The Friday Letter Archive

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


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Friday Letter 2014-12-12

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Dear Friends,
Tonight Mary Beth and I attend a special event on the Palouse, the Jazz Choirs Holiday Concert in Moscow. With the participation of more than 700 local and regional elementary, junior high school, and high school choir members, as well as the performance groups at the University of Idaho under the direction of award-winning professor Dan Bukvich, the occasion highlights the power of the arts to bring our community together.
We get many chances to see the power of the arts at the University of Idaho. The Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, a must-attend event every February, provides thrilling entertainment for our community and a dynamic learning opportunity for thousands of K-12 and many UI students. The Jazz Fest earned UI the distinction of being the only public university to receive the National Medal of the Arts — the nation’s top arts honor.
Our university’s embrace of the arts is year-round. Just last week, the Idaho Repertory Theater and University of Idaho Theatre Arts opened “A Christmas Carol” at the Hartung Theatre — a cast and crew of more than 50 people put together this show. The Pritchard Gallery in downtown Moscow features work from students and faculty, as well as artists from all over the country. And programs such as the Hemingway Festival, a unique literary event with readings, presentations and visiting authors, bring scholars and citizens together.
Vandal artistic endeavor also attracts state and national notice. Kim Barnes, professor of creative writing in our English department, was recently honored with the Governor’s Award for the Arts for her contributions to literature. You may have seen Prichard Art Gallery Director Roger Rowley’s artwork featured on “CBS Sunday Morning” in November. The list could go on and on, filled with brilliantly creative people, programs and places.
I couldn’t imagine life without the enriching experience of art. As a scientist, I often take a highly rational approach to engaging the world. The arts have helped me to understand that there are also interpretive and emotional approaches to seeing the world.
Unfortunately, the liberal arts have been attacked by public figures and media reports, claiming that careers outside STEM disciplines don’t benefit students financially. Data from New York Federal Reserve economists say otherwise; the return on investment for students in those degree paths is 12 percent yearly — only one important measure of success.
Tonight we’ll be enjoying the musicianship and celebrating the holiday season. Interim Provost Katherine Aiken and I actually have our own small parts to play in tonight’s concert, and I admit to being a bit nervous, as musical performance is well outside my comfort zone. Please listen closely to the real artists, our faculty and students, as you enjoy the drum group’s performance tonight. And, enjoy the power of the arts to enrich our lives.  

Chuck Staben portrait

Go Vandals!

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

Investing in the Future through Estate Giving
Thanks to a generous $100,000 gift from the estate of Lawrence “Lee” Bath ’50, the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences (CLASS) will benefit from his lasting legacy. This unrestricted gift to the CLASS Excellence Fund and its endowment allows the dean maximum flexibility to support the college’s most strategic opportunities. “Lee’s extraordinary gift will have an immediate and long-lasting impact in the college,” Dean Andy Kersten explained. “Unrestricted gifts are vital for continued student success, and the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences touches nearly every student at the university at some point during their education. It's an honor to keep Lee's legacy going for years to come.” Lee loved sharing stories of his days at the University of Idaho and his time in Sigma Chi fraternity. For more information on giving to the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences, contact Peter Mundt, director of development, at 208-885-5013 or
Barnes a Governor’s Awards for the Arts Recipient
Kim Barnes, professor of English, was recently honored as a 2014 recipient of a Governor’s Awards for the Arts for Excellence in the Arts. A Pulitzer Prize finalist for her 1997 memoir “In the Wilderness: Coming of Age in an Unknown Country,” Barnes has taught at the University of Idaho since 2000. The author of three novels and two memoirs, among other works, her most recent novel is “In the Kingdom of Men.” 
U-Idaho Makes President’s Community Service Honor Roll
University of Idaho’s outreach and engagement efforts were recognized this week by the White House. The UI was listed on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for the eighth consecutive year. UI has been on the list since it began in 2006. A total of 766 higher education institutions were named to the 2014 honor roll, which recognized recipients for one or more of four areas of service: general community service, interfaith community service, economic community service and education community service. UI earned this distinction in the education category.   
“UI creates incredible opportunities to serve in our local community, regionally, nationally and internationally,” said Bruce Pitman, UI dean of students and vice provost of student affairs. “For our students, these are important learning and service experiences that can change lives.”

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