The University of Montana has been part of the Missoula community for almost 120 years. Its long history as one of the state’s largest learning institutions is peppered with interesting facts, stories and tidbits. Here are a few UM trivia items to impress your friends with:

  • Photo courtesy of mr_t_77/Flickr
    Photo courtesy of mr_t_77/Flickr

    It wasn't always UM

    “MSU” might as well be a four-letter word here in Missoula, but it wasn’t always that way. In 1917, UM officially became known as Montana State University. It stayed that way for nearly 50 years. In 1965, the school’s name was changed back to The University of Montana.

  • Photo courtesy of gfhdickinson/Flickr
    Photo courtesy of gfhdickinson/Flickr

    Star-gazing on Mount Sentinel

    The federal government gave UM the land on the western side of Mount Sentinel — where the “M” trail is now located — for the purpose of constructing an astronomical observatory. The observatory was never built, but nevertheless, the mountain became a defining feature of UM’s campus.

  • Photo courtesy of dareppi/Flickr
    Photo courtesy of dareppi/Flickr

    Cattle guard

    The entire campus was once surrounded by wooden fences, as roaming livestock and horses were a problem during the university’s early years.

  • Photo courtesy of kodomut/Flickr
    Photo courtesy of kodomut/Flickr

    Stay off of the Oval

    A 1960 Kaimin editorial suggested that a belowground, open-air amphitheater be constructed in the Oval, just west of Main Hall. In addition to adding cultural richness, the amphitheater was offered as a solution to the problem of students walking across the Oval, which, at that time, was forbidden in an effort to protect the perfectly manicured lawn.

  • Photo courtesy of poplinre/Flickr
    Photo courtesy of poplinre/Flickr

    Bears before Monte

    From about 1897 to 1960, live bears were used as mascots for UM athletic teams. Each bear quickly grew past a manageable size, after which it was released or sent to a zoo facility. Famous mascot bears included Teddy, Cocoa, Chester and Fessy. (Side note: the cage at the south entrance to Greenough Park once housed a live bear mascot.)

  • Photo courtesy of Sam Howzit/Flickr
    Photo courtesy of Sam Howzit/Flickr

    Right down the middle

    There used to be a 10-lane bowling alley on the first floor of the University Center (UC).

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