Gazette opinion: Hansen’s stunning gift will boost student opportunity

2010-10-01T00:00:00Z Gazette opinion: Hansen’s stunning gift will boost student opportunity The Billings Gazette
October 01, 2010 12:00 am

As an educator during much of his working life, Dewey Hansen made tremendous contributions to local schools.  His generous bequest announced Saturday will continue that wonderful investment in students who attend our public schools.

Hansen, who died in June 2009, has given the Education Foundation for Billings Public Schools its largest single gift, a $2.7 endowment for the Dewey J. Hansen and Helen Cothron Hansen Memorial Fund.  He directed that the fund, established to honor his mother, be used to benefit students at School District 2’s three high schools – West, Skyview and Senior — and Laurel High.

Hansen graduated from Senior in 1942 and joined the Army Air Corps right out of high school, serving during and after World War II. He remained active in military affairs as a member of the Air Force Reserve until his retirement as a lieutenant colonel in 1978. He served as an Air Force Academy admissions liaison officer for nearly 50 years. The last cadet he recruited reported to the academy two days before Hansen died.

After the war, he earned a business degree from the University of California at Berkeley and then returned to Billings. He worked at Billings Gas Co. for a decade and then decided he wanted to teach high schoolers. He earned an education degree from Rocky Mountain College and became a teacher, like his mother. He taught history at Senior from 1960 until he retired in 1981.

“The incredible legacy of the Hansen family’s support for public education will live on forever thanks to this generous gift,” said Erin Zimmer, chair of the foundation’s board of directors.  The foundation’s mission: promote excellence in education by providing opportunities and resources to students in our schools through classroom grants, the Partners in Education program, Reading Rocks, scholarships for teachers and students and Saturday Live.

The announcement came at a perfect time and perfect place – on a warm, sunny day in a Pioneer Park swarming with students, parents, teachers and thousands of education supporters gathered for Saturday Live, the festive one-day fundraiser for Billings Public Schools.

Young students helped unveil the oversized check for $2,710,389.  Friends of education spoke glowingly of the man who worked so hard for kids during his life and will ensure a brighter future for them with his bequest.

Jack Bayne, who taught history at Senior with Hansen, said his close friend “was a great guy and he was a great educator. He cared about students.”

With his tremendous gift, Hansen will continue to provide great opportunities for those students he so deeply cared about.

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