Monday, April 3, 2017


When George Dennison passed away earlier this year, it prompted us to reach out to many of the folks with whom Dennison had worked to establish, grow and support Campus Compact and National Service in Montana. Recently we heard from Charlie Briggs. Charlie is a University of Montana alum, and is the public policy and development officer with Easter Seals Goodwill of the Northern Rockies. When I got my start with Campus Compact, Charlie was director of the Governor's Office of Community Service. He shared some thoughts about George here. Thank you, Charlie.

In Montana, the Commission is housed in the Governor’s Office of Community Service (and established in statute by the 1993 Legislature), and I served as the second Executive Director from September 1997 – February 2001.  It’s interesting that George was so personable, at least in our dealings it was usually on a first-name basis (which was certainly not the case in meeting with him at the university environment, such as Main Hall).  We had a warm, yet professional working relationship.  He was a decidedly strong leader of the Commission.  George was passionate about national service, and quickly embraced the creation of the Corporation for National Service in 1992-93 (early in the Clinton years, though
initial grants I recall came out at the end of the George H.W. Bush term).  He was appointed Chair by Gov. Racicot, who also embraced national service and created the Office under the Governor, and served as Chair through the Martz Administration.

George was a very direct, clear communicator, and a very engaged Chair of the Montana Commission, developed effective working relationships with a diverse commission membership, making sure everyone was engaged.  He was also most supportive of the work our staff did to prepare and the protocols to award AmeriCorps grants, which included creation of the Montana Campus Corps, under Campus Compact, and other grants such as the Learn and Serve grants awarded in cooperation with the Office of Public Instruction.  He was also committed to maintaining a positive working relationship with the Corporation’s State Office, under the leadership of Joe Lovelady, and then John Allen.

Charlie Briggs
I left the Montana Commission in 2001 to become ED for the Texas Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service, the state commission originally created under Gov. Ann Richards, but enthusiastically embraced by Gov. George W. Bush.  I only mention this because the Texas Campus Compact when I started was really a fledgling university organization there.  As University President, George had really invested in making Campus Compact a priority in the Montana University System.  A couple years into my tenure, I helped convene a meeting of campuses in partnership with their Compact, and asked George to be the keynote speaker.  He readily agreed, made time in his schedule and flew to Austin at his own expense to provide the keynote, but also spent time conferring with campus executives about the importance of supporting national service among university students through the Compact.  That underscored how instilled in George was the importance of campus-based service learning and strengthening civic engagement.  I think that is an important part of his legacy that will hopefully stand the test of time.

Charlie Briggs
March 2017

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