The Texas billionaires best known in the Flathead Valley for buying up a wide swath of prized timberland earlier this year may soon become better known for their enduring contribution to health care in Montana — a legacy that began Monday with a $101 million gift to Montana State University’s College of Nursing, the largest philanthropic donation in state history.
Mark and Robyn Jones, who in addition to building a mega-mansion on Whitefish’s Big Mountain have also made public safety a priority by donating a new fire truck to the local department, say they hope their contribution to MSU will build upon the school’s reputation as a national leader in rural nursing research and education, while bolstering the state’s health care system.
The unprecedented donation, which is also the largest gift ever given to a college of nursing in the U.S., will provide funding for new facilities at each of the MSU College of Nursing’s five campuses in Bozeman, Billings, Great Falls, Missoula, and Kalispell, equipping them with modern classrooms and state-of-the-art simulation labs, college administrators announced Aug. 30 during a press conference.
The donation will also establish five new endowed professorships in the College of Nursing, as well as the state’s first certified nurse midwifery program.
“It is hard to put into words how moved and excited all of us are at Montana State University by the generosity of the Joneses, who are helping to address some of the most critical health care disparity issues in Montana, particularly in the state’s rural areas,” said MSU President Waded Cruzado. “Straight from the hearts of Mark and Robyn, this gift will forever change health care in Montana, and it will serve as a model for the nation. Thanks to their vision, we will have access to tangible tools, such as high-quality simulation labs, new facilities across our nursing campuses, and more registered nurses, and doctor of nursing practice prepared nurse practitioners and nurse midwives.”
Access to health care has been a critical issue across the state, with 52 of Montana’s 56 counties classified as medically underserved by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services due to health professional shortages.
According to Cruzado, the MSU College of Nursing is committed to producing the needed workforce and, with the Joneses’ gift, has the opportunity to more than double the number of family nurse practitioners and psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners graduating from MSU. These health practitioners are educated to address the key health challenges facing Montana, including an aging population, mental health and substance abuse.
“This is a significant moment for MSU, as we estimate we will now be able to meet the state’s projected shortfall in baccalaureate-level registered nurses by 2030,” added MSU College of Nursing Dean Sarah Shannon.
The Joneses are the founders of Goosehead Insurance, based in Westlake, Texas, and Mark currently serves as Chairman and CEO of the company. Founded in 2003, Goosehead is a rapidly growing and innovative personal lines insurance agency that distributes its products and services through more than 1,800 offices in the United States with a market capitalization of $5 billion.
“We both grew up visiting Montana with our families, and now it is one of the places we call home,” said Robyn Jones. “We’ve seen first-hand the health care challenges that Montana faces, and we wanted to do something that will make an impact on the people of this beautiful state.”
“Whether in our community or our business, we’ve always believed that people come first,” added Mark Jones. “Montana holds a special place in our hearts, and we look forward to working with the MSU College of Nursing to help transform the health care community here and nationwide.”
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