Despite controversial speaker, no change in Rocky commencement plans

2014-04-03T10:33:00Z 2014-04-25T13:49:07Z Despite controversial speaker, no change in Rocky commencement plansBy SUSAN OLP solp@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

A meeting Wednesday between faculty at Rocky Mountain College and college President Bob Wilmouth yielded no change in the choice of the school’s spring commencement speaker.

Bozeman businessman Greg Gianforte will speak as scheduled during the May 3 graduation ceremony, Wilmouth confirmed Thursday.

“As of right now he’s coming,” Wilmouth said.

Gianforte founded the software engineering company RightNow Technologies, which he sold to Oracle in 2012 for $1.5 billion. The electrical engineer and computer scientist is now managing director of the Bozeman Technology Incubator.

Controversy erupted at Montana Tech in Butte last week when Gianforte was announced as that school’s commencement speaker. Some faculty and students threatened to boycott the ceremony, in part because of a donation Gianforte’s foundation made to the Glendive Dinosaur and Fossil Museum, which takes a strictly biblical approach to science that suggests dinosaurs and humans existed together on an earth that is only several thousand years old.

Professors also took exception to Gianforte’s wife, Susan, opposing a proposed ordinance in Bozeman recently that would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation. In a guest opinion that ran this week both in the Montana Standard and The Gazette, Gianforte said he believes that discrimination of any kind is wrong.

Wilmouth met with RMS’s Faculty Executive Committee on Wednesday. The two sides had a “wonderful discussion,” he said.

Steve Germic, associate professor of English and acting academic vice president, said the purpose of the meeting was “to respectfully listen and exchange views on the subject of this year’s RMC commencement speaker.”

“President Wilmouth listened carefully to what everyone had to say,” Germic said in a written statement.

“All agreed that assuring a quality commencement experience for our graduates and their families remains our highest priority.”

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