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Montana State to award honorary doctorate to Robyn Jones

by MSU News Service
| March 24, 2023 12:00 AM

BOZEMAN — Robyn Jones, a successful entrepreneur with a passion for improving rural health care who, along with her husband, made an historic investment in Montana State University's nursing college, will receive an honorary doctorate in humane letters from MSU during the university’s spring commencement, university officials announced last week.

MSU's spring commencement ceremonies are scheduled for Friday, May 12, at the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse.

"Robyn has led an extraordinary life defined by extraordinary generosity, and her support of MSU will have long-lasting, transformative effects on the quality and availability of health care across Montana, especially in rural communities,” said MSU President Waded Cruzado. “We are honored to recognize her with an honorary doctorate, which is the highest commendation Montana State confers to individuals who have excelled and have made outstanding contributions to society.”

Jones is the cofounder and vice chairman of Goosehead Insurance, a company that has seen rapid growth since its founding in 2003 and which has more than 1,400 offices across the U.S. The company went public in 2018 and has a market capitalization of approximately $2 billion.

Jones and her husband, Mark, who split their time between Whitefish and Fort Worth, Texas, made a $101 million philanthropic donation to MSU's nursing college in August 2021. The gift was, at the time, the largest ever given to a nursing college as well as the largest private gift in the history of the state of Montana. In November 2021, the Montana Board of Regents approved MSU's request to name its nursing college after the couple.

The $101 million gift will fund the construction of new facilities at each of the MSU nursing college's five campuses in Bozeman, Billings, Great Falls, Kalispell and Missoula, equipped with modern classrooms and state-of-the-art simulation labs. Additionally, it will establish five endowed faculty professorships to help MSU attract top faculty talent during a nationwide nursing faculty shortage. It will also develop an endowed scholarship fund that will allow the college to keep the cost of nursing education affordable for all students and create Montana’s only certified nurse midwifery program to significantly increase the number of specialized maternal health care providers serving rural and remote communities in Montana.

Jones was raised in Lethbridge, Alberta. Her mother, Jean Roberts, was a nurse at Lethbridge Municipal Hospital known for her dedication and care, sometimes riding to work on the back of a snowmobile or in the bucket of a front-end loader when winter roads were impassable, Jones said. One of MSU's new endowed faculty professorships is named in Roberts’ honor.

Robyn and Mark met as teenagers, married right after high school and had six children. When Robyn started flipping houses, she had extensive interactions with the insurance industry and noticed many ways she thought she could improve it.

Seeing an opportunity to develop a more client-focused insurance business model, Jones got an insurance license and started Goosehead in 2003. Her husband joined her in the business in 2004, and Goosehead now has more than 1,300 employees and over 1,400 franchises.

According to Sarah Shannon, dean of MSU's Mark and Robyn Jones College of Nursing, it is Jones's "commitment to family and well-being, combined with incredible business acumen, that led her to change the course of MSU’s nursing college."

"The impact of Robyn Jones's generosity and dedication to family will be measured over decades in mothers' and newborns' lives saved, families safeguarded, finances conserved and dreams preserved," Shannon said.

Founded in 1937, MSU’s Mark and Robyn Jones College of Nursing offers bachelor’s, accelerated bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral-level nursing education to produce nurses, nurse leaders, nurse educators and nurse practitioners for Montana. Great Falls was the first location where upper division, clinical nursing education was offered, followed by the establishment of the Billings nursing campus in 1939, Missoula campus in 1976, and Kalispell campus in 2002. While nursing majors have taken prerequisite courses in Bozeman at MSU since 1937, upper division or clinical nursing education was first offered at the Bozeman campus location in 2004.

Montana State University is the largest producer of registered nurses in Montana and is the sole provider of doctoral nurse practitioner education in the state. More information is available at montana.edu/nursing.

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