(Editor’s note: Montana Western athletics release)
The University of Montana Western has announced its Hall of Fame and Alumni weekend for Oct. 20-21, 2017. The event kicks off on Friday with a cocktail hour from 5:30-6:30 p.m. in the Lewis and Clark Room in Mathews Hall on the Montana Western campus, followed by dinner and the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. On Saturday, tailgating will begin at 12 p.m. followed by the Bulldogs vs. Eastern Oregon University football game and the introduction of the 2017 inductees during halftime. Later that evening, a no-host social will be held starting at 8 p.m. at The Den, Steakhouse & Bar.
Montana Western will induct Tom Yahraes, Neil Christiaens, Gordon Stephens, and the 1967 Football and 2004 Women’s Rodeo Teams.
A graduate of Glassboro State College and Southern Illinois University with a Master’s of Science in Education, Tom Yahraes served as Vice Chancellor for University Relations and as Executive Director of the University of Montana Western Foundation. He served in these roles during his 16-year tenure at the university. While at Montana Western, Tom supervised the athletic programs, staff and facilities. Intermittently, he also served as Athletic Director and as Montana Western’s representative to the Frontier Conference. Yahraes was instrumental in organizing the first Bulldog Golf Tournament, now known as the Scholarship Scramble with Coach Mick Delaney. This proud tradition carries on raising money for student scholarships and is now in its 25th year. As director of the Foundation, he fundraised to improve the Vigilante field grandstand, press box, concessions, restrooms and the locker rooms for players and officials. Since departing from UMW, Tom served as a consultant for Montana Western’s capital campaign and New Mexico State University Alamogordo’s Foundation Board. He and his wife, Cheri Jimeno, are greatly enjoying traveling all over the world in their retirements. They have six children.
Neil Christiaens graduated from the University of Montana Western in 2007 with a Bachelor of Arts in Social Science, followed by a teaching endorsement in 2011. While at Montana Western, Neil Christiaens was a member of the basketball team from 2000-2004. His many accomplishments include taking first team All Frontier Conference in 2000-01, 2001-02 and 2003-04. He was also selected for NAIA All-American distinction in 2001-02 and 2003-04. Neil also led the NAIA Division 1 and Frontier Conference basketball in the 3-point shooting percentage in 2001-02 and 2003-04. Since graduating from UMW, Neil has coached basketball in three Montana schools: Twin Bridges, Cut Bank, and his hometown of Valier where he is currently head coach. While at Twin Bridges, his team won the 2009 Class C State title beating Rocky Boy. His team at Twin Bridges also won two conference regular season titles, two conference tournament titles, and two Western Class C Divisional titles. Neil started his teaching career in Cut Bank, Mont. where he continues to teach Government, World History, and current event classes. He and his fiancée, Janice Froman, recently had their first son, Makai, and are expecting another in November to join their growing family that also includes their seven-year-old daughter, Davanee.
Gordon Stephens graduated from the University of Montana Western in 1996 with a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education in Mathematics and a minor in History. While at Montana Western, Gordon was a member of the wrestling team from 1991-1992. He was also a member of the football team from 1991-1995. His many accomplishments include being named as a 1993 and 1994 Division 1 Football All-American Scholar-Athlete, and as a 1994 Division 1 Football All-American HM Defensive End. He was a 1993 and 1994 All Conference 1st Team selection, was listed in the top 10 Academic Athletes at Montana Western in 1994-1995, and was a member of the 1994 Frontier Conference Champions and NAIA Division I Semi-Finalist football team. Since graduating from UMW, Stephen moved to Texas and began his career as a high school math teacher and has coached baseball, football, softball, and wrestling. He started the first wrestling program at Western Hills High School in Fort Worth. In 2007, Stephens started teaching and coaching at Lamar High School in Arlington, Texas where he still lives with his wife Monica and their 16-year-old daughter, Hannah. Here he was able to help lead the boys and girls wrestling teams to several of their first district and state championships. Stephens was awarded the 2015 Teacher of The Year and the 2016 AWARE Teaching awards and was recognized by Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
The 1967 Football team garnered the Frontier League’s first championship with a 55-6 rout of Rocky Mountain College in the season’s finale. Overall the Bulldogs posted a 6-1 season and, following a season opener loss to Ricks College, rolled to six straight victories.
As a result of the effort put forth by the Bulldogs, other honors came to the team and its members. Legendary Coach, Casey Keltz, was named “Coach of the Year” by his fellow coaches. Members of his team honored as All Conference for the offensive team: Mike Charlton, tight end; Leon Hartvigson, guard; Ed Ferris, wingback; and Steve Poole, running back. Those on the defensive team: Jim Clairmont, tackle; Bill Posivio, guard; Bob Crawford, linebacker; and Jack Filcher, back.
The 2004 Women’s Rodeo Team competed at the 55th Annual College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyo. and brought home a very exciting second place finish.
Individually placing in the breakaway roping at the CNFR were cousins Bryant Worthen with a second-place finish and Maquel Fleming coming in fifth. The two together scored all of the team’s points during the final round, bringing the entire team to the runner up position.
The team consisted of Bryant Worthen, Krystal Nemitz, Michelle Erickson and Maquel Fleming. The team was coached by Iola “Olie” Else, who was named the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association National Coach of the Year during this season.
Call the Montana Western Alumni Office at 406-683-7306 to reserve your tickets for the dinner and ceremony. Tickets are available for $20 for adults, $10 for ages 6 – 17 and admission is free for ages 5 and under.