Rob and Terry Ryan's Generous Support Continues to Inspire Montana's Future Leaders at Hamilton High in Montana

May 14, 2008

"We want to keep our kids here." How many times have you heard that refrain? How often have you actually done something about it? Rob and Terry Ryan have again put their money where there heart is by developing a major relationship with Hamilton High School in Ravalli County, Montana through their STARS (Science and Technology At ouR Schools) Foundation.

In 2005, they introduced themselves to the school leadership and asked what they could do to improve technology and education excellence in math, physics and biology. As successful business people they approached this as they would a startup. How could their resources be used to maximize success?

They interviewed teachers to see who had the best ideas for incorporating state of the art technology and teaching methods for classes like Intro to Biotech and Forensics.

Here’s an update on how their generosity has benefited Hamilton High and its students:

“I continue to utilize the technologies that were donated by the Ryan's on a daily basis in my General Biology course. There is no doubt that the donation has significantly improved the quality of instruction and will continue to do so well into the future. I don't think that you can underestimate the value of improving the "nuts and bolts" instruction in the required science courses that all students must take in the early years of high school. High quality and engaging instruction in these freshman and sophomore courses can provide a critical "hook" that motivates them to take more challenging elective science courses such as biotechnology, physics and chemistry. I believe that we are beginning to see an upward trend at HHS in the number of students taking these higher level elective science courses. (However, it will take several years of tracking the data to make any definitive claims.)

As student interest in science increases, we'll need to increase our course offerings in the science department. I believe that we have begun to better meet those demands through our Biotechnology and Forensic Science courses. Students taking these electives are being exposed to some very exciting DNA and protein related technologies. These technologies are directly relevant to the work occurring at our local research labs (RML and GSK). We certainly hope that these types of experiences in high school will encourage students to consider careers in science that might someday allow them to return "home" to the Bitterroot Valley and find employment in science related professions.

Providing these types of technology rich and relevant experiences would typically be out of reach for most high schools. The Ryan's donation has been enormously helpful in making these courses possible.

Thanks for your continued interest. Let me know if you'd like any further details.”

Tom Schmit Biology Teacher, Hamilton High School


“Because my participation in several workshops over the past eight years, I am convinced of the effectiveness of inquiry based science instruction. The basic premise of inquiry based instruction is that students build a deeper level of understanding of course content and develop higher level thinking skills when they arrive at science concepts through hands-on experimentation and interpretation of the data they have gathered.

In order for effective inquiry based instruction to happen, students must be supplied with equipment and materials that with will provide them with the data that will lead them to the concept they are attempting to develop. Such equipment today means in part technology. The Ryan grant has allowed me to purchase the type of technology that allows my students to easily and very successfully gather data that leads them to some of the most essential principles in chemistry and physics. Specific examples of this are instances that have taken place in my Physics class within the last several weeks:

1. In past years I would lecture my students about a quantity known as specific heat when we study thermal energy.

This year, my students, using lap top computers, a Vernier Lab Pro (a computer interface), a digital thermistor, a digital heat pulser, and an immersion heater, gathered data, interpreted data and arrived at their own definition of specific heat. I have not doubt that they have a better understanding of that concept. In the process of interpreting the data they did some deep level thinking.

2. In past years I would demonstrate and then describe for my students what constitutes simple harmonic motion.

This year, using a lap top computer, a Vernier Lab pro and a digital motion detector, my students simultaneously observed the motion and real time graphs representing different aspects of the motion.

From their analysis of these graphs, they derived their personal description of what constitutes simple harmonic motion.

Through additional Ryan grant given last year, I was able to purchase digital projectors for both my chemistry and physics lab rooms.

The acquisition of those projectors has allowed me to utilize internet websites that provide animations and simulations of scientific principles that I could never demonstrate in any other way for my students. This visualization, I am sure, provides better comprehension for all my students but especially those who are visual learners. I am deeply grateful to Ryan's for their generosity. I have no doubt that their generosity is having very serious impact on the students in my classes.” Sincerely,

Tony Favero, Chemistry and Physics Teacher, Hamilton High School


All of this has provided unanticipated benefits to the Bitterroot Valley. As Glaxco Smith Kline and the Rocky Mountain Labs have continued to expand "GlaxoSmithKline looking forward to 100 new hires in Ravalli County" . The companies have contributed equipment to Hamilton High but it took the additional support from Rob and Terry to develop facilities that are capable of training the employees both of these institutions need now or will need in the future. In collaboration with the University of Montana's College of Technology, Hamilton High is now the site for comprehensive adult education classes for these and the other companies that will spinoff from their research.


Biotech boom: As Hamilton businesses expand, interest in field grows. UM creates program to train lab workers for GlaxoSmithKline and Rocky Mountain Labs


“I was truly thrilled to read about the extraordinary contribution that Rob and Terry Ryan have made to science education in the Bitterroot Valley with their “Dream Classroom” contest. The science teachers at Hamilton High School presented to the Ryans a winning proposal that will fund state-of-the-art science classrooms. This will make it possible for generations of high school students in Hamilton to study life and physical sciences with the latest equipment and technology. The knowledge and the skills the students acquire will equip them well to pursue advanced opportunities and become leaders in the sciences. Mr Ryan correctly observes that “more must be done to equip young Bitterroot students in the classroom so they can be tomorrow’s leaders.” This is the proper focus of education and all of our local schools should adhere to it. Not to focus on the classroom shortchanges our kids and ultimately our communities. As Mr Ryan noted, there is a rich tradition of research and technology in the Bitterroot Valley, including the Rocky Mountain Labs and the private lab that is now part of GlaxoSmithKline. For the past several decades, I have had the distinct pleasure of mentoring students from all our valley high schools in science programs. They have been uniformly top-notch and intellectually competitive with students from anywhere in the country. Now some of these students will have lab facilities commensurate with their talents. We can hope that some of them will eventually staff the outstanding research facilities in our area.

Therefore, I would like to applaud the Ryans for their vision and for their faith in the young people of today. Rob Ryan has a reputation as a shrewd investor. I am confident that this new investment is equally shrewd and will also pay substantial dividends.”


Marshall E. Bloom, M.D.

Associate Director for Rocky Mountain Laboratories

If you’re interested in contributing to the future of your economy through your local school, please consider a similar effort. The rewards are many.

“While we don’t have children, we felt it was important for our community and our country to do the best we can in supporting science. America is strong because of our people and our technology. Technology is science. The High School is where it begins...We hope others will give according to their means and heart..”

Rob and Terry Ryan


Rob and Terry Ryan have a simple goal. They'd like to help provide the very best educational opportunities possible in math and science for the future leaders of Montana.

Terry Ryan said, "The more we learn about GSK and Rocky Mountain Labs and their current expansions, the better we think the opportunities are to turn the Bitterroot Valley into a biotech corridor and keep some of our best kids here with really good career opportunities." Through their ongoing support of Hamilton High, they hope to encourage others in Montana to contribute to their local schools. After their first round of funding, there were two similar gifts from other entities to public schools in the Bitterroot. The goal of former Superintendent Dr. John Matt and Principal Kevin Conwell is to develop a state of the art educational facility that will be the benchmark for Montana. "We are very grateful for their continued support. The impacts of their generous donations have had a real positive impact on our students. In addition we have been able to offer classes to adults here at the school who are training to do lab tech work at RML or GSK. Previously they would have had to go to Missoula to access a lab that is well enough equipped to handle the program. That was an unexpected advantage of the Ryan’s contribution." Superintendent John Matt MATR hopes that many more successful individuals either living in Montana or interested in seeing the state succeed will emulate the Ryans' generous contributions. The future of Montana lies with our children.

Math teacher Mark Albert said it very well, "We want our kids to be better thinkers." What a very simple yet profound legacy to leave.

Better and more educated thinkers equals a better Montana. What can you to do to contribute to the future of the children of Montana?

To learn more about STARS, please call 406-363-0164 extension 6 or e-mail <>

"The State with the Best Education Wins!"