The Friday Letter Archive

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


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Friday Letter 2015-11-06:
How Small Change Adds Up

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November 6, 2015

Dear Friends,
How many times have you had this happen? You find a couple pennies, or nickels or quarters on the ground. They wind up at the bottom of your washing machine, or stuck in the seat of your car, or at the back of a drawer. Wherever they are, maybe they come in useful now and again, but they’re probably not serving a greater good. That’s okay. It’s just spare change, after all, right?

Not at UI, though. If you haven’t heard of the “Found Money Fund,” (link) it’s one of the quirky, creative traditions that are such a part of our university. The idea started (link) with Terry Armstrong, a longtime Vandal administrator and professor, and staff member Catherine Yenni Wilson. Both were Vandals through and through, dedicated to students and to the university. Walking by a fraternity house on campus one day in 1981, Terry found three pennies on the ground and put them in a jar. Others dropped loose change in the jar, as well. Soon, a campus tradition was born.

Needing a place to deposit all those nickels and dimes and stray bills, the Found Money Fund endowment was created. It has been added to through the years by contributions from alumni, faculty, staff and students the world over, who occasionally mail in loose change and bills — a small but appreciated gesture that complements a great spirit of donor generosity. Terry passed away last year, but the Found Money Fund is one way in which his legacy lives on. I actually first heard about the fund from a colleague with whom I worked at the University of South Dakota, and who wanted to start such a fund at that institution — proof that a good idea travels far.

Per Terry Armstrong’s wishes, the fund will mature in 2089. When it does, it will be used to enhance the university — its programs, its students, its faculty and staff — in ways that we might not imagine from our vantage point today. Now, 2089 offers a long horizon for adding to the fund and for watching interest accrue. With about $344,000 in the fund already, with steady contributions and a reasonable interest rate, we estimate that the fund will generate many millions of dollars after 73 years. That’s not such small change anymore, now is it?

Recently, we’ve relaunched the Found Money Fund. We actually have a fleet of little piggy banks that are hoping to find homes across campus. I encourage faculty, staff and students who are interested in supporting this project to learn more (link) , and maybe adopt a piggy bank of their own.

The Found Money Fund will mature long after many of us are gone. That’s part of the point, though. Little by little, with each nickel and each dime, we have a chance to express a belief in a better world for our students, for our children and for all those who come after us. So don’t feel silly about bending over to pick up those pennies. That spare change can and will add up to something special for the world to come.

Go Vandals!

Chuck Staben
P.S.: Speaking of traditions, I had started my own with a racquetball contest. Beat me in racquetball, and I’ll buy you lunch, I’ve been saying to undergraduates. I hadn’t had to spring for lunch since coming to UI – until this week. Cristobal Ramos Salazar, a key part of our men’s tennis team last year and an assistant with the team this year, beat me two games to none. The first game was close, the second, less so. My hat’s off to Cristobal for a great match. As a member of our Athletics staff mentioned, “Dr. Staben might consider training” if he wants to win. That’s probably a good lesson for all of us. Until then, I look forward to buying lunch for Cristobal and any other undergraduates who feel up to the challenge.


Alumni Give Back to College of Education

Debbie Maxwell Long ’72 and ’81 and Kathy Canfield-Davis ’87 believe in being brave and bold. As alumni and College of Education employees, they also believe in giving back to the university that they love. Long, the North Idaho Regional Coordinator for the Idaho Building Capacity Project, and Canfield-Davis, chair for the Department of Leadership and Counseling, first met as special education directors in Northern Idaho more than 35 years ago. Besides giving their time and talent to UI, Long and Canfield-Davis jointly made a $25,000 gift to co-name a student space in the renovated Education building. “We have both held leadership positions in education for most of our careers,” Canfield-Davis said. “Deb and I are excited to give back and help create a comfortable, flexible environment that will encourage collaboration and active engagement among future Vandal leaders.” For information on supporting the College of Education (link) , contact Marta McClintock at (208) 885-7476 or (link) .

College of Law Prominent among IBR Leaders in Law

The Idaho Business Review’s 2015 Leaders in Law list (link) includes eight University of Idaho College of Law graduates and a UI Law associate dean. The Leaders in Law program recognizes outstanding legal professionals (link) in a number of areas, rewarding nominated individuals based on experience, dedication, hard work, compassion and excellence. The award “is dedicated to those individuals whose leadership, both in the legal profession and in the community, has a positive impact on Idaho.” Lee Dillion, associate dean for Boise programs, was named outstanding legal educator. University of Idaho College of Law graduates were also honored, for excellence as in-house counsel, as partners in firms across the state, and as an up-and-coming lawyer. The honorees will be recognized at the Idaho Business Review’s Leaders in Law event on November 17 in Boise, an event sponsored by the College of Law.

UI Confucius Institute to Expand Programs to Boise

The University of Idaho Confucius Institute will open its doors in Boise (link) in January 2016. Registration for Chinese language and Tai Chi classes runs November through December. Classes will take place at the University of Idaho Boise in the Idaho Water Center. Public school language programs and other art and community outreach events will also be part of the 2016 UI Confucius Institute cultural awareness series for Boise and the Treasure Valley. One of fewer than 100 institutes nationwide, the Confucius Institute opened at UI in Moscow in April 2013. The institute teaching staff is currently composed of five full-time Chinese teachers and two martial arts instructors; two new teachers will be based in Boise. “I think Asian languages, especially Chinese, are going to open up so many opportunities for people,” said Matt Wappett, institute co-director. “Having a basic understanding of Chinese cultures and the Chinese language gives you a very marketable skill. You’d be surprised where you can go if you speak Chinese.”

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