The Friday Letter Archive

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


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Friday Letter 2015-09-11:
Great Examples of Vandal Energy

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 Some images, links, and functionality may be broken or out of date.

September 11, 2015

Dear Friends,
Maybe you’ve experienced something like this in your own lives, whether you work at a company, go to school or are involved in community organizations. Invariably, there are people making things happen behind the scenes. The lights stay on, the facilities stay clean, the services continue on as expected — the work gets done.

That holds true at the University of Idaho. The work gets done - a routine excellence that can sometimes go unnoticed. One thing I and others have definitely noticed over the past year, however, is the work of our Steam Plant crew. They keep the lights on, of course, but they also have fun while doing it. About a year ago I first saw a pair of skeletons (link) in the street-level window on 6th Street. I’m sure I had the reaction many others have had — surprise, a chuckle, and another look at the building and reflection about its role at UI.

Since then, the Steam Plant crew has regularly arranged and rearranged the skeletons to play off the mood or goings-on at UI or in the broader world. For instance, in late spring the skeletons had books in hand, studying for finals. They broke out a beach ball to welcome summer, then grabbed American flags and joined us in celebrating the Fourth of July. They even hopped on a bicycle to get in some exercise at one point.

Part of the skeletons’ job is to draw some attention to the Steam Plant, and I think they have succeeded in that. The plant is a facility of which we can be very proud (link) . Many university energy plants run on fossil fuels — but not ours. Our plant runs on biomass, cedar wood chip, for 90 percent of its fuel. That waste is a renewable resource (link) that doesn’t add carbon to the environment, unlike fossil fuels. And the sourcing of the fuel from nearby sawmills means UI supports local industries that keep Idahoans at work and our economy strong.

The skeletons also succeed in lifting our spirits. Whether you’re a student walking past and thinking about your next class, or an employee reflecting on some of the stress of the job, the skeletons provide a chance to smile, to enjoy a break from your routine, and be connected with others to the spirit of the university. That creative, quirky Vandal spirit shows up in a lot of ways, from our Vandal Marching Band to our Homecoming festivities every year. I appreciate how this particular staff crew connects and contributes to that feeling.

It’s a lesson in fun and imagination that we can all take to heart because let’s face it, higher education can be stressful. Now, not everyone needs to start putting skeletons in their windows. But congratulations to the Steam Plant crew for their ingenuity and generosity of spirit. They represent the many Vandals who make our university a great place (link) to work, live and learn. My hats off to them, and to the Vandal faculty and staff who contribute immeasurably to our university all year round.

Go Vandals!

Chuck Staben
Steam Plant Skeletons Photo Gallery

Here's the Latest News from the University of Idaho

Mark and Laurie Engberg Transforming Art and Architecture

In August, Mark and Laurie Engberg made a transformational gift to the College of Art and Architecture. Combined with two new current-use gifts, their commitment of a planned estate gift totals more than $1 million, making it the largest gift ever received by the college. The Engberg’s generous support will provide necessary resources for the college to expand its high-performance building studio and will support scholarships for students pursuing majors in the college. “The University of Idaho and the College of Art and Architecture provided me with a great education and opportunity,” said Mark Engberg of his lasting support. “Now, it is time for us to give back and make a difference for the next generation.” For more information on giving to the College of Art and Architecture (link) , please contact either Jim Zuba at (208) 885-4142 or (link) or Dean Mark Hoversten at (208) 885-5423 or (link) .

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