Trailblazing Educator Remembered with Scholarship

Orville Getz ‘71 wasn’t afraid to do things differently. He decided his school district in Victor, Montana, should make a dramatic schedule change to reduce costs and increase attendance. He convinced the school board and community, and now, six years later, 52 school districts in the state operate on an alternate schedule.

“He was very progressive. He was responsible for tremendous achievements in education that caught fire and benefited our whole state,” says Roberta Evans, dean of the Phyllis J. Washington College of Education and Human Sciences.

When Getz died in 2011, the entire Montana education community felt the loss. So his friends, colleagues and family stepped up to make sure his legacy lives on with the Orville Getz Memorial Scholarship.

“We want to honor Orville by supporting teachers on their own educational journeys,” says Leslie Womack, president of the Montana Educator’s Credit Union, where Getz served as board chair for nine years.

The scholarship will be reserved for teachers who are working on a master’s degree or an administrative certificate. Both MECU and Getz’s wife, Carla, have made commitments to help endow the fund over the next seven years. Other donors, including Womack, Mick Reynolds and Tom Ross, have also made gifts. Thanks to their generosity, two UM students have already received scholarships.

A Montana native, Getz began his teaching career in Missoula after serving in the Navy. By 1997 he was the principal of Victor High School and Middle School, and was named superintendent a year later.

“He was truly a statesman among superintendents: student centric, very supportive of teachers, calm and analytical, a steady hand at the wheel. We all loved him,” says Dean Evans.

Many credit Getz for establishing a culture of achievement in his district, noting Victor High School’s high percentage of graduates who enroll in college.

In 2009, the Montana Association of School Superintendents named him the Western Montana Regional Superintendent of the Year. Throughout his career, Getz maintained an excitement for education that endeared him to his colleagues and students.

“Whatever Orville did, he enjoyed himself, and that attitude was contagious,” says John Matt, chair of the Educational Leadership Department at UM and superintendent in Hamilton, Montana, while Getz served in Victor.

Thanks to the Getz Memorial Scholarship, this beloved educator’s strong belief in the value of progressive education will carry on for years to come.