The Friday Letter Archive

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


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Friday Letter 2017-05-05:
These Vandals Exemplify Excellence

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May 5, 2017
Letter from the President
Dear Friends,
As we head toward the conclusion of our academic year, and for some students the conclusion of their University of Idaho career, I want to highlight the excellence of our students. This letter can’t capture the full range of ambition, creativity and dedication you’ll find among our nearly 12,000 students. But a few examples speak to the energy and excellence you’ll find at our great public research university.
This year, UI has three recipients of the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, highly coveted awards that facilitate advanced studies. Fewer than 2,000 NSF Graduate Research Fellowships are awarded each year. From Potlatch, Idaho, materials science and engineering student Isaac Curtis will use his award to begin a doctorate at UI. Benjamin Anzis of Marshalltown, Iowa, studying mathematics in our College of Science and already a Goldwater Scholar, plans to pursue his doctorate in algebraic geometry. Emily White, from Hawthorne, California, is a graduate student working on a doctorate in geology. Combined with six honorable mentions for this award, UI has had a significant presence in these awards for a university of our size testament to our students, our faculty mentors, and our program staff who all contribute to these opportunities.
Sponsored by the U.S. State Department and awarded to fewer than 3,000 students each year, the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship facilitates international scholarships and internships. This spring Casandra Clements, an elementary education major and a junior from Nampa, received a Gilman award to spend the semester in Verona, Italy, through the University Studies Abroad Consortium. Emma Scott, a senior majoring in anthropology from Texas, received a Gilman scholarship for the summer and will take part in a UI faculty-led program to Ghana, studying community, culture and musical traditions.
I want to also congratulate two Fulbright U.S. Student Award winners. Our two recipients, Amaya Amigo and Mary Ortman, are actually recent graduates. Amigo was selected for a master in public administration program at SDA Bocconi in Italy. Ortman was selected for an English teaching assistantship in Croatia. A Fulbright is an impressive award that open doors on a resumé, but I am sure our Vandals are just as excited about the experiences they’ll have and the impact they will make.
Our Vandals have excelled in service and community-building, too. Through our Alternative Service Break program, dozens of students volunteered overseas in places like Ecuador and The Philippines. More Vandals spent spring break on ASB trips in Oregon, in Washington, and right here in Idaho. I joined our new freshmen last fall in the Serving Your New Community (SYNC) day of action, a kick-off to a Vandal career filled with volunteerism. That spirit infuses the activities calendar of our fraternity and sorority system, too. It’s a university-wide commitment that has earned UI a perennial spot on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, the highest such distinction in the country.
Whether in the classroom, in research and scholarship settings, or in the community, our Vandals have continued to shine. Congratulations to our students for fulfilling and renewing our tradition of excellence.
Chuck Staben
Go Vandals!

Chuck Staben

Donor Support Critical for Idaho Athletics Success

Catie Freeman ’09 and ’13 recently pledged to the Vandal Scholarship Fund as a #VSF360 donor. Her own experience in the UI marching band informs Freeman’s understanding of the critical role of scholarships in supporting successful student-athletes and ensuring healthy university athletic programs. Vandal sports have earned 24 conference championship titles since 2010, and the program had 198 student-athletes with grade-point averages of 3.0 or better for the 2016 calendar year. A recent UI Law School graduate and current deputy prosecuting attorney in the Civil Division of the Ada County Prosecutor’s Office, Freeman now supports students through the VSF scholarship as she was once supported. Her vehicle for giving? The #VSF360 program. Launched in January 2017, the goal of the #VSF360 campaign is to engage 360 new Vandal Scholarship Fund donors, attracting first-time donors and young alumni to begin building a lifelong legacy. For more information about donating to the Vandal Scholarship Fund or becoming a #VSF360 donor, visit or contact Samantha Parrott at 208-364-4566 or

Kempthorne Awarded Honorary Doctorate for Service to State, Nation

Dirk Kempthorne, who served as governor of Idaho from 1999-2006, has always wanted to help people. “I’ve always believed that you should make a difference, wherever you are,” Kempthorne said. That belief led Kempthorne to enroll as a pre-med major at the University of Idaho in the 1970s, though he switched his major to political science, and earned his bachelor’s degree from what is now the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences (CLASS) in 1975. This May, Kempthorne will return to UI and finally receive the title “doctor”: The university has awarded Kempthorne an Honorary Doctor of Administrative Science. Kempthorne was nominated to be the 49th Secretary of the Interior in 2006 by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. In 2009, he stepped down from the Department of Interior and began a new phase of his career as president and CEO of the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI) in 2010. He will receive the honor during the commencement ceremony May 13 in Moscow.

Tennis Teams Win Big Sky Championships

The University of Idaho women’s and men’s tennis teams both won Big Sky Conference championships on Saturday. Idaho men's tennis cruised past Montana, 4-0, claiming its second Big Sky Championship in the last three years on Saturday, April 29. Idaho entered the Big Sky Tournament as the No. 2 seed and defeated No. 3 Sacramento State 4-0 and then Montana to advance to the national tournament. For the women’s team, Idaho's lone senior Claire Yang played the biggest points of her career on Saturday, helping the Vandals to a 4-3 win and their third straight Big Sky Women's Tennis Championship. Idaho will make its fourth straight trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Vandals streak began in 2014 when they won the Western Athletic Conference. The 2017 Big Sky champions will both head to Stanford, Calif., to do battle with the Cardinal. The men will play on Friday, May 12, while the women open on Saturday, May 13.