By Martin J. Kidston
by Martin J. Kidston
The Havre Daily News
Wednesday, May 5
Ever since the state university system consolidated college campuses across the state, Montana State University-Northern has had an identity crisis, so to speak.
What was once known as Northern Montana College now bears the name MSU-Northern, simple enough. But to first-time visitors to the Havre-based campus, there may be a matter of confusion. There are two signs bearing two different names, each representing one school. One is old, while the other is new, and both are in conflict side by side on the east end of the schools entrance along Cowan Drive.
The answer seems simple. Remove the sign bearing the old name and bolster the new. After all, the times have changed and so should the signs. But intentions of doing so have met with surprising resistance from some community members those who think there is heritage in the past.
That sign was created a long time ago, MSU-N Chancellor Mike Rao said. There are lot of people who view it as an important piece of history for the campus.
The sign was created by former faculty member and artist Lyndon Pomeroy of Billings. The sculpture is cast in bronze and, although the actual date of erection is disputable, the general consensus is that the sign went up a long time ago.
Its old, thats all I know, said Alumni Director Judy Bricker. Because of the artists reputation, its considered a piece of artwork and an important part of the schools history.
Bricker said that when the former Northern Montana College became affiliated with the state university system (July 1994), it took on the name Montana State University-Northern. She also said that the old sign, bearing NMC, at one time represented a joint effort in that affiliation.
At the time of the affiliation, there wasnt a problem with the old sign sitting next to the new sign, Bricker said. Theres been talk about moving the sign, but we havent received any formal proposals yet.
Chancellor Rao said he is seeking feedback on options as to what to do with the old sign. He said that for the new person coming to the campus for the first time, they need to know they have reached MSU-Northern. But he also knows that change often sparks emotion.
Im interested in feedback. One option has been be to relocate the sign on campus, making it a permanent tribute with a plaque that speaks of the schools history, Rao said. Ive also spoken with the artist, who said he would be willing to change the lettering and leave the sign in place. But he said it may be less costly to start new, and he said he could make a new sign.
Due to the urging of the community, Rao said he hopes to improve the overall signage across the campus.
Signage is not a strong point on our campus, Rao said. Ive asked the university directors to look into improving signage on the buildings, and with that, signage welcoming visitors to our campus.
Rao points out that while there are no campus signs on the west end of Cowan Drive, there are two on the east end, which is where the controversy lies. One is Pomeroys original brass sculpture that reads Northern Montana College. The other sign bears the schools proper name of Montana State University-Northern.
The sign has history and has been there many years, said Conrad Nystrom, a welding instructor at MSU-N. But things change and evolve, and it could be moved and placed in a nice spot on campus for all the alumni to enjoy.