.

This gift — the largest ever given to a college of nursing in the U.S. — will:

Provide funding for new facilities at each of the MSU College of Nursing’s five campuses in Bozeman, Billings, Great Falls, Kalispell and Missoula equipped with modern classrooms and state-of-the-art simulation labs, where nursing students will hone their critical thinking and practice their skills.

Establish five endowed faculty professorships — the first in the history of the MSU College of Nursing. These endowed professorships will position MSU to attract top faculty talent during a nationwide nursing faculty shortage.

Develop an endowed scholarship fund that will allow the MSU College of Nursing to keep the cost of nursing education affordable for all students.

Create Montana’s only certified nurse midwifery program, preparing doctoral level nurses who will significantly increase the number of specialized maternal health care providers capable and willing to provide services to rural and remote communities in Montana.

“This is a significant moment for MSU, as we estimate we will now be able to meet the state’s projected shortfall in baccalaureate-level registered nurses by 2030,” added MSU College of Nursing Dean Sarah Shannon.

“Whether in our community or our business, we’ve always believed that people come first,” said Mark Jones. “Montana holds a special place in our hearts, and we look forward to working with the MSU College of Nursing to help transform the health care community here and nationwide.”

Western Montana sawmill closing

MISSOULA (AP) — A western Montana sawmill is closing this fall, putting 99 people out of work when they finish processing its remaining log supply, likely by mid-November.

Idaho Forest Group officials notified employees at the St. Regis mill of the decision on Monday. The Coeur d’Alene-based company bought the St. Regis mill in 2017.

“We made some investments back in January 2020, but it’s not cost-competitive with any of our newer mills,” said Tom Schultz, an IFG vice president. “When the market went up, we were able to mask some of the issues we were facing.”

With lumber prices returning to normal, the mill cannot operate without losing money right now, he said.

The St. Regis facility has failed to meet production goals due to outdated equipment and difficulty finding workers, Schultz said.

The mill produces construction lumber, such as 2x4s and 2x6 studs. The closure will also affect loggers, truckers and other contract workers.

The Idaho Forest Group has 40 job vacancies in Idaho, so some employees would have the opportunity to relocate, Schultz said. The company will also help employees with job fairs, resume writing assistance and interview coaching.

Idaho Forest Group owns six lumber mills and is building a sawmill in Mississippi.

Sun Road reservations end after Labor Day

WEST GLACIER (AP) — Glacier National Park is ending its reservation requirement to travel on the Going-to-the-Sun Road after Labor Day as the busy summer season winds down.

The reservation system has been in place for anyone wanting to travel on the scenic highway since May 28. Reservations were required between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m.

The pilot program testing the reservation system worked to alleviate traffic, but park officials said some people struggled to find available tickets.

The park’s shuttle service will also end after Labor Day.

1 person killed in mobile home fire near Arlee

ARLEE (AP) — A man died in a weekend mobile home fire near Arlee, Lake County officials said.

The Arlee Volunteer Fire Department responded to a report of a house fire at 8 a.m. Saturday.

The victim’s body was removed from the house and was taken to the state crime lab in Missoula for autopsy to confirm the man’s identity and cause of death, Sheriff Don Bell told KERR-AM.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.