President Royce Engstrom announced Jan. 30 that an alumnus and his wife have committed $1.25 million to The University of Montana’s School of Business Administration and College of Arts and Sciences.

Tim O’Leary and Michelle Cardinal of Carson, Wash., have included a provision in their wills that will fund endowments at the School of Business Administration for a faculty fellowship and marketing analytics courses. Endowments also will create scholarships in the College of Arts and Sciences Creative Writing Program and will support UM’s CutBank Literary Magazine.

“The Department of Management and Marketing in the School of Business Administration plays a pivotal role in moving Montana forward, while the Creative Writing Program attracts talent from around the world,” Engstrom said. “Through the generosity of Tim O’Leary and Michelle Cardinal, two of our premier programs are about to get even better.”

The $1.25 million dollar gift will endow the following in the School of Business Administration and the Creative Writing Program:

  • The Mary Ellen Campbell and Dennis O’Donnell Faculty Fellowship in Business. With this portion of the gift, $250,000 will be placed in an endowment to fund a faculty fellowship honoring two of O’Leary’s favorite faculty members.
  • The O’Leary/Cardinal Endowed Opportunity Fund for Marketing Analytics. This will be funded with $750,000.
  • The Tim O’Leary and Michelle Cardinal Prose Scholarship in Creative Writing. Creative writing students will benefit from this $125,000 endowment.
  • The Tim O’Leary and Michelle Cardinal Opportunity Fund for the CutBank Literary Magazine. This will be funded with $125,000.

The University is home to the state’s sole Master of Business Administration program. Graduates complete their course of study with a strong foundation in marketing knowledge. This semester, the business school launched a new course in marketing analytics with support from O’Leary and Cardinal.

Additionally, the couple has supported the Creative Writing Program for many years. One of Montana’s favorite literary sons, William Kittredge, founded its CutBank literary magazine 40 years ago. Today, writers from around the nation submit to the publication.

O’Leary said that while he focused on a foundation in business, graduating with a degree in 1981, he also found great passion for creativity in the Creative Writing Program.

“I was never acclimated to getting a classical business education, and I was always interested in the intersection of business and creative pursuits,” O’Leary said. “Because of the tremendous faculty and environment of the University, I was able to create my own educational track whereby today I am able to sit down and analyze a financial statement and understand organizational structure, but I also can write.”

O’Leary served on the business school’s Department of Management and Marketing Advisory Board for several years. He also served the University as a whole as a regional committee member during the “Invest in Discovery” campaign. Since 2009, O’Leary has served on the UM Foundation board of trustees and now is in his second three-year term. He chairs the Foundation’s Marketing and Communications Committee and is a member of the executive committee.

“Tim graduated from the School of Business Administration and quickly made a name for himself as a savvy entrepreneur,” business school Dean Larry Gianchetta said. “For 10 years, the School of Business Administration has awarded the O’Leary/Cardinal Family Scholarship to students interested in advertising and marketing. Today Tim and his wife, Michelle, continue their legacy of giving.”

Splitting their time between homes in Washington and Santa Barbara, Calif., the couple raises olive trees in California and trout in Washington. Additionally, O’Leary is an avid fly-fisherman and water conservationist who also sits on The Freshwater Trust board of directors.

“Tim O’Leary and Michelle Cardinal are a force for good,” said College of Arts and Sciences Dean Chris Comer. “As business partners, they lead R2C Group, an advertising agency based in Portland. As an alumnus and friend of the University, they are ensuring that Montana’s entrepreneurial and creative spirits soar in our students.

“It is truly a story of coming full circle, and we are grateful for the sincere dedication of Tim and Michelle, and the legacy that they will leave to UM in the future,” Comer said.

“My experience at The University of Montana was the springboard into my professional career, which has been so gratifying,” said O’Leary, who grew up in Billings. “It is almost a better experience to come back to the place where it all began. I have a better appreciation for how the faculty cares, and how the institution cares. I have been incredibly fortunate.”