Billings Polytechnic Institute
The Polytechnic campus has been home to three schools—the original Billings Polytechnic Institute, an Intermountain Union College/BPI sharing, and now Rocky Mountain College, a formal merger of the two schools. Fortunately, Internet Archive now contains digital copies of The Poly, the BPI yearbook.
Billings Polytechnic Institute was founded by brothers Lewis and Ernest Eaton with the support of the Congregational Church. Described as a “practical industrial school for the Northwest,” Billings Polytechnic began classes in 1910. Students received a practical education as they operated a dairy farm, a produce garden, a small refinery, and a milling company which produced cereals and pancake flour. These operations provided “fresh vegetables, fruit, eggs, milk, cream, and butter” for the dormitories. James J. Hill contributed 25,000 toward land to expand the campus and get it out of Billings. Theodore Roosevelt said of the school, “This is the kind of school that builds character and trains for the highest type of leadership.”
The 1939 Poly lists five colleges under the Polytechnic aegis: a technical/opportunity college, the Billings Business College, the conservatory of music, the academy, and the liberal arts college, which at the time was offered cooperatively with Intermountain Union College.
The 1939 Poly shows a college enrollment of around 100, with another 37 in the technical school and more than 200 in the business college. In addition to the regular literary, dramatic and musical societies, Polytechnic students were active in academic or social organizations such as Eagles, Kappa Chi, Pioneers, and Pi Alpha Pi—organizations responsible for most campus events.
Beginning in 1936, Intermountain Union College shared the Polytechnic campus, and the two schools shared the liberal arts program. In 1947 the schools formally merged and adopted the name Rocky Mountain College.
Bricks and Mortar
Students were involved in the building of the Polytechnic campus, digging sandstone from the Rimrock to construct the buildings, the work being part of their college tuition. By the 1930’s, the campus consisted of nine buildings—all sandstone.
Most of those campus buildings are still a part of the present Rocky Mountain campus. The oldest building is Eaton Hall, named for the founders. It dates from 1909 and today houses administrative offices. Kimball Hall, the earliest women’s dormitory, dates from 1914. It was mothballed in the 1980’s, but was renovated in 2009 as a faculty office building called Morledge-Kimball Hall. Prescott Hall (1916) was placed on the National Register in 1972. Renovated in 2001, it also houses administrative offices, and its Great Room is used for special college functions.
Team name: Crusaders
Colors: Green and Gold
Billings Poly played football from 1910, the first year of existence, until the merger with Intermountain Union in 1947. The 1930 team was undefeated. The 1931 team finished second in the Montana Collegiate Conference. Opponents included Intermountain Union, Montana Tech, Western Montana, Black Hills State, Dickinson State, and the Montana State JV’s. Under the guidance of Coach Herb Klindt, for whom the present stadium is named, Billings Poly was a conference power in the later 1930’s.
1938-39 was a banner year for basketball at Billings Poly. The Crusader men had a 21-1 record and were champions of the Montana Collegiate Conference. The women’s team had a 17-1 record.
Polytechnic teams also participated in baseball, track and field, and boxing.
Losekamp Hall, built in 1919, displays a typical campus design. Allegedly haunted, today it houses the music and theatre arts departments of Rocky Mountain College. Image courtesy of larrysroadreports (vividreports.blogspot.com/2014/07/rocky-mountain-college.html) Accessed 10-25-2017
1920 women's basketball team posted a 6-0 record. Image from Poly (archive.org/stream/polythe1920bill#page/72/mode/2up) Accessed 10-26-2017