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Montana Ag: Rancher's legacy supports Geyser school and students - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Montana Ag: Rancher's legacy supports Geyser school and students

Posted: Dec 27, 2017 9:27 PM Updated:

Small town schools across Montana have struggled over the years with a decline in student population but in Geyser the legacy of rancher Leroy Strand is helping the school's recruitment efforts.

Ranch handler Tony Martin says he lived and breathed Montana, "to come here and have this ranch, that's what made his life."

Leroy Strand is kind of a celebrity in the region even though Tony Martin said he was a man of few words, "he was so shy and quiet that he was hard to get to know and you never knew what Leroy was thinking."

But in the nearby town of Geyser, Leroy's celebrity started to grow along with the school's pocketbook.

"He started out with $100,000 in 1997," Sandra Watkins said. "Back in 2000 when we were building our new gym, he bought the majority of the bonds. Right now, we're sitting at just under $900,000."

Leroy Strand was a simple rancher who spent his life giving dollars to a tiny, one-horse town. "It'll be the Strand Foundation forever," Tony Martin said.

According to Tanara Martin, over $200,000 in scholarships have been awarded because of Strand's generosity. "He was a very good person and a very shrewd businessman," Tony Martin said.

A quiet, shrewd businessman who himself did not have kids or a college education but dedicated his whole life to those exact two things. 

Because of the Strand Scholarship, Geyser Schools has put in place a dynamic measuring system, which gives their high school graduates an opportunity to earn scholarship funds towards any advanced education of their choosing.

Strand died last year at the age of 97. According to his obituary, in 1944, Leroy entered into a partnership with his parents and brother in purchasing a cattle ranch near Geyser.

He became the sole owner of the Strand Ranch in 1964. Leroy operated and managed the ranch until 1998 when he leased the ranch and cattle to Tony and Tanara Martin.  

Leroy continued to live on the ranch and remained an active partner, friend, and advisor to the Martins.

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