Florence Steele Kem Endowed Scholarship
Florence Steele grew up near Edgar, Montana, where her mother taught school. As a young woman, Florence was among the first graduates of Eastern Montana Normal School (now MSU Billings), graduating in 1931 with a teaching certificate. After graduation she taught for several years in the Columbus and Absarokee, Montana, area. She met and married Charles Kem, which halted her teaching career for several years. In those days, married women were not allowed to teach school. It was thought that married women didn’t need to work and would be taking jobs away from single women who needed them. Around 1955, Florence went back to school to get her bachelor’s degree. In 1969 she earned her degree and began teaching first grade in Columbus where she taught until her retirement in 1977. In honor of Florence, her son, Dave, and his wife, Judith, created the Florence Steele Kem Scholarship for students at MSU Billings in 1995. The first scholarship was awarded in academic year 1996-1997. Education, especially early childhood development, remained a major part of Florence’s life until her death in November 2009 at age 97. She was a lifelong learner and mentor. The many who loved Florence were inspired by her selfless and non-judgmental ways. Florence’s calm, soft-spoken manner enhanced a dry wit and humor that created laughs and positive outlooks from all around her.