The Friday Letter Archive

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


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Friday Letter 2017-04-07:
Celebrating Scholarship Impact at UI

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April 7, 2017
Letter from the President
Dear Friends,
Today I have the special opportunity to join students and University of Idaho scholarship donors at our Celebration of Scholarships, an annual event that brings students together with the donors who support their scholarships.

Private philanthropy is the critical margin of excellence for our university. It supports students, bolsters academic programs, and enhances research and scholarship. It’s an important way we join in the shared enterprise of shaping a bright future. Today’s event highlights the very human side of that connection.
For students, the Celebration of Scholarships is a chance to thank donors putting a face to the support that plays an important role in their educational experience. For many, meeting a scholarship donor is affirming and motivating. Here’s what we heard from one student, an agribusiness and political science major: “Knowing that someone else believes in my ability makes me treasure learning so much more,” he said. “I think it gives me a responsibility to do my best academically and personally to take full advantage of the opportunities I have been given.”
For donors, our scholarship celebration provides a window into the stories behind their financial support. Donors are alumni, faculty and staff, and community members. They hear firsthand the appreciation of students. They learn their stories, their interests, their aspirations. The generosity behind their giving becomes less abstract; it’s more than a check, more than a donation. It’s a hand reached out to a fellow member of the Vandal family.
It’s difficult singling out a particular donor story because so many Vandals are so generous and considerate in their support of students after all, the “Inspiring Futures” campaign saw more than 40,000 Vandals offer their contributions, their statements of belief, to this institution. But I’m glad to welcome Peggy and Wayne Thiessen, among many others, to campus for this event. Both graduated from UI; scholarships helped Peggy complete her education, and Wayne points to a graduate fellowship on the way to a master’s degree as assistance that helped him on the path to a great career.
The Thiessens have supported UI in many ways, with a scholarship in soil science one part of that legacy. An abiding belief in the ongoing benefits of giving back drives their giving a “pay it forward” mindset. “We’re one or two generations away from those students, and it’s a unique opportunity for us to get to know them,” Wayne said.

“We believe that students are the future,” Peggy added. “Helping them be the best prepared that they can be is a wise investment in the future for our country, for everybody.”
We’re grateful for the support of the Thiessens and the many people who make the choice to invest in the future of our Vandal students. Here’s what another student, a psychology major, told the donors who supported her scholarship: “Without your help, my dreams would be just that, a dream,” she said. “You have helped make my dream a reality, and I am extremely grateful.”

Thank you to all the Vandal family members who have reached out their hands to invest in those dreams, and to the students who are taking the initiative to pull themselves up to a bright future.
Chuck Staben
Go Vandals!

Chuck Staben

Supporting Access to Higher Education

Kyra (Guest) Ferenc ‘97 and Sid Ferenc understand that today’s students are the pioneers and innovators of the future. They believe in opening doors to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and, through the Ferenc Family Foundation of Brooklyn, have made a generous gift to University of Idaho’s STEM Access program. STEM Access is one of seven TRiO projects funded at the College of Education; it connects students from the Lewis-Clark Valley to a path that supports high school efforts and leads to college, especially in the areas of STEM. Kyra Ferenc, a Vandal alumna and former educator who believes in encouraging a love of learning and critical thinking, chose to invest in the program after seeing the passion and enthusiasm of the program’s director, Kirsten LaPaglia. The donation to STEM Access will help further the education and foster excitement in youth who might not otherwise have an opportunity to explore higher education. For information about how to support TRiO or other programs in the College of Education, contact Marta McClintock at

U&I Give: New Crowdfunding Platform Supports Programs

The University of Idaho is celebrating the launch of its first-ever crowdfunding platform, U&I Give. From April 3 to April 28, Vandal friends, students, faculty, staff and alumni will have the opportunity to directly support UI student projects and programs through four unique campaigns. The University of Idaho Humanitarian Engineering Campaign is designing and building clean water access for a small community in Carani, Bolivia. The ALB Student Space campaign supports efforts by College of Business and Economics students to renovate student space in the Alberston’s Building. The Center for Volunteerism and Social Action wants to add weekend trips to Alternative Service Breaks, making the service experience accessible for all Vandal students who want to give back and create a better world. The UI Advertising Team offers professional development and hands-on learning in national competition, opportunities enhanced by donor support. Funding these campaigns enables students to do meaningful work, discover new cultures and apply emerging skills. Give now to make an immediate impact on the lives of students.

Vandaleers to Perform at Carnegie Hall

The Vandaleers, the University of Idaho’s prestigious choral group, is going to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall. The concert, scheduled for 8:30 p.m. Sunday, April 9, is the Vandaleers’ second at Carnegie Hall. Their first performance was in 1991. “For musicians, an opportunity to perform on the historic and acoustically vibrant stage of Carnegie Hall is a great achievement that we all dream of,” said Michael Murphy, director of choral activities and associate professor of music in the UI’s Lionel Hampton School of Music. “The Vandaleers will have the honor to perform a solo concert that will show a mastery of a variety of music.” At the concert, the Vandaleers will feature a varied repertoire of songs from the United States, Sweden, Norway, France, Germany and Haiti. The Vandaleers are traveling to New York as their 2017 annual tour destination. Since Murphy’s arrival as director in 2008, Vandaleers tours have included trips throughout the Northwest and Europe.