Honoring a Dream Deferred

Travis Barstad and Dean Pratt met in middle school and quickly became close friends. On long summer nights down the Bitterroot Valley, they lay on the roof of Travis’ garage to watch the stars. They talked about their futures, their dreams of traveling the world and of serving in the military.

The two friends enlisted in the Marine Corp together in 2000, after high school graduation. They went to boot camp, then joined separate units. It was the last time they saw each other.

For six years, Travis served in the Marines. His time in the Middle East piqued his interest in the culture and language of the region. He was fascinated by the countries he visited and the people he met.

After his tour of duty overseas, Travis returned home and, in 2006, he enrolled at UM to study Arabic. “My first semester, my Arabic professor, Samir Batar, really encouraged me to study overseas,” he says.

Barstad (far-right) visits a royal palace in YemenWith the help of Excellence Fund scholarships, he studied abroad in Egypt, Yemen and Morocco. What he learned in the classroom came alive as he interacted with the community and culture.

“If not for the University of Montana and my scholarships, I never would have had the opportunity to live and study in the Middle East,” Travis says. “Those scholarships helped me get where I am today.”

He received his master’s degree in nuclear non-proliferation and counterterrorism and launched a successful career with the State Department. He is currently posted on a year-long assignment in Islamabad, Pakistan, and will head to Jerusalem next year.

Meanwhile, Travis’ friend Dean had also gone overseas with the Marines. With five weeks left on his second tour, he was making plans to return home for college. Then his unit was hit by a roadside bomb in Fallujah.

He never made it home.

Days later, Travis learned that his childhood friend had been killed in action in Iraq. Since Dean’s tragic passing, Travis has been determined to honor his friend’s sacrifice. This year, he contacted his alma mater to create a scholarship in Dean’s memory.

Next spring, a student will receive the Corporal Dean Pratt Memorial Scholarship in Arabic Studies to do what Dean never had a chance to: attend college.

“More than anything, I want to keep his name and his memory alive,” Travis says.