The Friday Letter Archive

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


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Friday Letter 2014-01-24

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January 24, 2014

Dear Friends,
This week the University of Idaho has begun to celebrate 125 years of service to the State of Idaho. During a well-attended ceremony inside the state capitol, Governor C. L. “Butch” Otter -- surrounded by a standing-room-only assemblage of Vandal students and supporters -- signed a proclamation noting our university’s “lasting contributions to the State” and declaring next Thursday, January 30, 2014, to be “University of Idaho 125th Anniversary Day.” He cheerfully received a bear hug from “Joe Vandal,” and later visited a celebratory gala in downtown Boise attended by a sell-out crowd including UI alumni Senator Jim Risch and Lieutenant Governor Brad Little.
The Governor signed his “Anniversary Day” proclamation in advance of January 30 because the halls of the state capitol have been filled with Vandal advocates during the University of Idaho’s annual “legislative week.” (Needless to say, it is only fitting that the actual anniversary date will be commemorated in Moscow – the location specified in the state constitution for Idaho’s founding, comprehensive, national land-grant university.)
Among the most effective advocates for the University of Idaho have been 34 volunteer students who traveled to Boise from Moscow this week. Coordinated by ASUI President Max Cohen and ASUI student lobbyist Ashley Morehouse, the students met with legislators and urged support for public higher education. One student reported, “I was amazed at how friendly everyone was and how interested they were in hearing from us.” The student recounted a nearly two-hour discussion with one legislator who wanted to learn more from a student’s perspective.
This week also featured a packed “Meet the Vandals” student recruitment event. Some 232 prospective students from the Treasure Valley -– a 23 percent increase over last year -– eagerly quizzed faculty, staff, and current students about life and learning in Moscow. Dozens of the prospective students enrolled on the spot. Many parents expressed thanks for “bringing the University of Idaho to Boise.” They appreciated hearing about our connected, safe community. One first-generation, multicultural student from Weiser, said that prior to the event her parents felt uneasy about her attending a school away from home. At the conclusion of the event, however, the concerned mother hugged the event coordinator and said it was clear that “Vandals truly care about Vandals.” 
This week also featured a meeting of the Higher Education Presidents Council with the Governor, as well as university presentations to the Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee (JFAC), the Senate Education Committee, and the House Education Committee. At JFAC, the University of Idaho was first up. “What a great way to start off our institutions of higher learning,” noted Senator Dean Cameron, who chaired the JFAC hearing that day. We will learn later in the legislative session, of course, how the University of Idaho’s requests and the Governor’s education proposals have fared; but we certainly have received a gracious and collegial reception in all venues. 
Another highlight of this week has been the news that our capital campaign (“Inspiring Futures”) reached a level of $207 million in gifts and pledges at the end of December, 2013. This means that in approximately 85% of the allotted time for the campaign, we have achieved 92% of our $225 million campaign goal. The last six months of 2013 have been particularly heartening; we set fiscal year-to-date records for donors and dollars in many giving categories. The gifts will support student scholarships, faculty research, programmatic initiatives, and facility upgrades. This private support will complement and leverage the public support sought in the halls, offices, and meeting rooms of the state capitol this week.
As I reflect upon our university’s 125 years -– five quarters of a century – I am reminded of something I learned while working in Kentucky, before I happily returned to my native Idaho. The fastest time in the Kentucky Derby –- a race five quarters of a mile long -– was posted by Secretariat, who ran every quarter mile faster than the quarter preceding it. He was accelerating all the way.
And so are we. Every quarter-century has brought new advances for the University of Idaho. As we end our fifth quarter, there is a strong and growing wind in our sails. Idaho’s flagship is accelerating.

Go Vandals!
Don Burnett
Interim President

Here's the Latest News from the University of Idaho
Professor Unearths Surprising Geology Deep Beneath The Galápagos Islands. UI Geologist Dennis Geist is digging deep into the mysteries of one of Earth’s most unusual island chains, the Galápagos. He and a team of researchers from across the nation have published a paper that challenges some of the conventional explanations of how the islands’ geology has formed. Geist describes the rock layer deep below the Galápagos as a sponge. Traditional views held it was a “dry” sponge, just hot rocks. But Geist and his colleagues’ data indicate the sponge is actually “wet” with hot magma. Their research, reported in the February issue of the journal Nature Geosciences and released online Jan. 19, is key to a fundamental scientific understanding of how the Galápagos -– and other islands –- formed. Read more.
Boise Meet The Vandals Event A Hit. More than 500 guests packed the “Meet the Vandals” event in Boise Tuesday including 232 potential students. “That’s a 23 percent increase over last year’s event,” said Michelle Henley, senior associate director of admissions. “I had so many parents thanking us for bringing this event to Boise, especially because the event demonstrated the university’s commitment to student success and safety.” Dozens of the high school seniors and transfer students who attended applied for admission during the event, according to Henley.  The event included opportunities for parents too. For example, Parent Advisory Board members, Patty Ferry and Bill Rauer, joined the staff from the Dean of Students Office provided a parent session highlighting the “We got your back” culture at the University of Idaho. More Meet the Vandal events are scheduled for Idaho Falls as well as sites in Washington, Oregon, and California. See more.

See more news and features.
Furgason Family Creates A Legacy To Attract Women To Engineering. Robert “Bob” Furgason, PhD, ’56, ’58,’06 (honorary doctorate), has been a champion for female engineers at the University of Idaho for decades. As head of the university’s chemical engineering department from 1965-1974, he initiated the first student chapter of the Society of Women Engineers here. The support continues today as he and his wife Gloria ’81 recently pledged $250,000 to create a new scholarship endowment. “The Robert and Gloria Furgason Family Engineering Scholarship Endowment will make a difference by encouraging and enabling more women to become engineers at the University of Idaho,” said Larry Stauffer, dean of the College of Engineering. The Furgasons are no strangers to the university. In addition to both being alumni, Bob served as dean of the College of Engineering in 1974, and four years later, became the vice president for academic affairs and research. The couple currently resides in Corpus Christi, Texas where they are known as leaders and champions for many non-profits. They have two sons, Steven ’88 and Brian. For more information on giving to the College of Engineering, contact Mary Lee Ryba at (208) 755-4916 or; Christina Randal at (208) 885-6774 or; or Eric Billings at (208) 885-7978 or