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It takes persistence. It takes a listening ear. And it takes the ability to sift through the noise coming from all directions and distill “news” into stories of those making a positive and meaningful impact in our world. Brother John Heaney ’02 is dedicated to this process as editor-in-chief of the Montanan, a publication of  UM’s University Relations office for alumni and friends. One of the best stories is that now and then, John’s work gives him the opportunity to reconnect with his Sigma Chi roots.

John grew up in Anaconda, Mont., a town of approximately 9,000 near Butte. He pledged Sigma Chi in spring 1998. “My older brother [Kevin ’91] was a Sigma Chi, and he planted the idea of rushing in my head. In my dorm, there were a few other guys who went through fall rush. They encouraged me to check out a few houses. When I got to the Sigma Chi house, I really liked the guys. The social aspects of the house were magnetic. It was an opportunity to make some really great friends. I still see a few of them like Isaiah Sarault ’01, Ben Brelje ’01 and Casey Hayes ’02.”

In 2002, John graduated with an elementary education degree. He accepted an elementary teaching position in Las Vegas; however, after a short while, he started wondering if maybe this wasn’t the best fit.

“I returned to Anaconda and started as a substitute teacher,” he explains. “The local biweekly paper, the Anaconda Leader, had an opening for a sports editor. I had delivered the paper as a kid, and I have always loved sports. I applied for the job — even without any formal journalism training. I got the job, and the rest is history.”

John jumped into the position with the goal of learning as much as he could. He wrote copy, edited, took photos and designed pages. With several mentors by his side, he continued to advance at the Leader during the next two years. Over the next year, he would gain additional experience as a sports copy editor and page designer for The Spokesman-Review and a sports writer for the Coeur d’Alene Press.

In 2005, John returned to Missoula as the lead sports designer for the Missoulian. “The hours could be tough — 3:00 p.m. to midnight, five days a week. But this was a great opportunity to return to my alma mater and work with the Grizzlies. One of the highlights during this time was interviewing Jeff Ament, the bass player for Pearl Jam. He is a serious Griz hoops fan, and I’m a serious Pearl Jam fan, so this story was just awesome to write.”

As John’s professional life was progressing, so was his personal life. He and wife, Sasha, were blessed with the birth of their daughter, Madeline, in 2006. Working nights was becoming more and more difficult. It was time to consider a position that worked better with the needs of their growing family.

In July of 2010, John accepted the position of editor-in-chief for the Montanan. Today, he oversees the development and production of this printed magazine, which is published and mailed to more than 100,000 households three times a year.

“There are several stories that I would consider my favorites. One that tops the list is a story about the Sigma Chi Bell from the USS Montana. I got to talk with several Sigma Chis from older generations and to really understand some of the history of our fraternity.”

John writes in his 2002 story, “I remember the first time I saw the Sigma Chi Bell. It was sitting in the bed of a white pickup truck in front of Brantly Hall on a banner fall day in 1998. It was impressive. And it was huge. Looking back, I’m not sure how the truck’s rear axle didn’t snap under the weight. But there it was, the legendary Sigma Chi Bell, back in Missoula for the first time in two decades.”

CLICK HERE to read John’s story, “Artifacts,” about the history of the Sigma Chi Bell.

Another highlight was a story the magazine did about Oscar Award-winning actor and UM alum, J.K. Simmons. Only two weeks after receiving the Oscar, J.K. responded to John’s email pitching the story. The result was this touching feature story, which appeared in the Spring 2015 edition of the Montanan.

“I love sports,” John says, “but the beauty of this work is that the possibilities are endless. Really good things are coming out of the university — faculty and graduate student research, programs around campus, innovations … It is so cool to see this, explore it and get the story to those who wouldn’t otherwise know what happens here. I have a list of potential story ideas … and it never stops growing.”

We extend our congratulations to John and his wife for the birth of son Charlie, the latest addition to their family. And our thanks to John, this self-taught storyteller, for his commitment to finding and sharing all that is good about Sigma Chi and the University of Montana.

Brothers can connect with John at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Core Values, Vision, and Mission

Core Values
Sigma Chi’s core values are Friendship, Justice and Learning. Our vision is to become the preeminent collegiate leadership development organization — aligned, focused and living our core values. Our mission is to develop values-based leaders committed to the betterment of character, campus and community.

The fundamental purpose of the Sigma Chi Fraternity is the cultivation, maintenance and promotion of the core values of Friendship, Justice and Learning.

In the pursuit of these high ideals, the Sigma Chi Fraternity is able to offer tremendous value in augmenting the collegiate experience and supporting the lifelong journey of each of its members. We hope to assist brothers in becoming men of character, caring husbands, compassionate fathers and community leaders.