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Education Center in Montana Gifted to the University of Utah to Enhance Environmental Study

Amphitheater and cabins at the Taft-Nicholson Environmental Humanities Education Center.

Oct. 1, 2013 — The College of Humanities announced today the Environmental Humanities Education Center in Lakeview, Mont. will be gifted to the University of Utah and renamed the Taft Nicholson Environmental Humanities Education Center.

Through the generosity of John and Melody Taft and Bill and Sandi Nicholson, the interdisciplinary facility has hosted pilot programs and workshops for the past three years intended to engage the humanities and deepen and enliven environmental study. With the success of the partnership, the Environmental Humanities Education Center, which includes 16 acres of land in the Centennial Valley, will now become a fully approved center operated by the U.

“We are truly grateful to the Tafts and Nicholsons as well as to the Conservation Endowment Fund for creating a center that allows all those who visit a rare opportunity to explore an environment with incredibly diverse ecosystems,” said Robert Newman, dean of the College of Humanities. “This gift represents a tremendous resource for the University of Utah as an education center for environmental research and transformative pedagogy.”

Located north and east of the Continental Divide along the Montana-Idaho border, the Centennial Valley contains the largest wetland complex in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The programs and workshops at the center provide an innovative educational experience that introduces students and visitors to the ecology, history, wildlife and conservation value of the area.

“The center allows students to go beyond the traditional classroom experience,” notes Mary Tull, director of the center. “Here, students take their classroom knowledge into the field, where they can apply what they’re learning to practical solutions for real-world ecological problems.”

Situated in historically significant buildings originally part of Lakeview, Mont., the facilities include housing and meeting spaces for workshops, research activities, private events and corporate retreats. The center serves not only the University of Utah, but many other schools, non-profit organizations and private groups wishing to host programs that combine the humanities, arts and environmental studies.

To celebrate the center being gifted to the University of Utah, the College of Humanities will host a gala, Oct. 2, 7 p.m., in the Orangerie at Red Butte Garden.

About John and Melody Taft and Bill and Sandi Nicholson

John and Melody Taft are environmentalists with a passion for education. Beginning 40 years ago, they had a vision of protecting the Centennial Valley and creating a world-class education center in the unique ecosystem. Through conservation easements and other initiatives, many individuals and entities, including the Tafts, have successfully contributed to the conservation campaign in Centennial Valley. As part of this effort, they purchased and restored historic buildings in the original town of Lakeview which was located on the stagecoach route that cuts through the valley and leads into West Yellowstone. Over the past 12 years, they along with Bill and Sandi Nicholson, have invested millions of dollars restoring and furnishing buildings and installing infrastructure and additional facilities so it could function as an education center.