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Robert Pirsig: A Guide to What You'll Find at MSU

Robert Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, taught at MSU (then Montana State College) from 1958 to 1960. While the book describes his experience here, he also left his mark on the institution. Here's our guide to all things Pirsig

Pirsig's Office in Montana Hall

Many campus visitors want to know where Pirsig's office in Montana Hall was. While the office is no longer open to visitors, here's a little insight into it.

From the north foyer of Montana Hall, you'll find a small stairway to your left, labeled Room 118.

Image of an office number sign in Montana Hall

The door at the top of the stairs is locked, and you won't be able to go in. But here's what you'll find inside: 

Interior of room 118 in Montana Hall, showing items in storage and a member of the President's staff.

James Tobin, Events Manager from the Office of the President, in the room that was once Pirsig's office.

Pirsig Papers in Archives and Special Collections

There are several collections by or related to Pirsig in in our holdings:

  • Robert Pirsig Books and Memorabilia contains books and personal items owned by writer and former Montana State College (MSC) English professor, Robert Pirsig. Items in this collection are loosely related to his years teaching at MSC, including items created by friends and acquaintances he met at the university, and select items from his teaching career.
  • Anthony M. McWatt Collection on Robert Pirsig consists of materials compiled by Dr. McWatt to provide insight into Pirsig’s philosophy.
  • Robert and Genevieve DeWeese Collection on Robert Pirsig includes correspondence, ephemera, photographs, and a photocopied unedited manuscript. The materials in this collection were gathered over the course of the DeWeese's friendship with Pirsig.
  • Robert Pirsig Letter to Ted DuPont details Pirsig’s response to a visit made by DuPont and his co-traveler Jim Vavrinchik in 1974. Also included are photographs of DuPont and Vavrinchik during the trip.
  • Verne Dusenberry papers have some Pirsig materials. Dusenberry, an English professor, was a friend of Pirsig's. 

Pirsig's Library Plaque

In the lobby of Renne Library, on a pillar near the coffee shop, is a plaque honoring Pirsig and describing his connection to MSU.

Pirsig in front of Montana Hall

Robert Pirsig in front of Montana Hall Robert Pirsig in front of Montana Hall, 1960. The briefcase at his feet is now part of the holdings of Archives and Special Collections. Courtesy of Wendy Pirsig. 

Pirsig's House

When Pirsig taught at Montana State College, he and his wife lived at #19 Faculty Court, southeast of the center of campus. Faculty Court was built in the mid-1950s and was deliberately located as far as possible from student housing. The house was demolished in 1988 due to its deteriorating condition. 

Map hand-drawn by Pirsig, 2000. From Folder 1-5, Robert and Genevieve DeWeese Collection on Robert Pirsig, Collection 2571, Montana State University (MSU) Library, Bozeman, MT.