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About The Wheeler Center

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.
In Montana, we understand the importance of working together to do what’s right for our state. The Wheeler Center encourages Montanans to listen and learn from each other so that together we can work toward solutions that help strengthen Montana. I applaud the Wheeler Center for their commitment to preserving these Montana values.
Montana Junior Senator Steve Daines

Open Discussion of Public Policy


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, then in 2013, Dr. Eric Austin, Associate Professor of Political Science became the fourth Executive Director of the Wheeler Center.

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Making a Donation


Although located on the Montana State University campus, The Wheeler Center is 100% privately funded. All of our programs are dependent upon underwriters and people like you who value thorough, intelligent and balanced discussion of our state’s most pressing issues.

All contributions are fully tax deductible

To make a donation by credit card, visit our donation form.
Donate
Or send a check to:
The Wheeler Center
P.O. Box 170590
Montana State University
Bozeman, MT, 59717
Photos by Ashley Mugnier

Board & Staff

Board Members

Chuck Tooley

Chairman
Chuck Tooley retired undefeated as the longest-serving Mayor of Billings, Montana, and went on to lead The Urban Institute at MSU-Billings. His company, Tooley Communications, Inc., offers consulting services in strategic communications and public policy. He was a gubernatorial appointee to the Montana Arts Council and the Montana Human Rights Commission and has served on the boards of the Big Sky Economic Development Authority, Rocky Mountain College, U. S. Conference of Mayors, The Population Institute, and others. A U.S. Army veteran of the Cold War in Europe and the Vietnam War, Tooley speaks widely on citizenship and leadership.

McKee Anderson

Board Member
McKee Anderson, Dillon, MT, is a rancher and President and Executive Director of The Montana Food Distributors Association. He obtained a Business degree from Washington State University, with postgraduate classes in Personnel Management and Statistics. A licensed high time instrument pilot, he is a successful businessman in agriculture, energy production and sales, insurance, and real estate, with continuing interests in managerial finance. His recreational interests include working on the ranch, flying, traveling and hunting.

Robin Wheeler Azqueta

Board Member
Robin Wheeler Azqueta of West Palm Beach, FL, and West Glacier, MT, is the great-granddaughter of Sen. Wheeler. She holds an MBA and is a marketing consultant. She is President and General Manager of Advantage Wireless Communications, Inc. She is married with two young children.

Zach Brown

Board Member
Zach Brown is a Bozeman native and University of Montana graduate. As his day job, he works as a Program Manager for One Montana. Zach also is serving his third term in the Montana Legislature, where his committee work is focused on taxation, natural resource management, and water policy. His background includes leading an immigration reform research project at Georgetown University as a Truman Albright Fellow. He was a Presidential Scholar as an undergraduate at UM, where he also earned two Udall Scholarships and a Harry S. Truman Scholarship. He is the proud uncle of five, partner to Alice, dog-dad to Norman, and an avid big game hunter and fly fisherman.

Eve Byron

Board Member
Eve Byron is an award-winning journalist who spent three decades at newspapers, mainly in Montana and Colorado. Her work included a nine-month stint as the Mike Wallace Investigative Reporting Fellow with the University of Michigan's Knight Wallace Fellows program. She joined the National Institute on Money in State Politics — better known as FollowTheMoney.org — to help implement new communication and outreach activities, including traditional, social, and mixed media. Eve is currently the Public Information Officer for the Montana Historical Society in Helena.

Cathy Conover

Board Member
Cathy has a background in manufactring operations, with both the General Electric Company and Avon Products.  In 1981, she moved from New York City to Montana with her husband and two sons.  She enjoyed a 30 year career with Montana State University.   She served as the director of Labor Relations and Personnel Services, and later University Relations.  As the Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs, she served as the lobbyist and media spokesperson for MSU. University Marketing, Web Communications, Publications, News Bureau and Montana PBS were also in her division.

Cathy has a Bachelor’s degree from Cornell University in Russian Studies and a Masters in Higher Ed from MSU.   She has taught courses in the MSU College of Engineering and the College of Business.

Waded Cruzado

Board Member
Waded Cruzado, Bozeman, MT, serves as the 12th president of Montana State University, a position she has held since January, 2010. In addition, President Cruzado currently serves on the boards of the Higher Education Resource Services (HERS), TIAA-Cref Hispanic Advisory Council, International Student Exchange Program (ISEP), US Bank, as well as the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU).

Lorents Grosfield

Board Member
Lorents Grosfield, Big Timber, MT is a third generation cattle rancher in Sweet Grass County. Water and other Ag issues brought him to politics. He served in the Montana Senate for 12 years, where his chairmanships included the Judiciary and Natural Resources Committees. He enjoys fly fishing and travelling, and recently returned from a 500 mile hike on the Camino de Santiago across northern Spain.

Marc C. Johnson

Board Member
Marc C. Johnson, Manzanita, OR, is the former president of Gallatin Public Affairs and is now “of counsel” to the firm. He is the former chief of staff to Idaho Gov. Cecil D. Andrus, and past president of the Andrus Center for Public Policy at Boise State University. Marc is the author of the widely acclaimed biography, Political Hell-Raiser -The Life and Times of Senator Burton K. Wheeler of Montana, released in 2019.

Bill Jones

Board Member
Bill Jones is a fourth generation rancher from Harlowton. His family's Twodot Land & Livestock Co. was founded in 1908 and is now in its sixth generation of ownership. The former Executive Director of the Gallatin History Museum in Bozeman and Past Governor of the Montana District of Kiwanis, Bill believes that, "Volunteer service is the rent you pay for the space you occupy in your community."

Bill has served on the boards of Humanities Montana, Montana State University President's Advisory Council, Montana Farm Bureau Federation, Montana History Foundation, Museum Association of Montana, Wheatland Memorial Healthcare, Mountain West Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co. and the 6-Mill Levy campaign in 1988, 1998, 2008 and 2018. Bill and his wife Debbie have 3 grown children and 6 grandchildren.

Dave McAlpin

Board Member
Dave McAlpin has spent most of his working career as a public servant. He is presently an Administrative Law Judge serving as the Chairman of the Montana Tax Appeal Board, presiding over tax appeal hearings, testifying before the Legislature, and supervising the agency. Prior to that he was director of the State Crime Laboratory from 2009-2013, and the first Montanan elected to the national board of Crime Lab Directors. McAlpin served three terms in the Montana House of Representatives from Missoula from 2005-2009. During that time, he was a Flemming Leadership Fellow of the Kellogg Foundation, and served on the Reserved Water Right Commission, negotiating water rights on behalf of the state with tribal nations and the Federal government. Prior to that, he was hired by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to lead the smokeless states initiative to prohibit smoking in Montana bars restaurants and public spaces. He was Chief Deputy Clerk of the Montana Supreme Court from 1995-1998, and before that worked as congressional staff in Washington, DC and Montana for Cong. Pat Williams and Sen. Max Baucus. McAlpin has a BA from the University of Montana and grew up on the family dairy farm near Polson.

Bradley Snow

Board Member
Bradley Snow, Livingston, Montana, is a former Wheeler Center board chair and the great-grandson of Senator Wheeler. He teaches history at Montana State University. His book, Living with Lead: An Environmental History of Idaho\'s Coeur d'Alenes, 1885-2011, was published in 2017. Kathryn Morse of Middlebury College wrote: “Bradley Snow presents a case study of the trifecta of American modernity, which allows us to understand modernity at a deep and meaningful level.”

Wayne J. Stein

Board Member
Wayne J. Stein D. ED. Professor Emeritus DNAS/MSU/MONTANA .

Dr. Stein has a 41-year history of working on American Indian Issues, with TCUs, teaching Native American Studies, and researching and writing about TCUs and Native American issues. He is the author or co-author of three books about TCUs and numerous chapters and articles concerning TCUs and Native American Issues. Most recently serves on MSU Presidents Native American Elders Advisory Board, on the American Indian Construction Board and (fall of 2015) he taught at Aaniiih Nakoda College in Ft. Belknap, Mt. as a visiting Professor. He served as Academic Dean for Ft. Berthold Community College in 1977-78, President of Sitting Bull College in 1981-85, and President of AIHEC in 1982-83. Dr. Stein is a member of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa North Dakota.

Kendall Wheeler

Board Member
Kendall Wheeler, Aiken, SC, Palm Beach, FL and West Glacier, MT, is the granddaughter of Sen. B. K. Wheeler, for whom she was named and with whom she enjoyed a special relationship as they shared the same birthday. She started her own small business and ran it successfully for twenty years.

Frederica Wheeler Johnson

Frederica Wheeler Johnson grew up in Washington D. C. and graduated from Vassar in 1963 with a degree in International Relations and a minor in French. She did graduate work in Political Science at the University of Virginia. Frederica worked for the U. S. Department of Commerce for 23 years. She was in Washington from 1972-1973 and 1980-1995, and San Francisco from 1973-1980. During much of that time she served as an International Trade Analyst.

Though she is a Washington D. C. native and currently lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland, Frederica has a long association with Montana, beginning with summers at Lake McDonald. Her grandfather and grandmother, Senator and Mrs. Burton K. Wheeler, were her neighbors in Washington and they took her to Glacier Park with them in 1946.

Frederica has served on the following nonprofit boards: National Society of Colonial Dames, Glacier National Park Conservancy, Montana Outdoor Legacy, Potomac Bridle and Hiking Trails Association and Green Kids Foundation. She is pleased to be nominated for membership on the board of directors of the Wheeler Center.

Ian Snow

Board Member
Ian K. Snow is the chief executive officer and a co-founding partner of Snow Phipps Group, LLC, a private equity firm. Prior to the formation of Snow Phipps in April 2005, Mr. Snow was a managing director at Ripplewood Holdings L.L.C., a private equity firm, where he worked from its inception in 1995 until March 2005. He currently serves as a director of each of the following private companies in which Snow Phipps holds an equity interest: Blackhawk Industrial Distribution, Inc., Brook & Whittle Limited, Cascade Environmental LLC, DecoPac, Inc., ECRM, LLC, Electric Guard Dog, LLC, FeraDyne Outdoors, LLC, HCTec, Inc., Ideal Tridon Holdings, Inc., Kele, Inc. and Teasdale Foods, Inc. From 1996 until 2007, Mr. Snow served as a member of the board of directors of Asbury Automotive Group, Inc. Mr. Snow earned a B.A., with honors, from Georgetown University.

Bruce Whittenberg

Board Member
After 25 years in the newspaper business, including as publisher of the Helena Independent Record, publisher of the Billings Gazette, and National Director of Marketing and Advertising Sales for Lee Enterprises, Inc., Bruce became founding Executive Director of Leadership Montana. He developed a sustainable network of community and business leaders statewide and also directed the Center for Business Enterprise at Montana State University - Billings. Bruce owned Montana Troutfitters in Bozeman from 2005-2010 and since 2002 has provided consulting, planning, organizational development and facilitation services through The Whittenberg Group, Inc. Bruce accepted the Directorship of the Montana Historical Society in 2012 and retired in 2020 after shepherding the new $52.7 million Montana Heritage Center to its launch point.
Bruce’s board leadership includes Humanities Montana, Parmly Billings Library Foundation, Western Heritage Center and Friends of Montana PBS. He was President of the Board of Alberta Bair Theater and currently chairs the Board of Directors of the Myrna Loy Center in Helena. Bruce has two sons, two daughters-in-law and two beautiful grandchildren.

Staff

Dr. Eric Austin

Executive Director
An Associate Professor of Political Science and Coordinator of the Master of Public Administration program at Montana State University, where he teaches courses including public policy, public management, organization theory and administrative ethics. His research focuses on inter and intra organizational processes of decision making in contentious environments, and has appeared in Public Administration and Management, Administrative Theory and Praxis, The Journal of Public Affairs Education and elsewhere. Dr. Austin’s professional career prior to completing his PhD at Virginia Tech included managing program unitis in both public and non-profit organizations. Dr. Austin has and continues to work as a trainer and consultant providing technical support and capacity building for organizations ranging from large, federal agencies all the way down to small, volunteer based non-profits.