Wild Rockies Field Institute

Matt Thomas Endowment Scholarship

The Man

On Wednesday, May 15, 2002, Matt Thomas died suddenly from heart disease at his home in Missoula, Montana. He was 44 years old.

Matt was a co-founder of the Wild Rockies Field Institute whose ideals profoundly affected the vision and focus of the organization. Matt was a key member of the Field Institute's board and staff from the organization's inception – he was our founding vice-president, an extremely dedicated instructor, a leader, and an inspiration for many of us.

As an instructor, Matt consistently encouraged his students to consider human/land relations from multiple cultural and historical perspectives, to develop a personal philosophy for living well with the land, and to examine themselves and their interactions with the land. In his personal life Matt was dedicated to local politics, environmental and river advocacy, and the study of eco-feminism and sustainable human/land relations.

We will miss him dearly as a friend, colleague, teacher, and leader. We are certain many of you who knew Matt will also mourn his passing, even as we strive to remember and celebrate a life well-lived.

Many of us who knew Matt are keen to commemorate him and sustain his spirit. Toward this effort, we are compiling an on-line journal of photos and writings, and invite you to share with us your images, stories, memories, and lessons learned from your time with Matt. We will add many of these thoughts, remembrances, and photos to our website for folks to visit. Please write in to the office or submit your thoughts via email at wrfi@wrfi.net. Please feel free, as well, to write Matt's partner Gail Gutsche to share your thoughts or sympathies with her directly (1530 Cooper St., Missoula, MT  59802).

The Scholarship

The Matt Thomas Endowment was established in 2002 by Matt’s friends and family in memory of Matt and his commitment to education. The Matt Thomas Endowment grants merit-based scholarships each year to students who clearly embody Matt's ideals and visions. WRFI seeks scholarship applicants who share his interest in studying environmental ethics and who will consider their personal land ethic and critically examine their place in, and contributions to, the world.

The Matt Thomas Scholarship is open to any student who is enrolled in the Montana Afoot and Afloat course. This is the WRFI course that was most intimately shaped by Matt's interests and vision, and is rooted in his home state of Montana.

To donate to the Matt Thomas Endowment, please visit our donations page.


The Process

Please complete WRFI's Scholarship Application Form and the essay questions listed below, and submit them to the WRFI office on or before May 5th.

All applicants will be notified by May 19th whether or not they have been awarded a scholarship. Course applications will be reviewed upon receipt, and applicants will be notified of acceptance into the course within 5-10 days.

If you have any questions or need assistance in completing the Scholarship Application Form, please contact the WRFI office.

Essay questions

In his book, The Rediscovery of North America, Barry Lopez defines the Spanish term la querencia as "a place in which we know exactly who we are. The place from which we speak our deepest beliefs." For both Barry Lopez and Matt Thomas, calling a place home meant developing this kind of a relationship with that place.

Consider an encounter you have had with a place, either past or present, and answer the following questions (in a total of two pages or less):

  1. How did you become intimate with the place and what did you (or do you) get out of your relationship to the place?
  2. What responsibilities or obligations have you felt to the place you are writing about?
  3. Have you ever felt that the place you are writing about is or could be threatened in some way? If so, how did/would you respond?

Please and send your essay answers and the scholarship application to keri@wrfi.net by May 5th.