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Profiles in the Financial Aid Profession: Mick Hanson from the University of Montana

June 9, 2011

Anyone who has ever met Mick Hanson most likely has described him as one of the finest people they have ever met. Mick retired almost a year ago as director of financial aid at the University of Montana.  Don Buehrer, Nelnet’s Regional Director for RMASFAA and SWASFAA recently reunited with Mick and asked him to share some info for Jim’s Blog. 

MickHanson, retired Director of Financial Aid-University of Montana

Don: Mick, how did you select financial aid as your profession? 

 Mick: Actually, financial aid selected me!  I was the systems analyst for student records, including financial aid, when there was a huge challenge at The University of Montana.  The director was hospitalized and the staff stressed to the maximum with good reason.  There was less than three weeks to the start of school with only a fraction of the aid packages ready.  I was asked by Vice President Easton to “step in for six weeks or so until we get this straightened out.”  That was 1986.  Either I wasn’t very fast at straightening things out or something else happened as twenty five years later, and until retirement, I served as the Director of Financial Aid at UM.   It became my favorite position over the years, but I never had a job I did not like.

 Don: What were the biggest changes you saw in financial aid during your years in the office? 

 Mick: The biggest transformation over the years was the constant but subtle pressure to do more with less.  In addition it came with a feeling that many of the rules and regulations, from the campus to national issues, took us further away from serving students to serving bureaucracy. 

 Don: Who were your mentors?

Mick: This is a very difficult question because I will leave out scores of people who deserve thanks for mentoring me, but it begins with RMASFAA.  My assignment to serve for a few weeks back in 1986 would have been more than enough if it had not been for the encouragement I received from RMASFAA and also from Harry Shriver of the U.S. Department of Education.  Summer Institute in Boulder Colorado in June, 1987 changed my work life.  There were people such as Jerry Sullivan (University of Colorado-Boulder), Kay Jacks (Colorado State University) and Mike Johnson (Utah Valley State College) that inspired me to make a difference.  I was taken by the love and dedication of so many people.  My involvement with Summer Institute in particular connected me to Emma Baker (Texas Christian University), Janet Dodson (NSLP), Sandy Calhoun (Colorado State University), Mark Schilmoeller (Nelnet) and many more.  Of course Jim Craig (Montana State University), a founder of RMASFAA, was my Montana connection.

 Don: Now that you’re retired, how do you spend the majority of your time?

Mick:  I have always loved serving others and remain active on numerous UM committees at the Foundation, a retirement group, and athletics.  Go Griz!  I am also active in church, teaching and singing.  Our yard looks better and I love the chance to be in my workshop, especially with my grandsons.  It is quite fun to teach two and four year old boys how to use power equipment!  A close friend and I are doing lots of building projects for friends including some nice looking decks.  My wife Sharon and I spend much more time together including regular workouts at the gym or on the trails.  I also work on weight lifting three times a week with my buddies.  A group of us are anticipating a trip to Europe in 2012.

Don: Name one thing about you that most people do not know.

Mick:  I was a high school math and business education teacher and a computer analyst for 20 years before my 25 year career in financial aid.  I am OLD!

Don: What is your favorite movie, TV show, book?

Mick:  ­­­Thirteen Paces to Baker Street and Rear Window are old classics of mine.  TV is for football, anything else?  Oh, yeah, now that I am retired I should probably list “Jeopardy”.   A couple of favorite books are Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose and The Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw.  Woodworking books are inspiring.

Don: If you could invite any three people to dinner, who would they be? 

Mick: Jesus Christ, Adolf Hitler and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Don: Any words of wisdom that you would like to share with your friends?

Mick:  I am grateful for the years of opportunity to make college possible, especially for those who could not have otherwise attended.  Along with the position at UM, it brought the long list of friendships made within the state of Montana, the great Rocky Mountain region and the years I was able to serve and represent RMASFAA at the NASFAA level.  It truly was a dream life for me.  The transition to ‘retiree’ was easier than anticipated and although I really miss some of the contacts.  This life is better than expected!  

I will leave you with one thought of wisdom that I have had to learn the hard way since retirement.  Do NOT procrastinate!  This has always been a challenge for me, but this time got me.  I have just lost the better part of three weeks productivity with Shingles – a reoccurrence of childhood chicken pox.  There is a shingles shot available for those reaching the age of 60.  Believe me, if you have or when you reach that age, check it out.  It will save you some real pain, and keep your energy level at normal.   Take care and stop by 806 Janis Drive in Missoula, Montana if you get up this way.  It is a great place to visit and we love guests. My email address is

Don Buehrer, Regional Director

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