The Friday Letter Archive

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


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Friday Letter 2013-09-20

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Friday Letter Office of the President

September 20

Dear Friends,

“Moscow has much to toast of, much to be proud of. The legislature made no mistake in locating the University at this point…. its people are intelligent, enterprising and public spirited and, we believe, will spare no pains to make Moscow the Athens of Idaho.”

This accolade from the Blackfoot News in 1889 may seem a bit florid, but it points to an enduring truth. Like ancient Athens, the city of Moscow, with its broader neighborhood embracing Pullman, offers a unique living and learning community.

Our Moscow-Pullman neighborhood combines a wealth of arts and learning with the benefit of friendly residents, low crime rates, a healthy environment, and an abundance of smart people. The well-known brain-building website has rated the Moscow-Pullman corridor as the nation’s seventh smartest population center per capita.

We are developing this source of intellectual capital in ways that promote the economy and culture of our state, region, and nation. A shining example is the Palouse Knowledge Corridor, which seeks to “match innovation with opportunity” in research, science, and entrepreneurism.  Collaborating in this effort are the University of Idaho, City of Moscow, Washington State University, City of Pullman, and a host of other private and public entities.

Our unique neighborhood nurtures the spirit as well as the mind. Outdoor Magazine ranks us among the nation’s top 25 universities for its vibrant community and outdoor recreation. Money, Businessweek, Mother Earth News, and other publications have ranked the larger Palouse community of Moscow and Pullman as a top place to live and to raise a family.

In ancient Athens, youths took an oath to leave their community better than they found it. Today at the University of Idaho, we undertake with our neighbors to inculcate the knowledge, skills, and values that will enable our young people to fulfill a similar purpose in life. Our success is measured by the fact that the University of Idaho has been named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll every year since its inception in 2006.

In modern life, as in ancient times, place has meaning. Moscow does indeed have “much to toast of, much to be proud of.”  We are blessed to live, work, and study here. 

Tomorrow our Vandal football team will take the field against the Washington State Cougars. For a few hours we will engage in the vigorous partisanship of a great rivalry.  And, when the game is over, we will reaffirm our good fortune to share one of America’s great neighborhoods, nestled in one of the most beautiful corners of the country.

Go Vandals!

Don Burnett
Interim President

University Sets New Records For National Merit Scholar Enrollment. The enrollment of 25 new freshmen National Merit Scholars sets a new University of Idaho record as home to 76 of the nation’s top scholars. Pending final review, the University of Idaho now has more merit scholars than any other public university in the Pacific Northwest.

Natural Resource Professor First Woman To Win Forestry Medal. Forest, Rangeland, and Fire Sciences Professor Jo Ellen Force recently received the prestigious Gifford-Pinchot Medal from the Society of American Foresters. The award recognizes notable contributions from U.S. forest professionals. She is the first female recipient in the award’s 63-year history. The award recognizes Force’s many achievements over 30 years of teaching and research. Read more.

Agriculture and Advanced Transportation Researchers Earn National Grants. Researchers at the UI’s National Institute for Advanced Transportation Technology received a boost this month with a $570,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Read more. Also, the UI Pale Cyst Nematode Project received $436,529 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture to help eradicate a potato pest. Read more.

Cargill Inspires Futures By Aiding Today’s Scholars. Cargill – an international producer and marketer of food, agricultural, financial and industrial products and services – has partnered with the University of Idaho to enhance student learning. Cargill’s $25,000 support last year provided a year-long scholarship to Rachael Ashley, now a senior studying animal and veterinary science, who also worked as a summer intern with Cargill. “Rachel did an amazing job for us,” said Roger Eytzen, business development manager for the Pacific NW District of Cargill’s Animal Nutrition Division. “She was a very hard worker, and when we told her something once, it is as good as done. She thinks for herself and adapts well even under pressure.” Ashley said: “It was clear that Cargill is more than a company -- it is a family adding value to the world. And my education prepared me to understand the concepts, and my real-world application at Cargill made those concepts real. This experience will propel my career upon graduation, and I owe it to the team at Cargill. I will forever be grateful for the immense knowledge I’ve gained.” For more information on how your organization can partner with the University of Idaho, contact Mindy Means at (208) 885-7053 or