About Us

The Wheeler Center is named for the late Burton K. Wheeler, who earned fame as the “fighting progressive” U.S. Senator from Montana from 1923 - 1947. He is best remembered for his epic battle to block President Franklin Roosevelt's attempt to pack the Supreme Court, for his Senate investigation of corruption in the Harding Administration's Justice Department, and for his lifelong defense of civil liberties and his commitment to economic opportunity for all Montana citizens. The Senator passed away in 1975.

Asserting, as did Senator Wheeler, that enlightened discussion of public policy is the cornerstone of our democracy, the Center is the only educational forum in the state where issues that affect Montana and the region are taken up in a regular, systematic and rigorously non-partisan way. Although the Wheeler Center has a close working relationship with Montana State University, it is an independent, non-profit organization, with its own board of directors. The Center depends entirely on private contributions for its programs and administration.

In 1975, the Greater Montana Foundation (GMF) sponsored the first Burton K. Wheeler Memorial Lecture. Ed Craney, pioneering Montana broadcaster and founder of the GMF, enlisted the support of the two eldest sons of Burton K., John and Edward, in producing the first lectures and in the expansion of the lecture series into a more formal public policy center. The Burton K. Wheeler Center was thus established at Montana State University in 1988 under the guidance of historian and then-Academic Vice-President Michael Malone. In 1991, Dr. Malone asked Dr. Gordon Brittan, of the MSU philosophy faculty, to assume the Director's role, a position he held until June 2008. He was succeeded by Dr. Ralph Johnson, Professor of Architecture at MSU.

Friends of The Center
“Senator Wheeler knew full well that good policy doesn't come from one person. Doing what's right for Montana-and America-comes from sharing ideas and information, hearing from all sides, and working together. The Wheeler Center honors that vision. It's a valuable resource for our state.”

-- Montana's Senior Senator Jon Tester
Need more information? wheelercenter@montana.edu