Photo by Brooke Andrus

The University of Montana has been part of the Missoula community for almost 120 years. Its long history as one of the state’s largest learning institutions is peppered with interesting facts, stories and tidbits. Here are a few UM trivia items to impress your friends with:

UM’s long history is peppered with interesting facts, stories and tidbits. Here are a few trivia items to impress your friends with.


Photo courtesy of mr_t_77/Flickr



It wasn’t always UM


“MSU” might as well be a four-letter word here in Missoula, but it wasn’t always that way. In 1917, UM officially became known as Montana State University. It stayed that way for nearly 50 years. In 1965, the school’s name was changed back to The University of Montana.



Photo courtesy of gfhdickinson/Flickr



Star-gazing on Mount Sentinel


The federal government gave UM the land on the western side of Mount Sentinel — where the “M” trail is now located — for the purpose of constructing an astronomical observatory. The observatory was never built, but nevertheless, the mountain became a defining feature of UM’s campus.



Photo courtesy of dareppi/Flickr



Cattle guard


The entire campus was once surrounded by wooden fences, as roaming livestock and horses were a problem during the university’s early years.



Photo courtesy of kodomut/Flickr



Stay off of the Oval


A 1960 Kaimin editorial suggested that a belowground, open-air amphitheater be constructed in the Oval, just west of Main Hall. In addition to adding cultural richness, the amphitheater was offered as a solution to the problem of students walking across the Oval, which, at that time, was forbidden in an effort to protect the perfectly manicured lawn.



Photo courtesy of poplinre/Flickr



Bears before Monte


From about 1897 to 1960, live bears were used as mascots for UM athletic teams. Each bear quickly grew past a manageable size, after which it was released or sent to a zoo facility. Famous mascot bears included Teddy, Cocoa, Chester and Fessy. (Side note: the cage at the south entrance to Greenough Park once housed a live bear mascot.)



Photo courtesy of Sam Howzit/Flickr



Right down the middle


There used to be a 10-lane bowling alley on the first floor of the University Center (UC).


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