Editor's note: this is one of six profiles republished from Rowland Hall's 2018–2019 Annual Report feature story, "Winged Lions on the Rise." Millennial alumni are finding their voices and already shaping their fields and communities—from physics to film, music to medical innovations, and environmental policy to conservation-minded real estate. Learn how Rowland Hall impacted them, and how they’re impacting the world. From left, Jared Ruga ’06, Claire Wang ’15, Phinehas Bynum ’08, Jeanna Tachiki Ryan ’01, Tyler Ruggles ’05, and Sarah Day ’06.
Sarah Day loved her bucolic childhood spent mostly on a 3,000-acre cattle ranch just outside of Bozeman, Montana.
Her family ran a calf-cow operation with 350 cattle and a supporting cast of horses, dogs, and barn cats. “Every day revolved around stewarding the land and the animals,” she said, explaining she took notice as adults around her fixed fences, moved cows, and farmed the land. “I carried that with me.”
Rowland Hall taught me to think about how I can give back and how to take action.—Sarah Day ’06
Her family sold the ranch in 2001, and since then, it’s been rezoned for residential development and broken up into smaller parcels. That change—plus Bozeman’s location in one of the nation’s fastest-growing counties—means housing may be in the former ranch’s future. “It's a little heartbreaking,” Sarah said. “It wasn’t the intention when we sold it.” But Sarah’s not one to sit on the sidelines. The alumna said her nine years at Rowland Hall encouraged her to prioritize community involvement. “Rowland Hall taught me to think about how I can give back,” she said, “and how to take action.” So she asked herself what she could do to protect Bozeman’s open lands—maybe even her family’s former ranch—in the future.
Sarah has been a sales associate for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Montana Properties just since June 2018. She earned a bachelor’s in economics from Connecticut College and a master’s in accounting from Montana State University, then worked in accounting and fundraising. She sought a career shift after a continuing-education accounting class on conservation easements struck a chord with her. The Montana Association of Land Trusts (MALT) hosted the class for accountants, lawyers, real estate agents—anyone who might work on conservation easements, voluntary legal agreements that protect landowners’ properties from future development. Thanks in part to MALT and its member organizations championing such easements, Montana is a leader in open-space preservation.
MALT’s class heightened Sarah’s interest in becoming a real estate agent—a career her beloved late father introduced her to—but only if she could leverage her city’s economic success to advocate land protection. She knew of a local firm donating a profit percentage to animal shelters, and figured she could do that with conservation. “It just started to click,” she said. So Sarah made the career jump, and now gives 10% of her commissions to local land trusts. It felt amazing to write her first donation check in early 2019, she said. And she’s not only giving cash to the cause—she’s also giving time, as a member of Gallatin Valley Land Trust’s NextGen Advisory Board, a group of young professionals fostering advocacy among their peers.
Sarah gives 10% of her commissions to local land trusts. She’s also giving time as a member of Gallatin Valley Land Trust’s NextGen Advisory Board, a group of young professionals fostering advocacy among their peers.
In the long term, Sarah hopes to work with clients interested in contributing to conservation. For now, she’s content to grow her business and promote Bozeman’s outdoors via her volunteerism, philanthropy, and simple gestures such as handing out trail maps at open houses. Naturally, she and husband Ian Kirby also take advantage of the town’s 80-mile trail system. They favor one loop on Drinking Horse Mountain, shaded by trees and overlooking the valley. It’s gorgeous, Sarah said, and at the trail’s bottom, their Border Collie and Corgi mix, Gear—so named after Ian’s job as a mechanic—likes to splash around in a creek. “Outdoor therapy is a real thing,” she said. “It puts everything in perspective.” And Sarah is working to ensure Bozemanites will always be able to get that perspective from their own backyards.
Top: Sarah Day ’06 on Peet’s Hill, one of her favorite Bozeman trails. (Photo by Troy Meikle)