Bruce Whittenberg to head Montana Historical Society

Bruce Whittenberg to head Montana Historical Society

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HELENA — Bruce Whittenberg confirmed Tuesday afternoon that he’s accepted the offer to serve as director for the Montana Historical Society.

Whittenberg, who is replacing Mike Cooney after 10 months of interim directorship, said he’ll be in Helena by Sept. 6, when he officially takes over the position. His wife, who works with United Way in Billings, will follow within a few months.

He said he’s looking forward to working with a talented group of people. “I trust I can add value to that work,” he said, adding that he wants to grow the society in the eyes of Montanans. “It’s a real jewel of an organization.”

Whittenberg said he’ll bring a fair amount of leadership experience and he hopes to be a resource for trustees and staff at the Historical Society, whether it’s through his statewide contacts he’s gained over nearly two decades in Montana or the skills he’s learned throughout his career.

He’s worked in Montana as the executive director of Leadership Montana Inc., which trains leaders across Montana, and runs his own consulting group,

The Whittenberg Group. He’s also worked in the newspaper business for Lee Enterprises, including acting as publisher for The Billings Gazette for several years.

Whittenberg and his wife, Gayle, live in Billings and so will be making the move back to Helena — Bruce more rapidly than Gayle.

Gayle Whittenberg in March was named director of development at United Way of Yellowstone County.

“I want her to continue her work there,” Bruce Whittenberg said.

So the couple will be making the transition to Helena slowly, he said, with Bruce going first and Gayle following later.

He said it was a big decision to move his family to Helena after working in Billings for 13 years. For the past several years he’s worked at MSU Billings, most recently as the director of its Center for Business Enterprise. But since he’s lived in Helena before as publisher for the Independent Record, he’s excited to return.

“It’ll be like coming home,” he said.

That said, Whittenberg said he’s been around some great people and MSU Billings was a wonderful place to work.

“I’ve been with (MSUB) for about 7 years,” he said. “You’ll always miss the people.”

Bruce Whittenberg said he never dreamed of being director for the Montana Historical Society — that was a little too specific a dream.

But he said he’s excited to join the society and to be a part of the organization. He doesn’t have concrete plans for the proposed Heritage Museum, saying he wants to sit down and learn about the plans that the board of trustees has been developing for a long time. He said he wants to know what’s been done, figure out what he can do, and then get going on the project.

One of the things Whittenberg thinks is most important is to understand that the MHS is about celebrating the past, but also about helping Montanans prepare for the future.

“It’s not about dusty artifacts and stuff just by themselves — it’s, ‘What does that mean to us?’”

Gazette reporter Rob Rogers contributed to this story.

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