Washington Foundation Makes Historic $7 Million Gift to Support Grizzly Athletics

In 1985 you could sense that the fortunes of the University of Montana football team were about to change. Thanks in large part to Dennis and Phyllis Washington, a new stadium was rising on the UM campus. The team seemed on the cusp of something big.
No one could have foreseen just how far the Grizzlies would go: a pair of national championships, seven title game appearances, 15 Big Sky Conference championships and 26 consecutive winning seasons.
Three decades later, a new generation of the Washington family is transforming Grizzly Athletics once again. Dennis and Phyllis’ sons, Kyle and Kevin, have given $7 million on behalf of the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation to the University of Montana to support the Washington-Grizzly Champions Center.
The 46,000-square-foot facility — almost 15,000 square feet larger than the current facility — will include the football locker room and a two-level weight room accessible to all 15 of UM’s sports teams. Construction on the $14 million center will begin once the project is approved by the Montana University System Board of Regents.
“The Grizzlies have a strong tradition of excellence,” said Kevin Washington. “This facility is an investment that sends a clear message to student-athletes---who give so much to the University---that the tradition of excellence will continue.”
Kyle Washington ’96 believes that the space will take Grizzly Athletics to the next level.
“I hope this new facility inspires Missoula and Griz fans statewide and reinvigorates their Grizzly pride,” he added.
This will be the third athletics department construction project in recent years. The University broke ground on a new softball complex in July, and construction of the new student-athlete academic center started in August. The center was part of the Investing in Student Success initiative, which aims to raise $45 million to support scholarships, innovative programs and dynamic learning environments.
Director of Athletics Kent Haslam said he is elated for both student-athletes and coaches.
“It’s exhilarating to be able to sit down with people like Kyle and Kevin, share the vision we have for this department and then have them invest in that vision,” Haslam said.
Over the years, the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation has been among the University’s most generous benefactors. Among many other facilities, programs and scholarships, the foundation has been a key supporter of the Phyllis J. Washington College of Education and Human Sciences, helping establish the Phyllis J. Washington Center for Education in 2009 and, most recently, providing $2.4 million to support the college-prep curriculum EdReady. The foundation has given more than $150 million to various causes since it was established in 1988.
“The Washington family’s generosity to the University of Montana is truly remarkable,” said UM President Royce Engstrom. “Their latest investment will benefit thousands of student-athletes in the decades to come.”