The Friday Letter Archive

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


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Friday Letter 2017-10-06:
Coming Home to Agriculture at UI

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October 6, 2017
Letter from the President
Dear Friends,
In the spring of 1892, the president of Idaho's then three-year-old land-grant university needed faculty members. Classes hadn’t yet started. Thanks to the Hatch Act, though, a dairy was up and running on campus, part of the just-established Idaho Agricultural Experiment Station. As Rafe Gibbs describes in "Beacon for Mountain and Plain," while interviewing an applicant for Latin and Greek studies, the president realized he might be able to attach funding to the Hatch Act. Would the professor mind, between his instruction on Homer and Virgil, milking the cows?
During this year's Homecoming weekend, we're also celebrating Idaho Agriculture or “Ag Days” weekend, and it's the 125th anniversary of the Idaho Agricultural Experiment Station. The IAES is the statewide research division for UI’s agricultural research, conducted at nine research and Extension centers and three affiliated centers. If you live in Idaho, chances are good that there is a hub of innovation and expertise near you.
Our agricultural teaching, research and outreach mission is rooted in the past but squarely aimed at the future. Look at our nuclear seed potato program, which helps the state of Idaho cultivate its signature tuber while educating and training students for rewarding careers. We’re also working hard on the Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (CAFE), which when completed will be the nation’s largest research dairy, at the forefront of research on food production and processing.
Tonight we’re proud to welcome to Celebrating Idaho Agriculture weekend Sonny Ramaswamy, the director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, delivering a talk on “Innovations for 21st Century Food Systems.” Our College of Agricultural and Life Sciences has a variety of other events planned, as well as workshops for high school students. Of course, we’re all looking forward to the pre-game barbecue, leading up to the homecoming football game.
Homecoming is an exciting week for students and for alumni. A personal favorite event is the serpentine, which winds across campus on the way to the bonfire, a classic tradition that really shines here at the best residential college in Idaho. We’re also looking forward to the parade and seeing what people come up with for the “Under the Big Top” theme.
For returning alumni, I know you’ll be struck by what has stayed the same since your college experience, as well as the many ways in which the university is moving forward. In that respect, it’s fitting that agriculture comes together with homecoming this weekend; our agricultural endeavors exemplify the best of our teaching, research and outreach mission, and prove how our past informs our future.
We still haven’t found a professor to milk the cows while teaching the classics, at least to my knowledge. But we have grown and thrived as a home for agricultural excellence over these 125 years.
Chuck Staben
Go Vandals!

Chuck Staben

Journalism Scholarship Endowment Honors Mother and UI Alumna 

Although Bruce Bailey and his wife did not attend the University of Idaho, their connection runs deep — six relatives are alumni and five worked as employees. Accomplished professional musicians with a major symphony orchestra, the Baileys honor their family history by generously supporting several family endowments. Most recently, they honored Bruce’s late mother, a 1934 Department of English alumna, through establishing the Mary Axtell Bailey Journalism Scholarship Endowment. “We created this scholarship in our mother’s memory because like others in our family, mom understood the value of hard work and a good education,” Bruce explained. “We want to help make that possible for the next generation because we deeply value the role the humanities and performing arts play in society and higher education.” For more information on giving to the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences, contact Shyanne Knighten at 208-885-4561 or

College Scorecard Update Highlights UI Success

The University of Idaho has the lowest average annual cost, highest graduation rate and highest average earnings after graduation among all public institutions in Idaho. That success is detailed in the federal government’s updated College Scorecard, revealed on Sept. 28. In addition to affordability, student success and alumni earnings, the site contains detailed institutional information about financial aid, academic programs, the student body composition and more. Searching by programs, by name, by size or by location offers a quick-view comparison of institutions. This year’s update adds a more sophisticated “compare” function, allowing users to select institutions from the search results and view a more detailed, highly visual analysis. “The College Scorecard is an objective tool that measures the things students and families care about: affordability, student success, and return on investment after college,” said President Chuck Staben. “We’re very confident that the University of Idaho stands out as an exceptional value – an outstanding education at an affordable price, leading to career success.”

School of Music Recognized As One of Nation's Best

The Lionel Hampton School of Music in the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences has been named one of the nation’s "Best Music Schools" for 2018 by In Tune Monthly magazine. The school was one of only two music programs in the Pacific Northwest to make the list. In Tune Monthly magazine is a national publication with a principal target audience that includes high school students and extends to middle school, college students and college-level music teachers. The publication offers an inside look “behind all areas of the music business” and an annual special report “for readers who are thinking about continuing their music studies in college.” The Lionel Hampton School of Music is a close-knit community of prominent performers, teachers, composers and scholars who interact closely with dedicated and talented students. The school provides a learning environment in which students learn by performing, listening, analyzing and creating music in an atmosphere of professional awareness, mutual support, collaboration and outreach. The school advances the art of music through hundreds of concerts and recitals each year and is an accredited member of the National Association of Schools of Music.