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MSU, Montana State University

New West Daily Roundup for May 13, 2016

Today in New West news: Montana State University receives $8 million pledge from Greg and Susan Gianforte, Pleasant Revolution bike/music tour planned for Pacific Northwest/California, and Denver-area housing development sells final unit after 58 years.

Montana State University recently announced that Greg and Susan Gianforte (of the Gianforte Family Foundation) has pledged $8 million in funds, to be paid over the course of five years, to support several on-campus initiatives. Here’s the full breakdown:

• $5 million will fund an endowment for the MSU College of Engineering’s Computer Science Department.
• $2 million will support the South Campus construction initiative.
• $1 million will go toward general support of the department.

Further, at a meeting scheduled in Havre later this month the Montana Board of Regents will decide whether to name the Computer Science Department the Gianforte School of Computing. The move will likely attract controversy as Gianforte is currently stumping to be the Republican nominee for the gubernatorial election this November. From the Bozeman Daily Chronicle:

Gianforte’s campaign spokesman, Aaron Flint, said the gift is not related to Gianforte’s campaign and directed questions to the university.

The donation agreement stipulates that the department will be renamed the Gianforte School of Computing, a change supported by the school’s Commemorative Tributes Committee and MSU President Waded Cruzado.

The purpose of the gift, the agreement reads, is also to “provide support for the Dean of Engineering, the director of the school and the school.”

MSU spokesman Tracy Ellig said the Gianfortes had been discussing a major gift to MSU for four years.

Their interest in the naming rights followed the university’s recent decision to upgrade the computer science department into a school.

Ellig also said the university does not consider politics when accepting money.

“Our doors are open to students of all political persuasions. Our doors are open to donors of all political persuasions,” he said. “It has to be that way.”

This is not the first donation the Gianforte Foundation has made to MSU. They previously donated $1 million to the computer science program in March 2015.

Gianforte previously made his name in 1997 as the founder of RightNow Technologies, a Bozeman-based customer relationship management software company; RightNow went public in 2004 before being sold for $1.5 billion in 2011.

Gianforte (along with his wife Susan) founded the Gianforte Family Foundation in 2006, an organization geared toward supporting “the work of Christian organizations engaged in education, poverty, and outreach work.” Among the organization’s noteworthy contributions: several universities (including Cornell and Montana State), Gallatin Valley YMCA, the Heritage Foundation, Christian Media Ministries, and Bozeman’s Grace Bible Church. In 2009, the Gianforte Family Foundation helped fund a $1.5 million creationist dinosaur museum in Glendive, Montana.

As a candidate, Gianforte previously drew controversy for saying Facebook had passed over Montana for a data center due to the state’s business equipment tax. Facebook disputed Gianforte’s claim, saying they were still considering Montana (alongside other states) for a business site.

Over in the Pacific Northwest, a rather unique music festival circuit has been planned throughout summer 2016. Pleasant Revolution, a group of musicians and cycling enthusiasts, will start in Vancouver, British Columbia and pedal down through Seattle, Oregon, and California, ending in the Bay area (named performance locations currently include Salt Spring Island, Victoria, Seattle, Bellingham, Olympia, Astoria, Portland, Eureka, Arcata, Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Santa Cruz, and the Bay area). Performers include Latin circus funk band Bicicletas pour la paz (Bicycles for Peace), folk artist Heather Normandale, and a host of other artists. Further, Pleasant Revolution has an Indiegogo campaign to help fund the tour.

What makes the Pleasant Revolution festival unique is the fact that it will be entirely off the grid. But not electricity-free. No: all the sound amplification will be provided by stationary bicycles running in tandem—a practice rooted in the festival’s mission statement. From a Pleasant Revolution press release:

The mission of the Pleasant Revolution is to inspire cooperative community effort through music and through the collective effort of the audience producing the show’s electricity on bikes! This tour will be hauling all of their gear on bike, no “sag wagon” required. The impact of this project is not just about showcasing good music and sustainable technology; it is to inspire and empower creative minds to think outside the box and realize the power that exists in community.

Finally, according to the Denver Business Journal, Koelbel and Co, a Denver-area company, just sold the last house in their master-planned community. What makes this achievement special is the fact that the development has been ongoing since 1958, when Walter “Buz” Koelbel started work on a 500-acre parcel at Sheridan Boulevard and West Quincy Avenue. From the DBJ:

“In a fast-paced market, where Denver is now ranked as the best place to live in the nation, this milestone is a reminder of not how fast, but how slow and deliberate the process of developing urban land can be,” Koelbel said.

“My father always said that patience is genius, which became one of the company’s credos, and this landmark moment is certainly the manifestation of that mantra.”

Koelbel was founded as a residential brokerage company in 1952 and grew to become a full-service real estate company with properties in Denver, Louisville and Eagle County.

The company is also involved in the development of Catalyst, a health care-technology-focused co-working project in Denver’s River North neighborhood, The Preserve at Greenwood Village, a master-planned community and workforce and senior housing developments.

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