MSUB Outstanding Alumni honored during March 24 gala
Awards recognize accomplishments of alumni who use education to excel and lead. Cost is $40 per person, or $400 for a table of eight.
Sarah Brockel, Alumni Relations, 247-5780
University Relations, 657-2266
MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — Montana State University Billings Alumni Association will honor six of its leading graduates during the 35th annual Outstanding Alumni Awards.
The alumni awards gala is set for 6 p.m., March 24, at the Northern Hotel. Cost is $40 per seat or $400 for a table of eight.
The gala recognizes the accomplishments of alumni who have used their education to excel professionally, provide inspirational leadership to others, and provide service for the benefit of MSUB and the community.
Past recipients of these awards have included persons who have exhibited unusual courage, creativity, perseverance, originality of competency in their chosen field; raised the quality of life for others; contributed to and promoted the advancement of higher education; or distinguished themselves as leaders in their profession or area of interest.
This year’s award recipients are:
Dr. Gregory Anderson, Distinguished Alumnus. Dr. Gregory Anderson received his bachelor’s degree in Human Services from then-EMC in 1987, a master’s degree in Education from the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse, and a Doctor of Philosophy from Kent State University. Dr. Anderson is a Regional Vice President at Salesforce Corporation, a Fortune 500 company. His career has been in the software industry including Oracle Corporation. An active community volunteer and leader, Anderson has devoted years of service to YMCA in multiple roles including Board Member and Chairman, Louisville Rotary, and the Louisville Library Board, to name a few of the organizations he is active with. Anderson is a father of three who lives in Louisville, Ohio with his wife. Dr. Anderson embodies the spirit of this award through his distinguished personal, professional and civic contributions that have brought honor and pride to the University Community.
Kay L. Berry, Merit Medallion Award. This award honors those dedicated to the advancement of education. Kay Berry graduated from then-EMC in 1983 with a bachelor’s in Elementary Education and Special Education. She remained in Billings after graduation where she served as a life-long educator until her retirement in 2015. In her roles as an educator, she has influenced the lives of countless children and impacted youth and adults later in her career as a Behavior Specialist and Elementary Program Specialist. In addition to being a beloved educator, Berry is an active community volunteer with Junior League, MSU Billings Wine and Food Festival, and Billings Preservation Society to name a few of the civic organizations she gives her time to.
This year three alumni will receive an Exceptional Achievement Award for their distinguished work, bringing pride and recognition to the University community.
Maria Elena Beltran, Recognition for Exceptional Achievement. Maria Beltran received a bachelor’s in Secondary Education with Spanish specialization from then-EMC in 1986. She came from humble beginnings, as the daughter of migrant workers yet she is a self-made success, teaching herself English in grade school, dropping out at 13 years of age, and later enrolling in college in the 1970’s as a non-traditional student while raising a family of her own. Beltran continued her higher education after life at EMC and received her law degree from the University of Montana in 1999. As a Poverty Law Attorney, she has worked to improve the lives of migrant and seasonal farmworkers, served the Hispanic community across the state of Montana, and advocated for a multitude of underprivileged people for over 27 years. Beltran is married and resides in Huntley, Montana.
Durden completed his bachelor’s degree as a double major in Art and Communication Arts in 1984 from then-EMC. He continued his higher education at MSU Bozeman, receiving a Master of Fine Arts degree from MSU Bozeman in 1990. He has devoted his life to the arts, as both a college instructor and museum curator with over 35 years’ experience. During his career, he has curated over 100 art exhibitions and authored over 40 publications. As a Billings native, Durden has been active in giving back to our community devoting his time and expertise to MSU Billings, Montana Art Gallery Directors Association, Northcutt Steele Gallery, Boys and Girls Club, and ZooMontana.
Vergara completed his Master’s degree in Sport Recreation and Fitness Management from MSU Billings in 2011. Dedicated to continual growth and improvement, Vergara holds additional degrees with a Bachelor’s in Education from Black Hills State University and a Master’s in Educational Leadership from Rocky Mountain College. His passion for education and athletics is evident throughout his educational and professional careers. In Vergara’s current position at Elder Grove School in Billings, Montana, he wears multiple hats as Assistant Principal, Activities Director, and Health Enhancement Teacher. He remains involved with MSUB and serves as a part-time faculty member in Health and Human Performance during the summer. In his short time at Elder Grove School, Vergara has been instrumental in developing new athletic programs, creating a booster club, bolstering school and community support of the athletics programs, and garnered media attention for fundraising efforts to build a football field and improve the offering of programs at the school.
Rust earned his Master’s degree in Education, Teaching as a Second Career in 1999 from MSU Billings. Prior to becoming a Yellowjacket alumnus, he received his Bachelor’s degree in History from University of Minnesota in 1992 and a Master’s degree in History from University of Denver in 1995. He continued his education and completed his Doctorate of Philosophy in Archaeology and Ancient History from University of Leicester in 2006. He has dedicated his professional career to MSUB serving in various roles as a faculty member, teacher, and department director students for over 18 years. Rust’s commitment to excellence is evident not only in his classes and engaged students, but in the research and service he conducts on behalf of the university, with emphasis on Lewis and Clark Expedition, community involvement in Billings and southern Montana, service learning and civic engagement. Rust is married to Aimee and they live in Billings. This award was created to honor alumni who dedicate their professional lives as employees of MSU Billings in the spirit of Chancellor Ronald P. Sexton’s commitment to access, excellence and student success.
For more information about the awards and the Alumni Association, visit msubillings.edu/alumni/.