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Save the Date - June 9, 2016

Food for Thought, An Evening of Great Conversation

fftsmall The date for the 11th Annual Food For Thought has been set. The 2016 event will be held on Thursday, June 9, 2016 from 6:00 pm to 9:00pm in the beautiful new Billings Public Library.

Tickets are $75 per person and can be purchased by contacting the Foundation office at 237-6149 or emailing Leslie Modrow

Don't wait! Tables fill quickly.

Table Hosts and Topics

1. David Darby
Democracy and Nation States: Eastern Europe and Beyond

Despite great hopes for Eastern Europe (CEE) and the Former Soviet Union (FSU) in the early 1990s, we now have the crisis in Ukraine, a dangerous kleptocracy in Russia under Vladimir Putin, far-right governments in Hungary and Poland, and the European migrant crisis. Be part of this timely discussion on what this all means and it's future impact.

Bio: David was senior U.S. budget advisor to Ukraine and other CEE and FSU countries from 1995-2007, living for several years in both Kiev, Ukraine, and Budapest, Hungary. He also worked with projects of the OECD, EU, IMF, and World Bank.

2. Mike Dennison
Montana Political Races: The good, the bad and the ugly.

The 2016 general election races in Montana have already been heating up, reflecting sharp political divisions, both between and, sometimes within the two major parties. Battles for national and state positions, as well as judgeships are the big races. How is Dark Money impacting our state elections? How will our vote change the look of our state and our country?

Bio: Mike is the Chief political reporter for Montana Television Network. He has covered politics in Montana for the past 24 years, both as a print journalist with the state's major newspapers and now as a TV-web reporter for MTN.

3. Stella Fong
What are your favorite memories of Food and Dining?

Go down memory lane to revisit some of the dining experiences from your past. Where and when did you go out for your first steak or to sip your first martini? What are some of your favorite places to dine here in the Magic City? The dining scene and its practices have obviously changed. You will have a first-hand opportunity to share your thoughts about the evolution of food and restaurants.

Bio: Stella Fong, author of Historic Restaurants of Billings, and soon to be released Billings Food, shares her love of food, travel and lifestyle in magazine writings along with her monthly YPR program, Flavors Under the Big Sky: Celebrating the Bounty of the Region.

4. Lynn George
Following the impact of genetic research: Is there an end to this line?

The advancements being made in gene editing, CRISPR, and embryo editing, to name just a few are exciting for many and hopeful for others. But, ethical questions still need to be asked. What are we doing to our body and how will it impact the future of our race? Who is responsible for the ethical implications of these scientific advancements? Will we reach a point where we can buy the perfect body? You be the judge: science miracles or science fiction?

Bio: Lynn is a research scientist and assistant professor in the MSU Cell Biology and Neuroscience Dept. and the MSU-B Biological and Physical Sciences Dept. She studies an inherited neurodegenerative disease called Familial Dysautonomia (FD).

5. Karen Grosz
How does a person release the hidden spirit of creativity?

Unleashing our creativity in responding to challenges involves seeing things with new eyes, and sometimes with a bit of courage. With the pressures of work, family, or health mounting, how does a person find a creative release? Is your spark of creativity dimmed by criticism, duty or simple neglect? Can you solve problems, uncover hidden talents and heighten the enjoyment of living with a large dose of creativity?

Bio: Karen is the founder of Canvas Creek Team Building. She helps people to say "I made this" even if they don't feel the least bit creative. She uses her skills as a coach to help teams solve problems collaboratively and creatively.

6. Randy Hafer
Living off the grid: Is it possible to be truly sustainable?

Join this fascinating conversation on architecture, green construction and creating an Urban Frontier house. What are the pros and cons of sustainable building? Does the investment pay for itself in the long-term and if so, how long is long-term? What is involved with designing and building a sustainable building? With all the advancements in construction materials, is green the way to go?

Bio: Randy founded High Plains Architects in 1999 after spending 18 years working for other firms in Chicago and Billings. He is a licensed architect, a LEED Accredited Professional, and a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects. He holds a BA in Architecture from Stanford University and a Master of Architecture degree from Yale University.

7. Brian Kahn
What is "Socialism" and why does the word make so many people "See Red"?

What does the word socialism mean to you, and why? What is the role of socialism in the U.S. in the 19th and 20th centuries? Do we have socialist institutions in the U.S. today? If so, what are their attributes and faults? Is socialism relevant to our economic, social, or political future? Brian, whose father was a socialist, will have interesting insights to share on this timely topic.

Bio: Brian has a B.S. in Political Science. He specialized in comparative politics, including capitalist and socialist political systems. His father, who considered himself a socialist, was a best-selling author during the height of anti-communism, was blacklisted for 15 years.

8. Dr. Shafiq Khaleel
How do we view the world?

Is it life's experiences, religious beliefs, or educational backgrounds that plays the critical role in how we observe the differences of race, religion, or even political views? In a country that was founded on the principle that "All men are created equal," can we truly say that all are equal? What has happened to our melting pot of humanity? Why has "different" become synonymous with fear? Join this important discussion on the thorny issues of racism and dispel the stereotypes of misinformation.

Bio: Dr. S. A. Khaleel is practicing Muslim, born and raised in India, Dr. Khaleel came to US to pursue higher education. After training in University of Delaware and University of Pennsylvania, he moved to Billings in 1977 where he set up his veterinary practice.

9. Russ Lord
Can you teach an old dog new tricks?

We all live in a society that glorifies youth and fitness. We are inundated with ways to avoid aging with surgeries and cosmetics, nutritional hocus-pocus, and even ways to convince chronologically older individuals that their "true" biological age is decades younger. What difference do genes or lifestyle choices make? What's a person who wants to "live and age authentically" to do?

Bio: Russ is Professor Emeritus at MSU-Billings and has co-authored numerous articles and books on psychology, exercise science, human development, and drug re-habilitation.

10. Jane McCracken
Is poverty the last acceptable form of prejudice?

What does the face of poverty look like in our community? When we see this prejudice expressed, how do we respond? Is there a reason that anyone in our community should live in poverty, given such low unemployment? Can we break the cycle of poverty and do we have the collective will to do so?

Bio: Jane is the Campaign Director and past Development Director for Family Service. She dedicates her life to advocating for those who are most vulnerable, living in overwhelming and exhausting circumstances.

11. Casey McGowan
What is the magic of brewing spirits and the conjuring of delights?

Distilled spirits are an ancient elixir. Are today's spirits superior to those of times past? What are the "hot" spirits of today, and why? There are many great spirits of the world: why micro-distilleries? What is involved with this special chemistry? Are there too many hoops to jump to bottle these delightful inebriants? Come learn and enjoy the spirits being conjured in Billings.

Bio: Casey received a Federal Distilled Spirits Permit in 2012 and opened Trailhead Spirits, a manufacturer and distributor of locally made vodka, gin and whiskey in January 2013.

12. Bill Mercer
Jon Krakauer's Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town: Is it a fair representation?

Peel away the layers of this best-selling novel about a timely and important topic. How realistic are Krakauer's assumptions and conclusions? Are the challenges presented by allegations of acquaintance rape for law enforcement and prosecutors fairly portrayed? Are victims' rights and sentencing in the criminal justice system correctly observed? What are the challenges facing colleges to appropriately address reported sexual assaults when the alleged assailant is a student in today's world of "Yes means Yes" or "No means No."

Bio: Bill is a practicing attorney and former prosecutor with degrees from University of Montana, George Mason Law and Harvard. He also served in the U.S. Department of Justice for 20 years in Montana and Washington, D.C.

13. Lynda Moss
Sharing our Stories: Who were the remarkable women of Montana?

Join this discussion of Montanan's noteworthy and amazing women. Who do these women represent and how did they pioneered the social institutions now considered part of the fabric of community life? Share your stories of remarkable women who you have known and if possible, bring a few copies of snapshots or materials that document "women as community builders."

Bio: Lynda is the principal of Moss Consulting, and was a Montana State Senator, 2005-2011. While serving in the Montana legislature, she sponsored Senate Bill 59, which established two murals in the Montana State Capitol honoring women as community builders.

14. Dr. Alan Muskett
The Compassionate Society--Merciful or Enabling?

We may live in the most compassionate society ever. The extent of the social safety net, the availability of health care, and the provisions made for the elderly are the most comprehensive of any civilization. But have there been unintended consequences? Traditional families are in decline, less than half our population is in the work force, and over 13 million Americans are on total disability. In contrast, others contend that America's vast wealth is unfairly distributed. What is merciful, and what is enabling?

Bio: As a surgeon for over 30 years, Alan has seen all the slings and arrows of outrageous (mis)fortune. The lessons learned from dealing with high mayhem and roiling emotion inform this poignant but light-hearted look at how we deal with adversity.

15. David Orser
How do we define the Middle East: By geography, religion, ethnicity or all of the above?

For centuries, the Middle East has been a quagmire with tribal, religious, and ethnic issues. Add oil and money to this mix and it can only get worse. Why are there so many contentious and conflicting problems in this area of the world? Is it possible for these countries to become true Nation-States? Do you think the U.S. has still has vital national interests in the Middle East? Can we learn from history or is it destined to continue to repeat itself?

Bio: David, born in Pryor, MT lived and worked in Africa and Europe for 35 years. He was employed by two oil companies (Mobil and Occidental Petroleum) and for 11 years consulted/advised General Electric, Brown & Root, Amoco, Mitsubishi, Daewoo Motors, Mohammed Ali and others.

16. Mike Penfold
Federal Lands: Who should be responsible, who should have access and more important, who pays the bill?

The lands owned by the public have been a focus of debate and controversy during the entire history of the United States. Who should own them, who should benefit from them, how should they be managed and who has the real right to these lands are historical and current themes. Who should own and manage the public's estate?

Bio: Mike has worked for 36 years with the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management in field and management positions. His work has continued on land management issues for the past 20 years with his involvement in Our Montana, a nonprofit organization.

17. Tom Proper
What films changed your life?

Watching a movie can affect us on many different levels. From visceral to emotional-a great movie leaves us with a lasting emotion that even hearing the title can take us back to that feeling or a specific time in our life...but how did that movie actually get made? How did your favorite book become a movie? What did it take to nurture it from a concept to perhaps becoming an Oscar winner playing at your local theater? Join Tom and discuss your favorite movie, the influence it had on you and the step-by-step process of making and distributing a film.

Bio: Co-Producer, Troublemaker Studios, Austin, TX. Tom has worked in all facets of the film industry since 1986 and seen many changes in how a film is brought to the screen. As a freelance producer he worked on films such as You've Got Mail, Practical Magic and Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood. Since 2005 he has collaborated exclusively with Austin filmmaker, Robert Rodriguez. His most recent project was, SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR.

18. Susan Balter Reitz
Are you a Deadhead?

Are you mystified by the concept of Deadheads? No matter what your view is of the Grateful Dead, their enduring legacy provides fascinating insights into the culture of the 1960s, the evolution of rock music, and even legal and social change. Much like the band, the conversation at this table will be an improvisational setlist that will allow participants to delve into any aspect of the Grateful Dead that seems absolutely perfect for the moment.

Bio: Sue is a professor of Communication and Director of e-Learning at MSU-B. She researches the Grateful Dead and has published articles on the band's influence in law, communication and visual studies. She is a member of the Grateful Dead Scholar's Caucus, an interdisciplinary research group that investigates the enduring legacy of the band.

19. Ralph Saunders
Taking the path less traveled or where are all the fish hiding?

We are blessed to have the tremendous Absaroka-Beartooth Mountains so close to our doorstep. Hiking, fishing and scenic opportunities are abundant, from easy access to challenging. Where do you find the best spot for fishing or hiking in our area? The Beartooths-- of course! A wilderness wonderland! Join Ralph and swap fishing and hiking stories and see if you'll find a new gem in our beautiful Montana backyard.

Bio: Ralph is the author of Rocky Mountain Surveys, Absaroka-Beartooth Mountains, Topographic Map Series, a guide to high lakes hiking and fishing.

20. David Schwend
Montana Coal: What is its future?

What does the future of coal in Montana look like and what obstacles does the industry face in the energy market, the challenging domestic environment, and from federal regulatory pressures? The consumer expects a reliable source of energy to heat homes, and turn on lights at reasonable prices. How do we find a balance between extraction demands and environmental demands?

Bio: David received his engineering degree from Montana Tech and is the General Manager of the Spring Creek Mine

21. Sean Ward
Can literature tame the savage beast? What is the relationship between literature--or art generally--and war?

How does art (especially literature) serve the war machine? How is it put to use? And how, if in any way, does it escape the call to violence on a global scale that contemporary warfare has made? What alternatives--social, political, economic, etc.--does it offer? And do these alternatives have any influence on the "real" world?

Bio: Sean is an Andrew W. Mellon/ACLS Fellow at Duke University where he recently completed his dissertation on transatlantic literature and the transformation of community during the world wars. He teaches critical reading and creative writing at the Montana Women's Prison in Billings

22. Bob Wilmouth
What does a college degree really mean today?

Being in college is difficult in many ways: financially, academically, personally, socially, intellectually, and physically. What are the tangible and intangible reasons to get a college degree? How does it impact one's life, family and community? Is the degree worth the debt?

Bio: Bob worked as a cardiothoracic and vascular surgeon at Billings Clinic. He served as program director for the Masters of Physician Assistant Studies and is now the President of Rocky Mountain College.

2016 Food for Thought Sponsors

Dinner Sponsor

Event Sponsor

  • 360 Office Solutions
  • A & E Architects
  • Buchanan Capital
  • Patrick and Carla Cobb
  • CJG Consulting
  • Computers Unlimited
  • Crowley Fleck, PC
  • Joe Dillard and Stella Fong
  • First Interstate Bank Wealth Management & Foundation
  • Karen Frank and Kate Morris
  • Friends of the Library
  • Tom and Kim Hauptman
  • Kennedy's Wine and Catering
  • Jane Deschner and Jon Lodge
  • Larry and Ruth Martin
  • Dr. Clayton and Joan McCracken
  • Montague's Jewelers
  • Montana Brewing Company
  • Montana State University - Billings
  • Moulton Bellingham, PC
  • Northwestern Energy
  • Andy and Heather Rio
  • Bernard Rose
  • Mike and Cara Schaer
  • Mary and Bill Underriner
  • George Warmer - Coldwell Banker Commercial