UM Alumnus Matthew Levitan Makes a Watershed Investment for Student Success
Matthew Levitan understands the important role a scholarship can play in a student’s life. The now retired UBS PaineWebber executive was a scholarship recipient himself while a student at UM.
“I never would have completed my college education without it,” says Levitan.
But for Levitan, who grew up hiking the Glacier National Park wilderness and fishing in the Flathead Watershed, investing in student scholarships means more than an opportunity to return the philanthropic favor to his alma mater. It’s his way of preserving the Montana of his childhood, an endowment of ecological education to cultivate new generations of scientists that will someday help us better understand and manage our natural world.
“Montana is a truly special place,” says Levitan. “It has a way of shaping you, and I decided early on that I wanted to focus my philanthropy where it would have the most benefit to Montana and UM students. That’s why I’ve dedicated most of my giving to the Flathead Lake Biological Station.”
Levitan’s connection with the Flathead Lake Biological Station (FLBS) began before he ever enrolled as a student at UM. Believing college to be beyond his financial means, he started work with the U.S. Forest Service in the Spotted Bear District of the Flathead National Forest. During the summers, he would stop by the Bio Station to visit his brother, who at that time was studying at FLBS as a UM student. The experiences he shared with his brother at the Bio Station, along with that life-changing scholarship award, solidified Levitan’s decision to attend UM.
“So many scholarship recipients are truly grateful,” Levitan says. “This is something I know personally, because a college education wouldn’t have been possible for me if not for the financial assistance of a scholarship.”
Levitan established his first scholarship at FLBS in 1995. He has since added a scholarship in honor of each of his siblings and his mother. Today, thanks to the generosity of Levitan and others, FLBS offers over $50,000 in scholarships each summer. These scholarships support more than 50% of the students attending the Bio Station’s academic program each summer, which equates to just over 25% of the program’s total costs. This is a remarkable achievement of private support, especially considering that the total enrollment in the Bio Station’s summer courses has increased over 350% in recent years.
“Meeting and interacting with the scholarship recipients is the greatest reward,” says Levitan. “To be able to hear their stories and see first-hand how excited they are to be learning and researching out in the field, then later on watching their careers develop and grow, it’s a truly fulfilling experience.”
Levitan is quick to add, however, that the true power of a scholarship is in its longevity, because a permanent endowment is always more impactful than a one-time gift.
“I created my scholarships in honor of my siblings and mother, and those scholarships will go on to create new and meaningful opportunities long after my family is gone,” he says. “That’s the wonderful thing about the endowed scholarships. They’re a way to connect the past with the future, and they’ll go on making a difference for students, the Bio Station, and Montana’s natural resources for generations to come.”