Emma Lommasson

Emma B. Lommasson

Saturday, November 30th, 2019
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Emma B. Lommasson

Born on December 10, 1911, Emma Lommasson was the first of three daughters born to Filomena and Giovanni (James G.) Bravo. Emma and her two younger sisters, Jennie and Lena, were raised in Sand Coulee, Montana. Her father was an engineer at the Anaconda Copper Smelter in Great Falls.

Emma’s first language was Italian, the language of her immigrant parents. Thus, her challenge upon entering grade school in Sand Coulee was to learn English. She was not alone in that endeavor as Sand Coulee was home to Finnish and Slavic immigrants whose children were also enrolled in Emma’s class. Emma recalled her first grade teacher writing English words on the blackboard every morning and asking Emma and the other children to pronounce and define the words. After school, Emma shared her developing knowledge of English with her mother who, like Emma, sought to master the language.

Emma graduated from Centerville High School in 1929. Valedictorian of her high school class, Emma was determined to attend college. Her parents scraped together what money they could to support her in that endeavor. In the fall of 1929, Emma enrolled at the University of Montana (then Montana State University) where she majored in mathematics, a subject she always loved. In Emma’s words, “the University of Montana proved to be a wonderful choice.”

Throughout her undergraduate years, Emma was a resident of North Hall which was directed by Mrs. Brantly for whom Emma would work during her junior and senior years. During those years, Emma came to know Dr. and Mrs. Clapp who often attended the “Firesides” at North Hall. Dr. Clapp was the fifth president of the University of Montana and the first of the fifteen UM presidents Emma would know personally.

Given her interest in teaching mathematics, Emma not only took all of the courses required for a mathematics major, but also took those education courses necessary to attain a Montana teaching certificate qualifying her to teach grades 6-12. Indicative of her strong abilities in mathematics, Emma was assigned to do her student teaching at the University - a highly unusual assignment - where she taught an undergraduate course in Intermediate Algebra. Remembering that class, Emma commented: “I had more fun with that class. Oh my, I loved it!”

In reflecting on her education at the University, Emma stated “I received as good an education at the University of Montana as I would have received anywhere else in the country. The University equipped me well. I had wonderful teachers and received more individual attention there because the University was small.”

In addition to enjoying her studies, Emma, as an undergraduate, developed a love of Grizzly athletics that continued throughout her life. She fondly remembered that, as a freshman, she took the train to Butte with her friends to attend her first Grizzly-Bobcat game. Thereafter, she seldom missed a Grizzly football or basketball game. In her later years when she could not attend games in person, Emma listened to them on the radio or watched them on television. Pity the person who called or otherwise interrupted Emma during a game!

Emma graduated from the University of Montana in 1933 and returned to Sand Coulee where she taught at Centerville High School. Her high school teaching assignment included not only mathematics courses but also both Latin and Spanish. Regarding her teaching load, Emma commented: “Imagine that kind of teaching assignment today!”

Emma always referred to the University of Montana as her home. In 1937, she returned to the University where a job with the University’s prominent mathematics professor and textbook author, Dr. N. J. Lennes, awaited her. She served as Dr. Lennes personal secretary, typing and editing his mathematics books. In addition, she substituted for Dr. Lennes in a number of his classes, including classes in algebra, calculus, and differential equations.

In 1939, Emma married Tom Lommasson and helped Tom raise his 14 year old son. Emma and Tom, Sr. were married for thirty years. Tom died in 1969. His son, Tom, died in 1973 leaving four children, Sandra, Glenn, Alan, and Peg. Throughout her life, Emma remained in close contact with these grandchildren.

With the onset of WWII, Emma, who by then had completed her masters in mathematics and was an instructor in the Mathematics Department, taught in a program directed by Dr. A. S. Merrill - a program designed to prepare young men for service in the U.S. Air Force. Among the courses she taught were Navigation, Civil Air Regulation, and Airplane Identification. The irony was that Emma had never flown in a plane!

Following the war, the University welcomed a large number of veterans who enrolled with the assistance of the G.I. Bill. The University tapped Emma to be its Veterans Advisor and also the Assistant Registrar. She ultimately would serve as the University’s Registrar and the Associate Director of Admissions and Records. In addition, Emma also served for seventeen years as advisor for the University’s Air Force ROTC Angel Flight (an auxiliary female drill team), a position she relished.

In her work in the Registrar’s Office, Emma helped every UM student she could, paying particular attention to the veterans of WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. The University’s students were like family to Emma and she cared for them deeply. She took great pleasure in seeing their accomplishments in the classroom, on the athletic fields, on stage, and in student government. For the thousands of students whose lives Emma touched, Emma was truly “the heart of the University of Montana.”

Emma retired from the University of Montana in 1977 after serving the University in teaching, advising and administrative roles for 40 years. But her time at UM was not over. Emma volunteered her services as a student advisor for the next 10 years. As she reflected on her service at the University, Emma noted: “I worked long hours but enjoyed every minute. I had the best students you could ever have.” She often said, “university students have been my life.” Given Emma’s lifetime commitment to the University of Montana and its students, it was fitting that President George Dennison arranged to have the Lodge at the University of Montana named the Emma B. Lommasson Center.

Emma was deeply proud of the University of Montana scholarship bearing her name. When informed of the many people who contributed to that scholarship on the occasion of her 100th birthday, Emma commented “they couldn’t have given me a better birthday gift.”

Reflecting on her life at the University, Emma stated: “I thank God every day of my life. Who has had a better life than I?”

Emma is survived by her grandchildren, Sandra Lommasson, Glenn (Michele) Lommasson, Alan (Lynn) Lommasson, and Peg (Dan) Feibig, her nephew, James H. Riveland, numerous cousins, including Rich (Mary) DeJana, and countless men and women whom she served with grace and joy at the University of Montana.

The University of Montana will host a celebration of Emma Lommasson’s life on Tuesday, December 17 at 4:00 p.m. in the University Center Ballroom. A funeral Mass will be held at Christ the King Catholic Church (1400 Gerald Avenue) on Wednesday, December 18 at 3:00 p.m.

Memorials may be made to the Emma B. Lommasson Scholarship in care of the University of Montana Foundation. Checks can be mailed to the UM Foundation, PO Box 7159, Missoula, MT 59807-7159 or friends may give online at and designate that the
gift is for the Emma B. Lommasson Scholarship.
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Service Details

  • Service

    Tuesday, December 17th, 2019 | 4:00pm
    Tuesday, December 17th, 2019 4:00pm
    University Center Ballroom
    U of M
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email
    The University of Montana will host a celebration of Emma Lommasson’s life on Tuesday, December 17 at 4:00 p.m. in the University Center Ballroom. A funeral Mass will be held at Christ the King Catholic Church (1400 Gerald Avenue) on Wednesday, December 18 at 3:00 p.m.


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Sandy & Paul Fortmann

Posted at 12:13am
What a lovely lady! She was beautiful always, even sitting in the stands at a track meet, watching her great-great-great?-grandchildren competing in their track meet events! We were told she was the driver in her later years for those younger, in their 70's and 80's, while living at The Village. We need more Emmas!

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