The Friday Letter Archive

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


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Friday Letter 2014-12-19

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 Some images, links, and functionality may be broken or out of date.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,
As we approach the New Year, our university’s 125th anniversary draws to a close. The anniversary proved a fortuitous time to join the Vandal family — the pride in our institution’s achievements and the optimism about our future are all the welcome a new president could ever ask for.
Now a leading national research university, Idaho’s land-grant school emerged from humble, often muddy beginnings on the hills outside Moscow. President James A. MacLean, the third president of the University of Idaho, guided construction of new facilities, including the school’s first gymnasium; raised admission standards and helped shape the modern academic experience; and warded off efforts to relocate key university programs, such as the School of Mines and the College of Agriculture.
When a fire gutted the Administration Building, MacLean found a way to rebuild it, and the iconic building stands tall more than 100 years later. MacLean’s nearly 13-year tenure is an example to all Vandals — and Vandal presidents — of what can be accomplished with vision, hard work and dedication.
Not all success stories are as well-known. At a recent event, our provost and historian Katherine Aiken told the story of Alfred Carlton Gilbert, a young Oregonian who was inspired while watching University of Idaho pole vaulters at the turn of the 20th century.
“I thought it was wonderful, soaring so high in the air just by using a pole,” Gilbert said. He decided to give it a try himself, and, favoring a bamboo pole, revolutionized the sport and won Olympic gold in 1908.
If you grew up with an Erector set, you also have A.C. Gilbert to thank — he invented them in 1913, and in 1918 successfully argued against a wartime proposal to ban toy production. That effort earned Gilbert the nickname “The Man Who Saved Christmas.” Sometimes Vandal spirit is contagious, it seems.
That spirit of innovation — sometimes from unexpected people and places — is a Vandal tradition that we’ve celebrated all year. I was able to attend the Jan. 30 “birthday party” in Moscow, one of several statewide celebrations throughout the year. The Vandal family embraced our anniversary year, attending events, participating on social media and generously displaying Vandal pride all year.
We can build off that positive energy. We will grow our university’s impact: Our students will go on to become leaders, our research will continue to change our world, and our outreach will help our state’s communities improve. We will build on our proven success. Like those who have come before us, we will find a way.
Lastly, a word of thanks for the many who contributed to make this a special year. My predecessor Don Burnett kept the anniversary on the right track. Volunteers on several committees and countless other students, faculty and staff members worked hard to pull together the many pieces of this year-long celebration. This labor of love paid off for all of us, a fitting showcase for Vandal excellence in the past, present and future.
Who knows what Vandals and those they inspire will accomplish in the next 125 years?

Chuck Staben portrait

Go Vandals!

Chuck Staben

P.S.: We will take a time-out for the holidays and return with our next letter on Friday, Jan. 9. Mary Beth and I wish you and your families the very best for the holiday season and the New Year. 
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Here's the Latest News from the University of Idaho

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