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UM to present posthumous honorary doctorate to iconic Emma Lommasson

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UM President Seth Bodnar meets with Emma Lommasson in 2018. UM will present Lommasson with a posthumous Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE UNIVERSITY OF MONTANA

UNIVERSITY OF MONTANA NEWS

MISSOULA – Emma Bravo Lommasson often remarked that the University of Montana was her home and its students were her life.

During her exceedingly long life – she died in 2019 at the age of 107 – Lommasson spent 58 years as a UM student, teacher, staff member and the University’s first female interim registrar. Even after she retired in 1977, she continued volunteering with the University and maintaining lifelong friendships. The Emma Lommasson Center was named for her in 2001, and she wound up meeting all but the first four of UM’s 19 presidents.

Now the University will honor this treasured member of its family with a posthumous Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, which will be presented in December during Fall Commencement. The Montana Board of Regents approved UM’s request to award the doctorate Sept. 22 during its meeting in Billings.

“Emma had a legendary career at the University of Montana, with an incredibly positive impact on generations of students,” UM President Seth Bodnar said. “There are so many stories about her grace and kindness, and her memory is an inspiration for us all. We are proud to present this icon with an honorary doctorate.”

Of the nine letters of recommendation submitted, three were by current and former UM presidents. Sheila Stearns, who led UM and also was a former Montana commissioner of higher education wrote that Lommasson “left her elegant footprint on several generations of Montana students and on the University of Montana writ large. She was the walking definition of grace under pressure and breaking-the-mold leadership.”

Lommasson came to UM in 1929 as a student from Sand Coulee, Montana. She earned an undergraduate math degree with a chemistry minor in 1933. After a brief teaching career, she returned to UM to earn an education master’s in 1939 and launched a career working for her alma mater.

Originally serving as an instructor in the Department of Mathematics, Lommasson also taught navigation and civil air regulations during World War II to prepare students for service in the U.S. Air Force. She was appointed as UM’s first veteran’s adviser and then assistant registrar following the war, while also serving as adviser to the Air Force ROTC Angel Flight for 17 years. At her retirement Lommasson was serving as UM’s first female acting/interim registrar.

When Bodnar first met Lommasson on Feb. 15, 2018, she had this to say: “Life is what you make of it. Stay positive and don’t complain. I’m just another person who attended the University from a small town, and I found it to be the most wonderful place.”

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