The Friday Letter Archive

A collection of the president's weekly messages to the Vandal family


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Friday Letter 2013-08-23

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Friday Letter Office of the President

August 23

Dear Friends of the University of Idaho,

“All our lives through, we’ll go singing, singing of you, singing of Idaho.”

For the Vandal family, these words -- often accompanied by the memory of melodic chimes emanating from the Administration Building tower – exemplify a unique bond between our university and the State of Idaho. The words are found in the official state song, adopted in 1931; yet they originated, as did the melody, in the chorus of our University’s alma mater, written by a University of Idaho student and sung proudly by Vandals since 1917. 

“Singing of Idaho” is, at once, an accolade to a beautiful state and to its founding university. For nearly 125 years, this university – Idaho’s national land-grant, comprehensive, constitutional university! – has established a legacy of leading in research, teaching, and outreach that extends across Idaho, the American West, and beyond. Our university truly is, in the memorable phrase of historian Rafe Gibbs, a “beacon for mountain and plain.”

A new academic year beckons. In Moscow and at our other statewide campuses, there is a crackle of energy as nearly 13,000 graduate and undergraduate students – including nearly 3,000 new arrivals – open their books and iPads, engage our faculty (and each other) in a quest for discovery and understanding, and advance in personal pathways toward fulfilling careers. The students will make lifetime friends in classrooms and laboratories, in varsity and intramural sports, in clubs and residence halls and in a host of other gathering places. This is the Vandal experience.

Today, as you read this Friday letter, we will be celebrating the new academic year with a convocation to welcome our students, faculty, and staff. Keynote remarks will be delivered by a recent graduate – Rayce Bird ’11 of Shelley, Idaho – who won a national competition that tested his creative skills in the Syfy television channel’s “FaceOff”. Rayce’s imagery and fantasy characters may be unfamiliar to older Vandals, but many of our students will recognize his work. They will learn how he credits the knowledge and skills he acquired as an undergraduate here for his remarkable early success in the arts and entertainment business.

In his “beacon” book, Rafe Gibbs observed that the University of Idaho is purposeful but not pretentious; it is not known for cliques. “The future historian, diplomat, engineer, scientist, and educator walk together, sharing knowledge,” he wrote. “In fact, it is difficult to tell one from the other.” Because they live in such close proximity, each “graduate may be a specialized product, but without conscious effort, he has acquired a broadness that makes for adaptability in the changing world.” This, too, is the Vandal experience.

The University of Idaho cultivates the whole person. To our new students we say, you have chosen well. Now, take advantage of every enriching opportunity our leading university provides. Study conscientiously. Live vigorously. Grow joyously.

The song of Idaho is your song now.


Don Burnett
Interim President

Idaho Legal Leaders Converge On Moscow To Engage New Law Students.
 More than 30 distinguished members of the Idaho judiciary and practicing bar traveled from across the state to Moscow this week to introduce new Vandal law students to the study of law as part of the Annual Professionalism Program that precedes the first week of classes.  Members of the Idaho Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, federal and state trial judges, Idaho’s Attorney General, prosecutors, defense counsel, and attorneys in private practice worked in pairs to take students through legal scenarios that pushed them to think about the ethical and professional requirements expected in the practice of law.  All of the visitors donated their time to the University of Idaho. See more.

Human Factors Program Earns National Accreditation. The University of Idaho’s human factors psychology program has been accredited by the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society through July 2019. The program offers a Master of Science in human factors psychology through an interdisciplinary effort between human factors specialists in the department of psychology and communication studies and College of Engineering faculty. Students focus on designing more human-friendly technology and safer workplace environments. See more.

VandalStore to Roll Out Price Comparison Tool for Students. The VandalStore is working to put money back into students’ pockets with the release of their new online tool: Price Comparison. This tool will allow students to check textbook pricing offered by major online booksellers, as well as prices being offered by the VandalStore, all on one screen. See more. 

Graduate Repays A Family Debt With Two College Investments. Robert D. Dixon ’70, ’71 recently committed a $50,000 gift divided between the College of Business and Economics and a scholarship named in honor of his brother Dennis to benefit students in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. Dixon lives in Hillsborough, Calif. and is a managing director of the Menlo Park office of Morgan Stanley. He divides his time between his work in California and his second profession -- managing a cattle ranch in Montana. Dixon, an Idaho Falls native, credits the University of Idaho with “having a great deal to do with whatever success I have had professionally” and cites this as his reason for giving back. Dixon has been named one of the top 10 financial advisers in the United States according to Barron’s. Dean Mario Reyes says the entire college takes great pride in Dixon’s accomplishments. “I cannot thank Bob enough for his generous support. He is an inspiration, and we look forward to introducing him to our current students who aspire to following a similar professional path.” For information about making a gift to the College of Business and Economics, please contact Chandra Ford at (208) 890-2370 or