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The Magazine of The University of Montana


Wanted: YOUR Opinions

The Montanan welcomes letters to the editor. Please sign and include your graduating year or years of attendance, home address, and phone number or e-mail address.

Send them to:
Montanan Editor,
325 Brantly Hall,
Missoula, MT 59812

Because of space limitations, we are not able to include all letters sent to us. Letters may be edited for length or clarity. While universities are places of discussion where good people do not always agree, letters deemed potentially libelous or that malign a person or group will not be published. Opinions expressed in the Montanan do not necessarily reflect those of the University of Montana.


TOP McEneaney, left, Acharya, right, and a friend at UM in the early 1970s.
BOTTOM Acharya and McEneaney today

People often are surprised when they hear how my husband, Bharat Acharya ’75, met his good friend Terry McEneaney ’73. As a writer myself, I decided to take their oft-repeated tale and submit it to the Montanan. And what could be a more appropriate venue than a Letter to the Editor for a story chronicling the chance meeting of pen pals?

Here it is:

They can’t remember the exact year they “met,” but it happened sometime in the late 1950s. Elvis was king, and Edsel automobiles were still in production when their twin letters—those blue, onion-skin airmail envelopes—crossed in the mail.

Terry “Mac” McEneaney was attending grade school at St. Mary’s Academy in Dover, N.H. Bharat Acharya was practicing his British accent at Mrs. Hartley’s Private English Medium School in Calcutta, India. That’s when their teachers assigned them pen pals from foreign countries.

Needless to say, that’s how McEneaney, the wiry Irish kid with the curly red hair, and Acharya, the tennis-playing Indian who dreamed of being a cowboy, were linked by happenstance so many decades ago.

For a few years, they scrawled messages to one another. Their letters touched on boyhood interests and cultural differences. Then, like so many pen pals, they lost touch. But the arcs of their lives were yet to cross again, this time in Missoula.

McEneaney arrived in Big Sky Country as a transfer student in 1968.

“I came [to UM] because of the Wildlife Biology Program,” he says. “And I also wanted to join the luge team at Lolo Hot Springs.”

Acharya got his first taste of the U.S. when he landed in New York City on July 4, 1970. Totally unaware of the day’s significance, he marveled at the flags flying everywhere. He came to America to study, and he was drawn to Montana by a National Geographic article he’d read years before in Calcutta.

For Acharya, who was then considering a degree in pharmacy, choosing UM was a no-brainer.

McEneaney remembers the day Acharya pulled up in front of UM’s Aber Hall. As resident assistant there, McEneaney couldn’t help but notice the dark-skinned stranger stepping out of a taxi.

“Just the way he dressed, he definitely wasn’t from Montana,” McEneaney says with a chuckle. “And he had these really outdated skis.”

Neither recognized the other nor made any connection at first. It wasn’t until they sat down together in the dining hall and exchanged names that the proverbial light bulb lit up.

“I thought, ‘Wait a minute, this is the guy I used to write in Calcutta, India,’” McEneaney remembers.

The unlikely friends hit it off and never lost touch again. McEneaney went on to work for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, capping his career as head ornithologist at Yellowstone National Park. Acharya, too, put down roots in Montana. For more than thirty years, he traveled the state as a pharmaceutical representative for CIBA Geigy and then Novartis.

By happenstance, Acharya met his wife, Linda Halstead-Acharya ’79, through McEneaney. And McEneaney “met” his wife, Karen Evangelista McEneaney, through the mail: McEneaney was living in Montana and Evangelista in Boston when a friend linked them up. They came to know one another through the letters they sent back and forth.

All are now retired and continue their friendship at Griz game tailgates in Missoula.

Linda Halstead-Acharya ’79


The Montanan would like to thank the following people for recently donatin to the magazine: George Foster, Jean'ne M. Shreeve, John Matte, William Thompson, Dr. Bonny Lund, Matthew Zahn, Macolm Marcus, and Helen A. Ray.