The Wilcoxes: Deep Roots in the UM Family Tree

In 1895, Oscar J. Craig became UM’s first President, establishing the campus and several academic programs. In the process, he also laid the groundwork for a family that continues to stay connected to UM. In May, Warren Wilcox, his great-grandson, received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters at Commencement ceremonies.


Warren Wilcox receives an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters during UM's Commencement ceremonies.

Drive, ambition and success define the family. During President Craig’s tenure, he managed the University almost single-handedly. He established the School of Engineering and the School of Pharmacy, as well as 13 department programs. He oversaw construction of five buildings and landmarks, including the iconic Main Hall. He launched The Kaimin student newspaper, Associated Students of The University of Montana and several Greek organizations. In 1911, the first women’s residence (which also was constructed during his tenure) was re-named Craig Hall in his honor.

His daughter, Mary Craig, was UM’s first head librarian. She helped increase the library’s holdings from 187 volumes to 1,369 volumes, 19 periodicals, and 20 newspapers in the first year alone. His son William graduated from UM in 1902 and went on to become deputy clerk of the Montana Supreme Court. His son Vincent graduated from the University’s School of Engineering in 1905.

That drive and ambition continue in today’s generations of the family. Warren Wilcox has been a longtime businessman and community supporter in Missoula. He studied accounting at UM and was a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity. After graduating in 1965, he became a certified public accountant, and in 1968, was hired by local meat-packing company John R. Daily Inc. to help revitalize the business. He worked there for nearly four decades, becoming part of the management team that expanded the company. After selling John R. Daily Inc. in 2005, Wilcox turned back to his entrepreneurial roots, including Ascent Airborne LLC, which manages three separate startup entities in the aircraft leasing and aerospace industries.

His daughter, Christine Wilcox, is a co-founder of Ascent Airborne and the latest Wilcox generation with ties to UM. After earning her bachelor’s degree in international relations from Stanford, she returned to Missoula for her master of fine arts in Spanish literature. In addition to founding Ascent Airborne with her father, she also launched Lumni USA, a social mission company created to help make higher education affordable for more people.

The future looks bright for UM, thanks to the continuing efforts of the Wilcoxes. Warren Wilcox was elected to the UM Foundation Board of Trustees in 1996, and went on to serve as its vice chairman and chairman. Wilcox and his wife, Betsy, have supported several causes at UM, including the business school’s Wilcox Faculty Fellowship, the Phyllis J. Washington Education Center and the Gilkey Executive Education Center. Adding to an impressive list of philanthropic accomplishments, Warren and Betsy are about to celebrate 20 consecutive years as members of the President’s Club, a community of generous donors who have made annual gifts of $1,000 or more to the University. Warren also received the business school’s Outstanding Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2007. Christine is an active supporter of the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library, establishing its poetry corner. She is a member of the volunteer committee for the Mansfield Library Learning Commons initiative.

If the past is any indication, the Wilcox family will continue to make an impact on the future of UM for generations to come.