The Friday Letter Archive

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


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Friday Letter 2017-09-29:
100 Years in "Vandal" Country

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September 29, 2017
Letter from the President
Dear Friends,
Did you know that there are more than 4,000 four-year institutions of higher education in the United States? Among that array of colleges and universities are 76 who call themselves Eagles, the most common nickname. Another 46 are Tigers, and 40 call themselves Bulldogs. There are 27 Cougars. The horse makes for a popular nickname there are nine Mustangs, five Broncos, and at least a couple Mavericks. But in all of higher education, there is only one Vandals.
It was nearly 100 years ago that the University of Idaho student-athletes earned the school its nickname. A tour through the Library’s digital archives of historical Argonaut newspapers more than 100 years of issues are available online offers a week-by-week view of how the university found its identity, thanks in large measure to a spirited basketball squad coached by Clarence “Hec” Edmundson. Previously referred to as the “Idaho” team, or sometimes the “Gem Staters” or the “Wrecking Crew,” “Vandals” was a new moniker that captured the ferocity and passion of the basketball team’s play.
The special history and traditions of Athletics and the broader university is on display in downtown Moscow this fall in an exhibit at Third Street Gallery called “Vandal Traditions.” An assortment of artifacts and explanatory materials bring our history to life in this partnership between the city, Athletics, Lionel Hampton School of Music, Leila Old Historic Costume Collection, and the Special Collections and Archives at the University of Idaho Library. Visitors to Moscow can check out the exhibit through November, including before home football games (Homecoming is Oct. 7!). A three-part speaker series accompanies the exhibit and brings these stories to life. Our Library, the state’s largest, is behind so much of our student success and research and scholarship impact I’m proud to see them share their expertise with the public.
Traditions are often living exercises that renew an organization’s sense of self. In Athletics, we’ve embarked on a new tradition of indoor soccer this fall, including a “Kibbie Kickoff” against Boise State that I hope will be an annual event. Our proposed standalone arena project for basketball and volleyball continues to gain steam. A new “Battle of the Domes” is the first multi-sport competition between UI and Idaho State University, with the winner receiving a trophy and a scholarship contribution. Our football team continues to generate excitement and success on the field and in the classroom, leading their conference in team GPA last year, as we head to a future of regional football action in the Big Sky Conference. That will include rivalries with foes like the University of Montana; we'll welcome the Grizzlies to Moscow next year to renew the annual battle for the "Little Brown Stein," part of an exciting 2018 football schedule.
Since we earned our nickname, we’ve built a century-long tradition of university-wide excellence. More than 100,000 Vandal alumni have experienced an education that leads to rewarding careers. Countless research and scholarship contributions in agriculture, natural resources and the humanities have transformed our economy and the way we live. The university has grown to be a leader in Law, in medical education, and in unique educational initiatives like the McCall Outdoor Science School (MOSS) and the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival. Joe Vandal has had a lot to cheer on over the years.
All of us students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends contribute to that success, and to a growing, vibrant University of Idaho. The one-of-a-kind Vandals will continue to build a bright future for our world.
Chuck Staben
Go Vandals!

Chuck Staben

Foltzes Leave a Legacy for CALS, Higher Education

After a collective 52 years at the University of Idaho, John and Barbara Foltz have chosen to leave behind a legacy that recognizes their commitment to higher education and the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, where they have spent most of their career. With the John and Barbara Foltz CALS Ambassador Endowment, their impact will be felt for generations to come in the CALS Ambassadors program, which provides students an opportunity to gain leadership skills while promoting higher education to high school students. Impacting over 2,000 students through his years teaching in CALS before serving as the Associate Dean of Academic Programs and then Dean of the college, John recently accepted a position as Chair of the Animal Sciences Department at Ohio State University. “We are so grateful for John’s service as Associate Dean and Dean of CALS and for Barbara’s service with the Social Science Research Unit in the Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology Department, and for the support that they have shown to the ambassador program through their endowment,” said Michael Parrella, CALS Dean. “This fund will enhance our recruitment efforts, promoting the benefits of higher education in the state and beyond.” For more information on how to support this endowment or the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, contact Jen Root at or 208-885-4087.

Nobel Peace Prize Recipient Headlines Borah Symposium

The Borah Symposium, a program devoted to understanding the causes of war and the conditions for establishing a lasting peace, begins this year with the keynote address, “The Role of Women in World Peace,” by Nobel Peace Prize winner and human rights activist Shirin Ebadi. The talk occurs Monday, Oct. 16, 7 p.m., in the International Ballroom in the Bruce M. Pitman Center. A former chief magistrate of 26th Divisional Court in Tehran, after the Islamic Revolution Ebadi became a defense lawyer for many controversial political and human rights cases in Iran, winning the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize for her work. The symposium continues Tuesday, Oct. 17, with presentations by Leroy Ashby, WSU professor emeritus and biographer of William E. Borah, and by Scott Shapiro, bestselling author and professor of law and philosophy at Yale Law School. The annual Borah Symposium has moved to the fall this year as it celebrates its 70th anniversary. SEE FULL SCHEDULE

Step Right Up to Homecoming

The University of Idaho is celebrating its 109th Homecoming Week Sunday, Oct. 1, through Saturday, Oct. 7. UI and the Moscow community will welcome back hundreds of alumni for this annual celebration. This year’s theme, Under the Big Top, honors the traditions of the university with a circus twist while celebrating the passion and excitement of students, alumni and the campus community. UI invites all alumni and the Moscow community to join in these festivities. For a complete schedule of events homecoming events, go to