The Friday Letter Archive

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


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Friday Letter 2014-09-19

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 Some images, links, and functionality may be broken or out of date.

Dear Friends,

This afternoon, I’ll walk into the Kibbie Dome and join the Vandal community as we celebrate my inauguration. This is a big occasion for me, certainly, but the day is truly about all the people who work together to make the University of Idaho successful.

As the 18th president of the university, I join a long and storied history of people who have dedicated their intellect, talent and energy to educating students and improving the lives of Idahoans. We’ve scheduled the inauguration for 1:25 p.m. to recognize that 125-year history.

But in my speech today, I’ll be looking forward. The message is titled “Keys to Our Future,” and I believe every student, staff member, faculty member, alumni and friend of the University of Idaho holds those keys. Our future excellence is under our control.

My friend and mentor Lee Todd, former president of the University of Kentucky, will provide the keynote address this afternoon. Lee introduced me to higher-level administration years ago, when he named me chair of a committee tasked with finding strategies to position the University of Kentucky as a top-20 national research institution.

It was no simple task. While there is no easy way to define what a “top” university is, we discovered there is great value in aiming to be the best you can be.

I’ve said many times in my first months as president that one of my broad goals for the University of Idaho is to see us become better — even better than we believed possible.

My sons are avid swimmers, and I watched youth swimming for 15 years. Few 6-year-olds could swim even 25 yards of butterfly — it’s a very difficult stroke. Yet, after 10 years of hard work, though few become Michael Phelps, every one could swim 200 yards. Each had become better than he or she could ever have believed. The University of Idaho can become better than we could ever believe. 

At the University of Idaho, we may not have the resources to skyrocket to the the top of national rankings lists, but we have the ability to do the absolute best we can with what we have, where we’re at.

As a land-grant university, one of our highest callings is the education of students. I believe we have the ability to provide an excellent and affordable education to more students from Idaho, the West and the world, so I’ve made increasing enrollment my first mission as president.

Every Vandal is part of that mission. Our faculty and researchers will teach and mentor these students. Our staff will keep the university ticking as we expand. Our students will welcome new peers into a strong and friendly community. Our alumni and friends will support new students with their generosity and Vandal spirit.

As the University of Idaho grows and changes, we all play a role. You hold the keys to our future.

Chuck Staben portrait


Chuck Staben
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Here's the Latest News from the University of Idaho

Inspiring Futures

Chemistry alumnus gives back to college that prepared him for career. 

John S. Townsend of Moses Lake, Wash., recently made a $100,000 gift to help purchase a new nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectrometer for the Department of Chemistry. The NMR is a critical piece of equipment for research in the department. John studied chemistry at UI, worked for Idaho Potato Starch in Blackfoot, and then Western Polymer in Moses Lake. He later purchased Western Polymer, which produces starch for the paper industry and food-grade starch. John sold the company, which also has operations in Maine and North Dakota, to his children a few years ago, and his daughter now runs the business. “My studies at Idaho prepared me for a career in chemistry, so I am making this gift in appreciation of the education I received,” John said. For more information about giving to the College of Science, please contact Eric Bennett at (208) 885-9106 or

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