Learn about Our Board of Trustees

Joanne Pieper (Chair)

Ms. Pieper retired as senior vice president of New York Life Insurance Company. She worked in the company’s New York City home office where she held a variety of management positions during her 28-year career. As SVP, Ms. Pieper was the head of a profit center which designed, marketed, and administered group insurance programs for life, medical and disability insurance programs custom designed for large national employers and members of national professional associations. While in New York, the New York YWCA named her “Woman Achiever of the Year.” After retiring, she relocated to Montana where she has been and continues to be a leader in civic and philanthropic activities.


Ms. Pieper served as Museum of the Rockies Board of Trustees President. While a member of the board, she served as chair of the development and strategic planning committees, chaired the Wine Classic fund-raising event four times, and served on the finance committee. Ms. Pieper served a term as a member of the editorial board of the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. She served on the board of the Heart of the Valley Humane Society where she chaired committees and was instrumental in its successful campaign to build a new state of the art shelter. She participated in Governor Martz’s task force which studied the problem of the uninsured in the State. Ms. Pieper is currently a member of the Museum of the Rockies National Advisory Board, and she regularly provides financial support and other assistance to a number of local nonprofit organizations which she is passionate about.

Michael Harrington (Vice Chair)

Michael V. Harrington is a professor of Business Law and Business Ethics at the University of Montana College of Business. Before he joined the full-time faculty ranks in fall 2014, he spent ten years as the associate dean at the College of Business. He graduated with high honors from UM in 1986, earning a degree in business administration (emphases in accounting and finance). In 1990, he graduated with high honors from the University of Montana School of Law. He then practiced law for several years in the Bellevue, Washington office of Davis Wright Tremaine, an international law firm. From 1992 until 2003, he held various legal and business positions in Butte with The Montana Power Company and Touch America, Inc. For 14 years, he has been a member of the board of directors of First Security Bank of Missoula, and he has chaired that board’s Audit Committee for 13 years. He is a member and past chair of the Ambassadors, a subcommittee of the Missoula Area Chamber of Commerce, and he is a past member of the Missoula Advisory Board of Anderson ZurMuehlen & Co.

William Underriner (Treasurer)

Mr. Underriner has been the owner of Underriner Motors of Billings since 2001. His business expertise has been recognized by his peers, and he has served as the Montana Automobile Dealers Association President and Chairman, as well the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) Treasurer, Vice Chairman, and Chairman. During his three-years of service as treasurer of NADA, he oversaw a $130,000,000 investment portfolio, which resulted in higher returns and acceptable risk levels. Mr. Underriner’s financial expertise was recognized by his appointment as a board member of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, Helena Branch, and his selection as chairman of the board. As his resume reveals, Mr. Underriner’s civic leadership includes service as Vincent Hospital Foundation Board Chairman, ACS-Can National Board Member, Billings Chamber of Commerce Chairman of the Board of Directors, United Way of Yellowstone County President, and service with numerous other philanthropic organizations.

Paul Cook, MD, MHA (Secretary)
Red Lodge

Dr. Cook is the director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Education at Montana State University Billings. As such, he has the primary responsibility for establishing an on-campus component for in the Health Administration Master’s Degree program. Prior to being named director, Dr. Cook served for five years as president and CEO of Rocky Mountain Health Network, which is associated with Saint Vincent Healthcare. He was responsible for the leadership, strategic direction, and oversight of a 600-member provider-hospital organization in Montana and Wyoming. Dr. Cook has also held leadership positions with Brigham and Women’s Physician Organization (Boston), Indiana University School of Medicine (Indianapolis), and the University of Missouri Health Systems (Columbia). Dr. Cook was an officer and board member of Billings Wellbeing Institute, a board member of the Montana BioScience Alliance, the Montana Health Forum, and the Global Health Equity Foundation. Dr. Cook’s civic leadership included service on the boards of directors of the Rimrock Opera Company, the Billings Symphony Orchestra and Chorale, and the Alberta Bair Theater. Dr. Cook is very active in ministry at St. Agnes Catholic Church in Red Lodge and is a Deacon Candidate for the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings.


Denis Prager, PhD
Clyde Park

Denis Prager has been the principal of Strategic Consulting Services since 1994. As such, Dr. Prager has advised many of the foundations formed from the conversion of non-profit health plans to for-profit entities. He has provided consulting services to the California Endowment, the California Wellness Foundation, the Archstone Foundation, the Healthcare Georgia Foundation, and the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation. Prior to relocating to Montana, Dr. Prager was with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, first as Deputy Director, then as Director of the Foundation’s Health Program. Also, Dr. Prager served as Assistant Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, as a U.S. Public Health Service Fellow at Stanford University, and in various capacities with the National Institutes of Health. Since relocating to Montana 14 years ago, Dr. Prager has served (or is serving) as a member of the Board of Directors of Livingston Healthcare, the Park County Community Foundation, the Big Sky Institute for the Advancement of Nonprofits, and the Bozeman Symphony.

Judith LaPan, MS, MBA

Ms. LaPan has been the administrator of the Richland County Health Department since 1997. The chair of the Richland County Commissioners applauds her successful efforts assessing the county’s health needs and developing programs to meet those needs. When she started in 1997, Ms. LaPan administered an annual budget of $100,000. She now manages $1 million annually. Ms. LaPan was one of the founding members of the Montana Association of Public Health Officials and served as its first president. As such, she helped hire the Association’s first executive director and helped establish the financial system for the organization. Also, Ms. LaPan was a member of the Montana Public Health Improvement Task Force from 2001 to 2011, and served as its chair for more than seven years. Further, Ms. LaPan led Richland County in the community building process that resulted in the development of the Richland County Quality of Life Strategic Plan and the County’s associated Steering Committee. She is a member of the governing/advisory boards of the Montana Health Eastern Area Authority, the State Emergency Response Committee, the Seventh Judicial Distinct Adult Treatment Court, the Accreditation and Quality Improvement Committee, and the Richland County Strategic Plan Steering Committee.

Gerald Gray

Gerald, for 20 years has built a reputation as a leader in market research and media development for G&G Advertising. He has worked extensively with local, community-based organizations, and he advocates as a professional, volunteer, and leader. At G&G Advertising, Gerald has worked on state, regional, and national campaigns promoting behavioral change on many current health-related issues. Gerald has worked on such campaigns as: Downtown Billings Association, Billings YMCA, Censuses 2000, 2010, and 2020, Youth Smoking Prevention Campaign, Partnership for Drug-Free America, American Indian College Fund, Office of National Drug Control Policy, Con Alma Health Foundation, Centers for Disease Control Verb campaign, New Mexico State Fair, Portland Indian Health Board, Gold West Country, University of New Mexico Athletics, and Santa Fe Opera.


Gerald’s previous career was in a teaching position with the Box Elder Public School System where he created and implemented instructional materials for use in public classrooms. He developed and delivered a general education curriculum inclusive of all students and learning styles. He worked with and maintained a parent-to-teacher system knowing that his students’ successes came from encouraging and getting parents involved in their children’s education. His teaching experiences instilled in him the importance and commitment to increasing access to educational opportunities for many under served populations. It gave him the understanding of the importance of making certain the whole child was the center of reaching success – the child’s learning and successes in school were possible when paired with good health habits, a supportive home environment, a supportive social system, and a safe and healthy place in which to live.


Gerald currently serves on the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council as the Chairman, which serves 12 tribes in the Rocky Mountain region. He is also a commissioner that serves on the State Tribal Economic Development Commission and Gerald is also the current chairman of the Little Shell Tribe of Montana, in which he has served since 2012 as the elected chairman of the Little Shell Tribe. Gerald oversees tribal programs, economic opportunities for the tribe, and maintains government-to-government relationships with city, county, state and federal governments, and individuals on behalf of the tribe’s 5400 members.

2019 Call for Proposals

Find out about this year’s available grants.