The Friday Letter Archive

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


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Friday Letter 2013-10-04

Please note: this is an archived email message and may not display as originally intended. Some images, links, and functionality may be broken or out of date.

Oct. 4, 2013      

Dear Friends,
Next year, in 2014, we will celebrate the 125th anniversary of Idaho’s national land-grant, comprehensive, founding university. During that auspicious year we also expect our next long-term president to take office.
The presidential selection process is well underway. Just this week, our Board of Regents –- the State Board of Education – announced that the five finalists will visit Idaho in October, participating in statewide interviews that will enable them to meet students, faculty, staff, alumni, and civic leaders. The finalists were chosen from approximately 70 nominees and applicants by a hard working, 16-member search committee chaired by Regent Emma Atchley. [By agreement with the Board of Regents, your current interim president has not been a candidate.]
The field of finalists is strong. Further information about them and the venues where you can meet them is available on our website.
We have had 22 presidents to date, counting interim office holders. Indeed, our first president was an interim: Judge James H. Forney of Moscow. He played a key role in organizing the university and in recruiting our first long-term president, Franklin Benjamin Gault, whom he described as having “a large jaw-bone shadowed by a proportionately large moustache.” I later told [the] Regents that it would take a man with a large jaw-bone to run this thing because we had no money.”
Jawboning remains an important part of the president ‘s job today. The university president is an emissary -- an advocate for the distinctive history and mission of Idaho’s first university. The president also is a member of the university faculty and staff, charged with shepherding our teaching, research and outreach functions and with advancing the interests of our students, the university community, and diverse stakeholders. The president, as both a leader and collaborator, is responsible for the university’s fulfillment of responsibilities derived from our unique constitutional status as well as from an array of state and federal statutes. 
Each of my predecessors has discharged these responsibilities diligently and has made an important contribution to our university’s ongoing success. I hope and confidently anticipate that our next long-term president will bring to his or her work a studiously acquired understanding of Idaho, a heart-felt passion for the Vandal tradition, and a vision of the University of Idaho presidency as a capstone rather than a stepping stone.
As shown in the table below, our presidents have come to us from a remarkable variety of disciplines. Their backgrounds reflect the breadth of our university’s connections and responsibilities. Many presidents achieved distinction in their specialized fields before entering academic administration. President Frederick J. Kelly, to take just one example, earned national recognition as the creator of standardized tests of scholastic achievement.
 President Dates Specialization
James H. Forney (Acting) 1891-1892 Law
Franklin B. Gault 1892-1898 Mathematics
Joseph P. Blanton 1898-1900 Theology
James Alexander MacLean 1900-1913 History/Political Science
Melvin A. Brannon 1914-1917 Biologist
Ernest H. Lindley 1917-1920 Psychology
Alfred H. Upham 1920-1928 Latin
Frederick J. Kelly 1928-1930 Education
Mervin G. Neale 1930-1937 Education
Harrison C. Dale 1937-1946 Business
Jesse E. Buchanan 1946-1954 Civil Engineering
Donald R. Theophilus 1954-1965 Agriculture – Dairy Science
Ernest W. Hartung 1965-1977 Zoology
Richard D. Gibb 1977-1989 Education
Elisabeth A. Zinser 1989-1995 Business Management
Thomas O. Bell (Acting) 1995-1996 Education
Robert A. Hoover 1996-2003 Political Science
Gary G. Michael (Interim) 2003-2004 Business
Timothy P. White 2004-2008 Physiology/Kinesiology
Steven Daley-Laursen (Interim) 2008-2009  Forest Science
M. Duane Nellis     2009-2013 Geography
Don Burnett (Interim) 2013- Law
The president’s job is one of daunting challenges but also of abundant joy.  There is a special feeling about this place. Rafe Gibbs captured it in the title of his history of the University of Idaho:  “Beacon for Mountain and Plain.”
As presidents come and go, the light shines and grows ever brighter.
Go Vandals! 
Don Burnett
Interim President

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See the latest features here.

CALS Retiree Matches Idaho Cattle Foundation Gift To Establish Endowment. Carl Hunt, former chair of the Department of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, and his wife Martha established the Hunt Family Beef Education and Research Endowment with a commitment to match up to $50,000 in funds raised. Thanks to the recent $50,000 donation from the Idaho Cattle Foundation, Inc. –- created in 2009 by the Idaho Cattle Association –- the Hunts will be fulfilling their commitment. The Hunt Family Beef Education and Research Endowment was created to ensure a continued commitment to education and research concerning beef cattle at the University of Idaho. The funds will support student compensation for beef research, graduate assistantships, travel to conferences, supplies and equipment, and infrastructure improvements. The ultimate goal of the endowment is to invest $1 million for an endowed professorship within the department. The combined gifts of $100,000 from the Hunts and ICF provide an important first step toward reaching this goal. For more information on giving to the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, contact Kim O’Neill at (425) 359-2411 or or Jen Root at (208) 885-4087 or