Mike and Donna Ferris

Mike and Donna FerrisFor Mike and Donna (Chalmers) Ferris, it's all about the students. So, when they made the commitment to put MSU in their will, it was an easy decision to give to scholarships. "We wanted to make possible for students the same opportunities that we had," Mike says. "Things were very different when we went to school; 75-80% of college was paid by the state."

Now, students rely much more heavily on scholarship support from generous donors like the Ferrises.

Mike and Donna grew up in Choteau, Montana, and they both graduated in 1968 from Montana State University—Mike with a B.S. in chemical engineering and Donna with a B.S. in microbiology. Mike additionally earned an MBA degree from Wichita State University and has attended the advanced management program at Harvard University.

Donna and Mike began giving to MSU right after they graduated. Even though at the time they couldn't give much, giving back was important. And now, over their more than 50-year giving history to their university, the Ferrises have reached their goal of contributing $1 million to Montana State University.

The Ferrises' incredible goal was accomplished, in part, through their planned gift to MSU in their will. "The gift [in our will] made it a lot easier for us financially to hit our goal for MSU," Mike says.

Leaving a gift in a will is a special way of supporting Montana State. These wonderful donors are members of the MSU Alumni Foundation's 1893 Society. Alumni and friends, like the Ferrises, who have made a planned gift to MSU are dedicated to ensuring MSU's success and are committed to helping the university realize its full potential.

While the Ferrises have supported many areas of the university over the years, their scholarships echo their experiences. They support students in engineering and natural science and Presidential scholars. Growing up with farm backgrounds in Montana, they also felt strongly about supporting Hilleman scholars from Montana.

Dr. Maurice Hilleman, an MSU alumnus, was one of the most respected and important scientists of the twentieth century. His tenacious research and discovery over a 40-year career led to many of the vaccines we use today, improving public health and saving the lives of millions. The MSU Hilleman Scholars Program provides worthy high school graduates from Montana with exceptional financial and academic support throughout their four years at MSU so that they, too, can realize their full potential and actively contribute to their communities.

Mike and Donna own AirWater Technologies in Columbus, Georgia, which they started in 2003. AirWater is a wholesale distributor for air and water conditioning products for home, commercial and industrial applications.

Mike was previously president and CEO of Pioneer Companies Inc. from 1995 to 2002. Pioneer was a public company that manufactured commodity chemicals. Prior to joining Pioneer, he was executive vice president, chemicals, of Vulcan Materials Company. He served for over 25 years in various management positions within Vulcan. He also spent three years with Arthur Young & Company, a public accounting and consulting firm.

Donna and Mike live in Columbus, Georgia. They also have a home in Big Sky, Montana. They have two sons and five grandchildren.

Just like Donna and Mike, you can make education possible for future generations of Montana State students through a gift in your will. Contact Kevin Brown at 406-994-4815 or kevin.brown@msuaf.org to learn more about your planned giving options.

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