By Robert Lucke
Fred Gilliard is the seventh president of the University of Great Falls since it opened its doors in 1932.
He is also a graduate of Northern Montana College, graduating with a degree in English in 1963.
Gilliard is a Pennsylvania native.
"My family all worked at a steel mill," reported Gilliard. "After high school I had the choice of going to college or going to work at the steel mill. Instead, I went into the Marines. After coming out of the Marines, I said I wanted to go west. I was looking for a small college in an environment where I could be in touch with the outdoors. That brought me to Havre."
Gilliard came to Havre by train and still remembers those first days like yesterday.
"I got off the train at 3 a.m. and ended up staying at the Havre Hotel that first night. Next day I got up to the campus," continued Gilliard. "I really enjoyed Havre. Even the countryside seemed to have a ruggedness about it. And the wind. While I whined a lot about it, I even got used to it. Those are enjoyable years in Havre."
Gilliard still remembers NMC teachers who influenced his life.
After graduating from Northern, Gilliard went on to the University of Montana for graduate work. While there he met his future wife, Bari Lynn. They taught on the Crow Reservation for a time and both went on to the University of Utah for doctorate work.
Finally, seven years ago Gilliard was offered the presidency of the then College of Great Falls, a place he remembers well while hitching rides back east from Northern. Those days the CGF campus was mainly prairie stretching south from 10th Avenue South. Remembering that, is probably one reason that campus structure is so important to Gilliard these days.
Twelve hundred students go to the University of Great Falls.
"We want to grow to 1500," said Gilliard. "That is the vision in our enrollment plan. Now we have a considerable number of non traditional students. We want to capture the traditional student numbers as well."
Basketball may be one way to do it. The University of Great Falls will be playing both men and women's basketball next fall. That makes Gilliard happy and he relates that since sister school Gonzaga, in Spokane, has a nationally rated basketball team, their enrollment applications have increased by 35 percent.
No football at the University of Great Falls.
"You know for a school, having a football team or a medical school is the kiss of death," said Gilliard, laughing.
Gilliard has worked in public higher education as well as in private education. He leaves no doubt as to which is better for him.
"I have served in both public and private so I can appreciate both. What I bring to this presidency is I learned a lot about governmental relationships in the public sector and a lot about fund raising in the private schools, and I can tell you we are able to move far more quickly in the private sector. With a new program, we can be up and running from six to nine months. That is very important when you are market sensitive."
The focus which Gilliard lives daily at the University of Great Falls he calls the three C's. . character, competence and commitment. He is fond of quoting Bishop O'Hara who aid, "We've got to prepare students for living and making a living."
That is what Gilliard oversees at the University of Great Falls.
Worst frustrations. That is easy for Gilliard to identify.
"Every day, every president, no mater what institution, has to face enrollment and finances. Public or private, those issues are difficult."
The best of Gilliard's job is just as easy to identify.
"Knowing that every day is new, each day affords me the time to take on a new challenge. Easy day is new and fun. If that ever stops, it will be time to quit," said Gilliard