Each year, the Montana Ambassadors host an Annual Awards Dinner to honor our member’s commitment to and excellence for Montana.
Montana Ambassador of the Year—Chris Burke
Nominated by: Gloria O’Rourke and the Butte Chapter
You may have had the pleasure of Morning Glory Coffee and Tea, but you no doubt have had the pleasure of enjoying Chris Burke’s many social media photos and postings of all things Montana, as well as Montana Ambassadors. Chris and his wife, Laura, started Morning Glory Coffee & Tea, Inc.® in 2005 after returning to Montana from Kauai, HI to West Yellowstone. They had previously met while working in Yellowstone National park, and have lived and worked in Both Livingston and Bozeman before their time on Kauai working with Kauai Coffee Company. While constantly promoting Montana, Chis and Laura own and operate a specialty coffee roasting, wholesale, retail and e-commerce business on the border of Yellowstone, National Park, which they started thirteen years ago in West Yellowstone.
Their coffees are distributed and sold to restaurants, grocery and gift stores throughout Montana and Yellowstone National Park, as well as to customers nationwide through their e-commerce website. Chris currently works as a guide to Yellowstone National Park and represent West Yellowstone Montana as a council member along with operating Morning Glory Coffee and Tea with his wife Laura and sons Patrick and Joseph Burke.
OUTREACH Montana Ambassador of the Year—Jeff Wright
Nominated by: Bill Johnston and Lynda Colucci
Jeff, a California native was introduced to the Treasure State as a Boy Scout and spent his high school summers exploring Montana's Big Sky. From the moment he set foot in the state he knew that Montana was truly a special place. Jeff came back and earned his BA in History and Political Science from the University of Montana and got to experience the wonders of all four seasons of Montana's beauty.
After graduating, Jeff landed at the Record Plant Recording Studios in Los Angeles as an engineer and studio manager working with the top recording artists of the era, and even won a Grammy. From there he spent nearly a decade with Apple, starting as a part time sales person and working his way up to running the Los Angeles area high profile and flagship retail teams.
Currently, Jeff lives in Southern California with his wife Samantha and two young children. In 2013, he joined Incite as their COO. Incite is an art/technology/entertainment studio based in the Playa Vista (aka “Silicon Beach”) area of Los Angeles. Keeping himself rooted in Montana, Jeff also owns a small businesses in Missoula: Trapper Peak Coffee which is housed in the Missoula Public Library. In 2016, Jeff was appointed as a Montana Ambassador and is an active member of the California Chapter. In the summer of 2018 he co-founded the non-profit Montana Outdoors Foundation with four close friends who are also fellow Ambassadors.
Jeff may live in California, but his heart never left Montana. He never misses an opportunity to tell anyone he meets about what a truly great place this state is, and he is always working bring business home to Montana.
Montana Ambassador Business of the Year—Red Oxx Manufacturing
Nominated by Jeff Wright and Lynda Colucci
Red Oxx Manufacturing, Inc. was founded by Marine Corps. Veteran, Jim Markel Sr., USMC Capt. Ret., in 1986, manufacturing high-quality, weightlifting accessories for the fitness industry. In 1992 Jim Sr. was joined by his son Jim Jr. after his own service in the Marine Corps. Like his father, Jim Jr. was a Parachute Rigger in the First Force Reconnaissance Company. Perry Jones, an 11-year veteran of the US Navy, joined the father-son team in 1992, putting his Air Crew Survival Equipment Man sewing skills to use at Red Oxx fulfilling contracts for fitness giants like Weider, Parabody and Gold’s Gym.
By 1994, ready to retire and amidst the growing trend of off-shore production, Jim Sr. sold the company to Jim Jr. and Perry. The early years of ownership for the new partners saw the continued decline of domestic manufacturing and traditional distribution networks. As with all change, came also opportunity with another growing trend: the internet. The first www.redoxx.com site was created just a few years later--before e-commerce even had a name.
It’s now been over 30 years since the birth of Red Oxx Manufacturing, Inc. and 24 with Jim Markel, Jr. and Perry Jones at the helm. During that time Red Oxx Mfg., Inc. has launched several iterations of www.redoxx.com, moved 7 times, hired hundreds of hard-working, talented Montanans; there’ve been late nights, early mornings, second mortgages, highs, lows, accolades, disappointments, joy—and everything in between.
Today, Red Oxx Manufacturing, Inc. continues to manufacture—only now its soft-sided luggage and outdoor gear. Both its retail showroom and production facilities reside in the East Billings Urban Renewal District. Red Oxx products have shipped to every state in the US and to multiple countries on all seven continents. Red Oxx employs 27 hard-working, talented men and women. They are the life-blood of the company and have helped make Red Oxx Manufacturing, Inc. what it is today; what it strives to be in the future.
Montana Ambassador Mike Malone Educator of the Year—Jakki Mohr
Nominated by: Susan Hay Patrick
Dr. Jakki Mohr, Regents Professor of Marketing, the Poe Family Distinguished Faculty Fellow, and Fellow, Institute on Ecosystems, (Ph.D. University of Wisconsin-Madison) has been at the University of Montana since 1997. Prior to joining the University of Montana in 1997, Mohr was an assistant professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Before that—some say, in another life--she worked in Silicon Valley at Hewlett-Packard (before it became known as HP).
Jakki’s curiosity has driven her research and teaching over the course of her career. For example, why is it that so many cutting-edge innovations never achieve their promise? Why do so many new technologies have unintended consequences—to users and to society? What do successful companies do differently in the commercialization process than other companies?
Searching for answers to these questions has taken her from studying distribution channels in the computer industry, to cooperative agreements for research-and-development, to understanding why so many strategic alliances in business fail, to challenges companies face in developing and commercializing break-through innovations. Answers to these questions can be found in her award-winning research, published in the Journal of Marketing, the Strategic Management Journal, the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, the Journal of Product and Innovation Management, the Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, and Restoration Ecology, among others, as well as her book, Marketing of High-Technology Products and Innovations (2010, 3rd edition, with Sanjit Sengupta and Stanley Slater), used by colleges and universities worldwide (translated into three languages) as well as by managers for executive training sessions.
Some of the high points of her career include serving on the National Academies of Sciences Committee to overcome barriers to electric vehicle deployment in the United States (2012-2015); traveling to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to participate in a workshop on the future of energy and transportation (in the world’s largest producer of oil and in a country where women can’t drive—talk about colliding realities); receiving the Most Inspirational Teacher of the Year at UM (2001), the Montana Professor of the Year (2005) and the Marketing Professor of the Year (Academy of Marketing Science 2008); seeing her former students thrive and succeed in their chosen professions; and guest-teaching at universities around the world, including ORT University (as a Fulbright Specialist) in Montevideo, Uruguay, Chile, Switzerland, Finland, Sweden, India, France, and Italy. Her most nerve-wracking experiences have been giving the Provost’s Distinguished Lecture at the University of Montana in 2009 and giving her first TED talk at TEDx-San Diego in 2011. She also thought it was pretty cool to be interviewed for a story in Wired magazine and on NPR’s Market Morning Report. For more information and student blogs visit:
Montana Ambassador Placemaker of the Year—Sarah Broussard
Nominated by Tagen Vine and the Kalispell Chapter
Community and horses are the mix that have comprised a large majority of Sarah Broussard’s life. The daughter of avid eventing supporters, Jerome and Rebecca “Becky” Broussard, Sarah began competing at the age of ten and established herself early as a leader in the sport. In her
teens, Sarah competed with a select group of the nation’s top young riders at the North American Young Rider Championship, commonly referred to as the Junior Olympics of Eventing. In both 2017 and 2018, Sarah and her family were privileged to host that event, now known as the North American Youth Championships, concurrently with The Event at Rebecca Farm.
As the Event Organizer of The Event at Rebecca Farm, Sarah along with her team and family, facilitate a world-class equestrian triathlon each July in Northwest Montana. Known as one of
North America’s largest equestrian triathlons, The Event draws elite horses and riders from across the continent, as well as attracting thousands of tourists and spectators. Simultaneously, Sarah oversees The Event’s corollary initiative, Halt Cancer at X, which provides funding for breast cancer research and local cancer support services. To date, Halt Cancer at X has raised and granted more than $500,000.
Along with organizing The Event at Rebecca Farm and raising awareness for Halt Cancer, Sarah volunteers currently as a paramedic and has served as a captain with local volunteer fire department. She has two children and resides in Kalispell.
Montana Ambassador Entrepreneur of the Year—Eduardo Garcia, Montana Mex
Eduardo Garcia is a chef, outdoorsman, athlete, motivational speaker & the co-founder and director of the national food brand, Montana Mex a food manufacturer of Montana Organic, Non GMO clean label sauces, seasonings and oils.
Eduardo is the subject of the award winning feature length documentary “Charged”, a feature length documentary about a life threatening electrical injury he sustained in 2011.
As a celebrity Chef Eduardo has appeared on numerous TV shows including ABC’s the CHEW, PBS’s Moveable Feast and most recently is the host and director on a outdoor cooking show called “A Hungry Life” that is premiering nationally August 15th through Austin, TX based company YETI coolers.
Eduardo is on a personal mission to help those who are dealing with trauma. He is a spokesperson and athlete for the Challenged Athletes Foundation, a NGO that provides support to people with physical disabilities so they can pursue active lifestyles.
To unwind Eduardo spends his time at home in Montana, tending to his garden, collecting fresh eggs from his chickens and roaming the hills with his family.
2016 - 2017 Winners
MTA Plenipotentiary—John Rogers
Governor Bullock named John “Ambassador Plenipotentiary” for his outstanding service to Montana’s continuing economic development. John worked to improve Montana’s economy on both the national and statewide stages, most recently serving as Montana’s Chief Business Officer. Under John’s leadership GOED initiated the Choose Montana brand and outreach campaign; created the Montana Economic Development Report highlighting Montana’s key industries; expanded Montana’s footprint at national, and even international, trade shows and events; and created the Montana Business Navigator, a first-of-its-kind, state-of-the-art tool to help businesses understand and access necessary permits and licenses. John’s contribution to Montana and its economic future has been exemplary.
Since retiring from government service, John has started a consulting firm, allowing him to collaborate with economic development organizations and entrepreneurs across the state. John, his wife, Judy, and their daughter, Jill, live in Helena.
MTA Mike Malone Educator of the Year—Paul Gladen
The Montana Ambassador Mike Malone Educator of the Year is recognized for outstanding accomplishment, excellence and leadership in the field. Paul Gladen exemplifies this award. Paul is Director of the Blackstone LaunchPad at the University of Montana, a program that helps students, alumni, faculty and staff explore entrepreneurship.
In addition to serving as a Montana Ambassador, he is co-founder of Muzeview, a research and consulting business based in Missoula and a co-founder of the Hellgate Venture Network, a networking group for Montana entrepreneurs. Paul is also a founding team member of the Montana Code School.
A native of England, Paul has an MA in Mathematics from Oxford University and an MBA from Manchester Business School. He spent the first 14 years of his career working for Arthur Andersen, one of the world’s largest accounting and consulting firms. He has lived and worked in London, New York, Rome, Dublin & Chicago before moving to Missoula in 2008.
In Memory - Outreach Ambassador of the Year—Peter Rosten
It is difficult to describe Peter: dedicated and directed; passionate and compassionate. Driven. He was a blues musician, boogie boarder and powerful athlete. He was just as comfortable exploring the far corners of the world as he was atop a horse in Montana. He was fluent in Spanish and French while speaking sufficient Japanese to get himself both into and out of trouble.
Peter’s business ventures and accomplishments are too numerous to list here, but as a result of his awe for Montana's youth, Peter was “driven” for the last 14 years of his life to create MAPS Media Institute. Using a unique synergism between business and education - and his many media arts talents and contacts - Peter helped youth “find their voice” through the media arts. His world was enriched immeasurably by the thousands of students and supporters that grew MAPS beyond Peter’s wildest hopes. The many productions enriched Montana and worldwide audience the videos brought to our door.
Peter’s legacy and work will continue through his trusted MAPS partner and confidant Clare Ann Harff, along with staff Bill Bratches, Tim Kolberg, Dru Carr, Mika Virtaneva, Lucas Laparra and Sarah Jones. An endowment fund has been established to ensure MAPS programming for generations to come.
Outreach Ambassador of the Year—Lynda Colucci
At present, Montana Ambassadors have only two out-of-state chapters; one in the Pacific Northwest and one in California. Largely because of Lynda, the California Chapter of Montana Ambassadors has been highly effective in building bridges of opportunity between California businesses and business professionals with interests in Montana.
Lynda's high-level California contacts have caused her to shine light and influence on the Montana film industry, Montana bioscience, photonics, healthcare industry, and more.
From opening her own home to host Chapter networking events to proudly flying Montana’s flag at her front door to traveling back to Montana for Ambassador events, Lynda embodies what an Ambassador should be.
Lynda, originally from Montana, spent the majority of her professional life working in Seattle and California. Even though Lynda is a busy insurance executive for a large insurance carrier, she has been involved in nonprofits for many years including organizations that have worked serving the underprivileged, victims and survivors, and the environment. She has many experiences working in leadership roles with newly formed groups, which lends itself well to her role as a Montana Ambassador.
As Rick Edwards said, when nominating Lynda Colucci for Outreach Ambassador of the Year in 2011, Lynda is proof that you can "take the girl out of Montana, but you can't take Montana out of the girl.”
MTA Business of the Year—XTANT Medical
A homegrown Montana company employing more than 250 people located in Belgrade, Xtant Medical is an accredited tissue bank and medical device company designing, processing, manufacturing and marketing advanced medical products around the world.
Their outstanding innovation in the fields along with their focus on efficacy and safety for the patient and functionality and ease of use for the surgeon makes them a leader in spinal and orthopedic treatment products.
Xtant Medical is a company that is known throughout the orthopedic industry nationwide. Their commitment to continuing to grow their business in Montana make them our Montana Ambassador 2016 Business of the Year.
MTA Innovator of the Year—Blackmore Sensors and Analytics
Blackmore is a leader in developing compact and robust frequency-modulated continuous wave (FMCW) LIDAR sensors and supporting analytic tools.
Blackmore's core technology brings the advanced toolsets of modern radar into the optical domain, enabling a new era of unprecedented LIDAR systems performance. Blackmore’s technology is ideal for a variety of intense, mission-critical, automotive, military and industrial environments, where traditional EO/IR sensors and direct detect 3D imagers are limited by cost and performance specifications.
This Bozeman-based company is gaining a worldwide reputation for innovation and design making them the Montana Ambassador Innovator of the Year.
MTA Placemaker of the Year—Angie Dickinson; Style Alley
Style Alley, a woman’s clothing store, opened in Forsyth this past winter. Angie Dickinson, the store’s owner, left the fashion industry after many years, most recently with Schwarzopf Professional based out of Denver, to move to Forsyth. An ad for a commercial property in Forsyth “called her home” she says, and she put everything she had into opening the store.
In small communities, entrepreneurial businesses can literally change the landscape, and Angie’s new business is doing just that. Angie is continuing to develop her store and is working to add a salon to her shop soon.
Montana Ambassador of the Year—Melanie Schwarz
Since becoming a Montana Ambassador, Melanie Schwarz has demonstrated a willingness to devote her time and effort toward making Montana and Montana Ambassadors the best they can be.
Melanie Schwarz is the Director of Marketing and Member Investors at Big Sky Economic Development in Billings. Melanie has extensive experience in marketing, public relations, event planning and community engagement which she incorporates in her work for Montana Ambassadors.
Melanie’s work at Big Sky Economic Development includes the management of the 150 private business investors by providing relevant forums, education and community/business related information and opportunities. Additionally, she oversees the organizational marketing for Big Sky Economic Development and BillingsWorks, BSED’s Workforce Development Program.
In addition to serving as Montana Ambassador President, she serves on the Billings Downtown Rotary Board, MSU Billings City College Advisory Board, Rocky Mountain College Community Advisory Committee, Job Service Employer Committee (JSEC) and the Billings Community Foundation Advisory Board. She is also part of the Innovate Montana Symposium Steering Committee and an active member of the Leadership Montana Alumni.
Melanie is married to husband, Brynn, and they have three children and two grandchildren. Melanie enjoys being active in her community, traveling and visiting her kids and granddaughters whenever possible.
Entrepreneur of the Year
* Indicates previous award titled “Dennis Washington Entrepreneur of the Year”
2015 Tyann Hermes, Kootenai Drug True Value and Shakti Soul Yoga
2014 Renelle Braaten, Enell Sports Bra
2013 John & Courtney McKee, Headframe Spirits
2012 Brian Menges, 2nd St. Bistro
2011 Sarah Calhoun, Red Ants Pants
2010 Mike Yinger, TicketPrinting.com
2009 The Huls Family, Huls Dairy
2008 John O’Donnell, TechRanch
2007 Ron Ueland, Butte, MT
2006 Larry Noonan, AWARE, Inc.
2005 Don Cape, JWT Capital, LLC
2004 Andrew Field, PrintingForLess.com
2003 Bill Phillips, Phillips Environmental
2002 Michael Schaer, Computers Unlimited
2001 Mike McCue, LigoCyte
2000 Mike Degn, Moo Juice
1999 Toni Broadbent, Insty Prints
1998 Ralph Hutcheson * & Gary Hoovestal-Special Acknowledgement *
1997 Ken Thuerbach *
1996 Marc Pierce *
1995 Dean Folkvord *
1993 Mike Felt *
Business of the Year
2015 Sunburst Sensors - Jim Beck, Michael DeGrandpre
2014 GTUIT - Brian Cebull, Jim Haider
2013 Dick Anderson Construction
2012 NorthWestern Energy
2011 Stillwater Mining Company
2010 D.A. Davidson & Co.
2009 CCCS, Inc
2008 Glacier Bancorp.
2007 CTA Architects Engineers
2006 Blue Rock Products
2003 North Country Media
2002 Zoot Enterprises
2000 Wells Fargo Bank Processing Center
1999 Big Sky Airlines
MTA Mike Malone Educator of the Year
2015 Susan J. Wolff, Dean, College of Great Falls, MSU
2014 Greg Kegel, MSU-Northern
2013 Lorri Brenneman, Montana Department of Agriculture - Agriculture in the Classroom
2012 Dr. Steve Mock and Dr. Rob Thomas, U of M Western
2011 Dr. Waded Cruzado, President, Montana State University
2010 Frank Gilmore, Chancellor, Montana Tech
2009 David S. Forbes, Dean, University of Montana
2008 Jon “Tony” Rudbach (1937-2008), Assoc. V.P. Research, University of Montana
2007 Harry W. Fritz, Professor, University of Montana & Dean Jane Baker, COT, Butte
2006 Geoff Gamble, President, Montana State University
2006 Rich Semenik, Dean, Montana State University
2005 George Dennison, President, University of Montana
2004 Mary Moe, Dean, MSU COT Great Falls
2003 Jane Karas, President, Flathead Valley Community College
2002 Willard Weaver, Dean, MSU COT Great Falls
2001 Arthur DeRosier, Jr., Rocky Mountain College
2000 Joseph McDonald, President, Salish Kootenai College
1999 Michael Malone, President, Montana State University
Ambassador of the Year
2015 Brent Campbell
2014 Pam Haxby-Cote
2013 Jeff Laverdiere
2012 Dr. Joe Michels
2011 Leslie Messer
2010 Lisa Perry
2009 Bill Johnston
2008 Carl Kochman
2007 Sean Thompson & Dale Mahugh
2006 Rick Edwards
2005 Ken Richardson
2004 Pat Seiler
2003 Turner Askew
2002 Jon Marchi
2001 Philip Sandquist
2000 Evan Barrett
1999 J. Logan Rogers
1998 Alan Nicholson
1997 Kay Foster
1996 Penny Copps & Jim Smitham
1995 Gary Carlson
1994 Greg Cuniff
1993 Bob Bragg
1992 Dan Smith
1991 Dan Regan
1990 Jim Scott
1989 Bud Lilly
1988 Gary Buchanan
1987 Dan Regan
1986 Bob Henkel
1985 Russ Ritter
1984 Al Bell
Legislator of the Year
2015 Senator Ed Buttrey, Senator Chas Vincent & Representative Bryce Bennett
2013 Representative Duane Ankney
2007 Senator John Brueggeman & Representative Dan Villa
2003 Senator Bob DePratu
Outreach Montana Ambassador of the Year
2015 Russ Fletcher, MATR.net
2014 Chris Aageson, PNW Chapter
2013 Kurt Burgess, California Chapter
2012 Missoula Children’s Theatre with Don Collins
2011 Lynda Colucci, California Chapter
2010 Kirk Van Alstyne, Pacific Northwest Chapter
2009 Joe Whittinghill Pacific Northwest Chapter
Pronounced plĕn'ə-pə-tĕn'shē-ĕr'ē, this is a title made to any member of the Montana Ambassador organization who has rendered especially meritorious service to the industrial or economic development of the State. The award in honorary in nature and continues throughout the lifetime of the recipient.
2015 Rick Edwards
2013 Max Baucus
2012 Evan Barrett
2007 Jon Marchi, Liz Marchi & Tom Siebel
2005 Larry Gianchetta
2004 Butch Ott
2003 Arne Siegel & Keith Colbo
2000 Dan Lambros
1997 Dan Smith
1985 Ed Jasmin
1984 Gary Buchanan