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The Magazine of The University of Montana

Raising Montana

Dr. Capps Receives for All She Gives

Photo by Patrick Record

Dr. Cathy Capps

Dr. Cathy Capps is recognized for her work in strengthening the bond between UM and the community.

Listen to Dr. Cathy Capps’ stories about her life, and you may jump at your next chance to volunteer.

Capps extolled the benefits of giving and receiving at this year’s Charter Day Awards ceremony, where she received the Neil S. Bucklew Presidential Service Award. The University of Montana Foundation presents the Bucklew Award each year to a Montanan who has enhanced the bonds among the community, state, and University.

Capps, an orthopedic surgeon, moved to Missoula twenty years ago. Since then, she has thrust her heart and soul into supporting the arts, both in the community and at UM.

“You get out of life what you put into it,” Capps says. “I’ve been part of so many exciting things because of my involvement in local arts. I recently had a role in a movie produced for a student’s Master of Fine Arts project, for instance. And I go to local performances, and know so many of the kids performing. That makes it so much more fun when you know people personally. In so many ways, it’s like having a group of friends.”

Capps, a longtime board member (and occasional cast member) for the Missoula Children’s Theatre, also has served as co-president, treasurer, and current scholarship chair for the Missoula Symphony Guild. She and her husband, Dr. Tom Rickard, funded many vocal and instrumental scholarship endowments. They also support the Buddy DeFranco Jazz Festival, Montana Rep Colony, and other arts activities. On top of that, for the past twelve years, she’s served on the Dean’s Advisory Council for the College of Visual and Performing Arts, most recently as the council president.

At the awards ceremony, she encouraged others to become involved with their communities. She summed up her thinking by paraphrasing a quote from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, saying, “Service, like mercy, is twice blessed. It blesses he who gives and he who receives.”

Capps speaks fondly of her involvement with UM.

“I think UM is so respectful of your wishes—they’ll ask you where you want the money to go, then actually follow through with it. They’ll work with you to make it happen. Plus, you get to see the immediate results of where your money goes. You meet the kids who have been helped, who are grateful for the opportunity. It’s just so personal and so meaningful.”

That immediate connection with students is what drew Capps into so many volunteer efforts in the first place. Years ago, her voice teacher, Esther England, introduced her to faculty and students in UM’s School of Music. Some of the students she met needed to get to Spokane, Wash., for auditions, but had no way of getting there.

“They didn’t have snow tires or a good car,” Capps says. “They didn’t have money to stay anywhere decent. One kid, I remember thinking, he can’t go up on stage in those old shoes.”

Seizing an opportunity, as well as the steering wheel of her four-wheel-drive vehicle equipped with snow tires, she began driving students herself, buying them food, lodging, and yes, even shoes.

Capps shrugs off those efforts, and all of her volunteer efforts.

“It starts with little things—being nice to people, passing along whatever breaks people gave you to get ahead,” she says.

She obviously puts those words into action, and she believes strongly that others should as well.

“When people hear the word giving, they automatically think about money. It’s not just about money,” Capps says. “Get involved, even if you aren’t personally giving money. I’ve sat in a ticket booth selling tickets for a Jazz Fest fundraiser. That didn’t cost me any money.

“People don’t think giving to UM is a reciprocal relationship, but it is. I get to see things, to be involved—I get so much out of it.” She pauses, then adds a closing thought: “Just as with anything in life, you’ll get out of it what you put into it. If you don’t put effort into anything, you’ll get nothing back.”

Words worthy of Shakespeare. Congratulations, and thanks, to Dr. Cathy Capps for putting effort into helping countless UM students.