News
Jul 25, 2022

Longtime Northwest Montana Resident Donates $1 Million to FVCC’s Wachholz College Center

Flathead Valley Community College received a $1 million donation from local philanthropist, Lola Vulles, to name and support the Stewart Family Performing Arts Wing in the Wachholz College Center, set to open this fall.

Vulles chose to commemorate her family with the donation, Dr. Charles E. and Lottie (Hartsoch) Stewart. A veterinarian by trade, Vulles said her father was a born farmer and spent his life gathering up acres of land when he could to build a better life for his family.

“Dad always said he wouldn’t live long enough to get anything from everything he built. Now I'm humbled
and happy to be able to commemorate my family and all their hard work,” Vulles explained.

Vulles grew up in northwest North Dakota, moving around often to follow her parents’ jobs or to find a country school with teachers.

“In 1938 I went to first grade, but only for two weeks, because we then moved when my mom got a new job. From there, dad bought a farm, and would go to the courthouse in town to pick up more land for $1 an acre,” Vulles said. “Teachers were hard to find back then, so in the fall, we'd to move to whatever little town had a school teacher, and back to the farm after school got out.”

Moving around was the norm for Vulles and her family, so when a friend told her father about a farm in Montana, weeks later they all moved out to begin their Montana life in Ronan.

The rest is history for Vulles, as she graduated school, got married, moved to a little farm west of Pablo, had two children and lived a life there for 51 years.

“We’ve been through it all,” Vulles said. “We barely had groceries sometimes, but we made it work. My folks worked for what’s coming to me now and it brings me so much joy to be able to give it away.”

Vulles experienced first-hand how difficult it can be to find an education and saw other families with many kids trying to make ends meet and get schooling. Although times have changed since she was in school, Vulles says she was moved to support FVCC through friends she made in a speed quilting class.

“I took at speed quilting class at FVCC, which led me to a 25-year career sewing five days a week. My quilters group was all retired teachers and they explained how difficult it can be for people to access an education they want,” said Vulles. “Through my personal experiences and learning about difficulties people face getting a good education, supporting FVCC and its students is a joy.”

“This donation will have an incredible impact on FVCC students and the community, and we are proud to have the Stewart family name live on at FVCC,” said FVCC President Jane Karas. “We are extremely grateful for this very generous donation and look forward to honoring Lola and her family. Lola’s dedication to supporting education, students and quality learning facilities at FVCC will be part of her legacy.”

Vulles concluded in saying, "My folks worked for it all. I’m just doing what I feel should be done to help our community.”

For more information about the Wachholz College Center and ways to get involved, visit wachholzcollegecenter.org.