The Montana State University center that has developed a national reputation for innovative programs focused on the American West will be renamed in honor of the late writer Ivan Doig, a Montanan who was often called the “dean of Western writers.”
On Nov. 16, the Montana Board of Regents approved changing the name of the MSU Center for Western Lands and Peoples to the Ivan Doig Center for the Study of the Lands and Peoples of the North American West.
The name change was inspired by support from Carol Doig, including $1 million to support the center in honor of her late husband, $1 million to the MSU Library for the Ivan Doig Archive, annual contributions to support the center’s operating costs and additional support to the MSU Library.
“I think Ivan would be smiling, as I am, about his name being attached to MSU’s Center for the Study of Lands and Peoples of the North American West,” said Carol Doig about her decision to make the gift to MSU. “It joins the Doig Archive in enriching the experience of students, faculty, researchers and all others interested in the places we live.”
“This center could not be named for a more appropriate individual than Ivan Doig, one of Montana’s and the West’s most beloved literary figures,” said Nic Rae, dean of the MSU College of Letters and Science under which the center is housed. “Carol Doig’s generous donation will ensure that Ivan’s name is always associated with a leading center for the study of the past, present and future of the North American West.”
Doig grew up in White Sulphur Springs, and his family also ran sheep in the Bridger Mountains. They later moved to the Dupuyer area and he graduated from Valier High School before attending college at Northwestern University. He and Carol later moved to Seattle, where the beloved author wrote the majority of his 16 fiction and nonfiction books, which were primarily set in his native state.
Doig won the Wallace Stegner Award in 2007, was a finalist for the National Book Award, received the National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, won the Western Heritage Award, won the Western Literature Association’s Distinguished Achievement Award and earned many other honors. His books are still found on best-seller lists.
Shortly after Doig died in April 2015, Carol Doig chose MSU as a repository for his letters and other memorabilia, selecting MSU over other universities including Stanford and the University of Washington. MSU established both an archive in the library and programming for the College of Letters and Science. Today the Ivan Doig Archive is maintained as both an online and physical archive at the MSU Library. Last year, the center conducted a four-day symposium about Doig’s life, “Doig Country: Imagining Montana and the West.”
Susan Kollin, MSU professor of English who is director of the soon-to-be-renamed center, said that the Doig endowment will broaden the center’s offerings in many ways. Among the programs it will fund are student internships in public history, museum studies and other field work. It will provide continued support for the center’s popular speaker series, which features leading western scholars and writers as well as funding for a western film series in partnership with the School of Film and Photography in the College of Arts and Architecture and with the Museum of the Rockies.
“We are thrilled to receive Carol Doig’s generous gift,” Kollin said. “Her donation will enable the center to continue developing research projects and public programs that serve our communities and honor Ivan Doig’s legacy as a writer of Montana and the West.”