Leading by Example: A Tale of Hope and Perseverance

With his sharp mind and passion for journalism, Mark Boatman became a UM student and working journalist despite living with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a degenerative disease.

“He impressed all of us with his work ethic and positive attitude,” said UM Professor Denise Dowling, who knew Mark while he attended the School of Journalism.

Mark was diagnosed with MS at age 5. As he got older, he was determined not to let the disease stop him from living his life. At 18, he moved out of his parents’ house to an apartment complex designed for those living with disabilities. He eventually moved from his hometown of Jamestown, North Dakota, to Missoula, where he enrolled at UM in 2007.

Though he was wheelchair bound and breathed through a ventilator, modern voice-recognition technology and nose/head control for his laptop helped him complete his schoolwork and write his stories. He landed a coveted internship at the Missoulian, where he covered a broad range of stories and impressed the city editor with his hard work and determination.

Mark BoatmanAs J-School faculty member Dennis Swibold put it: “No matter how difficult it was for him to get the story – or simply to get to the venue for a story – Mark found a way. He really was an amazing reporter who did it with a tenacity, great questions, quick thinking and always a joke.”

After graduation in 2012, Mark landed a position in a tight journalism market, working as a news correspondent at New Mobility, a magazine for active wheelchair users.

Though doctors told his parents he wouldn’t live past 16, Mark defied the odds. He died last December at age 42.

His optimism, drive and passion for making a difference in the world are his legacy to those who knew him. He will also leave an impact on the next generation of journalism students. Several years ago, Mark and his parents, Jim and Linda Boatman, established a scholarship fund. The Boatman Family Scholarship has already supported four students, two of whom are now reporters in the Pacific Northwest.

As Mark said at the time, “Pursuing a degree in journalism, while having a severe disability, isn’t easy. The UM School of Journalism accommodated my needs as a disabled student while pushing me to become a competent professional. This gift is to show my appreciation to the school and to assist journalism students who are working toward professional success.”