The Friday Letter Archive

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


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Friday Letter 2014-10-31

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Dear Friends,
With Veteran’s Day around the corner, we have an opportunity to recognize the service of the men and women in our armed forces — student cadets here at the University of Idaho, current military and returning veterans.
In “This Crested Hill,” a history of our university, we’re reminded that “The University of Idaho grew in part from the idea that land-grant colleges should provide the nation with a ready fighting force, a body of responsible citizen soldiers.”
The university’s first military commander, Lieutenant Edward R. Chrisman, took the reins in 1894, overseeing the training — then compulsory — of all male students. A large percentage of UI students served in the Spanish-American War, and our students and graduates have served the U.S. military since. Women also played a role in our early military history, as the fabled, albeit informal, “Company C” organized in the late 1800s presaged a later age when women would serve alongside men in the Army, Navy and Air Force ROTC units.
Then as today, ROTC cadets grow as leaders. Some think of leadership as an innate or natural quality, but at UI we know that leadership can be inspired, nurtured and honed — for military service and for life outside the military.
Military service enhances our security in many ways, not always by force. Our military serves in humanitarian missions that enhance global understanding. This past summer, three cadets from the Army ROTC’s Chrisman Battalion participated in the Army’s Culture and Language Program, each visiting a different country: Bosnia, Montenegro and Senegal. They assisted with flood relief, delivered humanitarian supplies, and forged bonds with servicemen and servicewomen across the world.
We are proud of the ambassadorial work these young men and women undertake on behalf of the university, the state of Idaho and the nation.
The university endeavors to serve the men and women who serve us. We currently serve more than 300 GI Bill benefit recipients. Operation Education is a signature program at the university, assisting disabled veterans beyond what the GI Bill offers, even helping family members. Operation Education started at the UI, but chapters have now formed at other universities. Generous donor support makes this critical program possible.
A strong supporter of Operation Education has been General James F. Amos, who retired in October 2014 as the 35th commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, and who is a 1970 graduate of the University of Idaho in business and economics. General Amos’ wife, Bonnie, and my wife, Mary Beth, are the honorary co-chairs of Operation Education. Operation Education’s Advisory Board is chaired by David Decker. We are lucky to have the support of these dedicated leaders.
I did not serve in the military, but my father was a WWII veteran. A college student before the war, he joined the Army after Pearl Harbor, and rushed to complete his degree in 1942 before going to Europe and serving as an engineer under General Patton.
At Homecoming this year, I was fortunate to meet and have my picture taken with Roger Guernsey, a member of the “Greatest Generation.”
Chuck Staben portrait
This generation came home to build careers and families, making the United States a dominant political and economic force. My father’s service first instilled in me the high regard I have for the military. This respect is reinforced by the veterans and servicemen and servicewomen that I meet.
I hope you’ll join me in reflecting on the example of leadership and commitment that men and women in uniform — whether cadets on campus, active duty personnel or veterans — set for us all.
We would not be the nation that we are today without them. Furthermore, we cannot be the university that we aspire to be without embracing the value that our tradition of military service, and the men and women who carry it out as citizen soldiers, bring to our campus, our state, and our world.

Chuck Staben portrait

Go Vandals!

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

UI Military Appreciation Day
The University of Idaho will salute and thank former and current military personnel during the Vandal home football game on Saturday, Nov. 1, for Military Appreciation Day. Military Appreciation Day activities begin at 11 a.m. on the ASUI-Kibbie Activity Center’s north field. A wide range of military equipment will be on display, as well as a climbing wall, ropes course, children’s activities and information about local veterans’ organizations. Complimentary food and beverage coupons from Vandal Dining will be available to current and former military members. 
Native American Heritage Month Schedule Announced
The Native American Student Center is sponsoring a slate of activities to celebrate Native American Heritage Month. Events include a kick-off celebration, a cultural exhibition with the Vandal Nation drum group and food, a memorial plaque dedication for Dr. Arthur Taylor and Dr. Jane Baillargeon, and an array of presentations, panel discussions and other activities.
Moving Dreams Forward
In 2010, John and Gretchen Harder established the Robert J. Harder Memorial Scholarship in memory of their son, Rob ’08, who passed away after fighting t-cell lymphoma. Following Rob’s passion, this scholarship is awarded annually to a student pursuing a fine arts degree through the College of Art and Architecture. Since its establishment, the Harders, as well as multiple family members and friends, have contributed more than $50,000 to the fund.
Coming from a farm in eastern Washington, Rob embraced countless opportunities at the University of Idaho. He was involved in the marching band, honors program, dorm leadership, club leadership, committee assignments and volunteer activities. Fondly referred to as “Mr. President,” he also gave his time and talent to the College of Art and Architecture’s Student Congress.
For more information on giving to the College of Art and Architecture, contact Paige McKee at 208-885-5107 or

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