Dr. Donald R. Theophilus
1899-1970

President emeritus Dr. Donald R. Theophilus served the University of Idaho from 1954-1965. He was the first UI president to retire from the position.

Raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, he attended college at Iowa State University. He held two bachelor’s degrees in animal husbandry and dairy manufacturing, along with a master’s in dairy bacteriology and his Ph.D.

After a stint at Western Kentucky Teachers College, now known as Western Kentucky University, he started at UI in 1927 as an associate professor of animal husbandry. He became dean of the College of Agriculture in 1946 before becoming president.


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Theophilus Tower

Theophilus Tower - 1969-present

12-story campus dormitory tallest in Northwest at time of construction

By Alexiss Turner

It was a rainy Sunday in the fall of 1974, and Marianne Winsky White ’76 was on her way to Mass, waiting for the elevator on the fifth floor of the Donald R. Theophilus Residence Hall.

When the doors parted, Marianne stepped into the elevator beside a graduate student riding down from the 10th floor. To this day, she doesn’t know what made her do it, but she struck up a conversation with George White '76.

Turns out, George was headed to Mass as well. Marianne offered to give him a ride in her 1960 Chevy Impala, and the rest is history.

“We talked all the way through Mass.” Marianne said. “I could not tell you what the sermon was about.  I could tell you that Richard Wemhoff was the priest, as he was the same priest that married us on Aug. 13, 1977.”

“I tell people I met my husband in an elevator –and that we had our ups and downs – but overall it was a great marriage.”

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Photos courtesy of the U-Idaho Library. Hover over slideshow for captions.
The Theophilus Residence Hall, named after University of Idaho President Emeritus Donald R. Theophilus and simply referred to as "the Tower,"  is home to 416 students each year. When it was completed in 1969, the 12-story building, including a full basement, was among the tallest in the Northwest.

When the Tower was built, the first floor housed a lobby, manager’s apartment, student office, mail room and lounge. The ten floors above the first provided 208 student rooms. Even-numbered floors had a hall lounge, and odd-numbered floors had study rooms.

The first halls in the Tower were Chrisman, Willis Sweet, Hays, French and Forney. French is the only hall that remains in the Tower today, now with Neely, Graham and McCoy. The Tower is a co-ed dormitory, and its male and female inhabitants were and still are separated by floors.

Tower Dr. Donald R.Theophilus Residence Hall - present
Each two-person room contained a closet, drawers, study desk and bookshelves for each student. Motel-style beds could be converted to couches during the day. A pamphlet distributed during the Tower’s Oct. 23, 1969, dedication ceremony showcased the extra-long beds – at 80 inches – to “accommodate the taller students of the time.”

Theophilus Tower was the first phase of a long-range construction plan for the university. Plans for a second high-rise adjacent to the Tower and a common building for dining and recreational facilities were also in the works. Steam tunnels were extended from the Tower to the proposed buildings, but construction never started.

Nader Patel ’81 spent the majority of his college career on the ninth floor of the Tower. A metallurgical engineering major (studying the chemical behavior of metallic elements), his time was spent between his lab office and the library. The Wallace Residence Center cafeteria was open until about 6 p.m., so junk food was the backup after hours. Not a fan of vending machines, he said Taco Time was a regular late-night haunt.

“Not many date evenings,” he said, “not on a teaching assistant’s finances.”

Today the Tower stands much as it did when it was first constructed. The overall dormitory layout hasn’t changed and the color schemes harken back to their 1970s glory years. Although, bolsters above the beds were removed in 2006 and bathroom remodels are ongoing currently. The manager’s apartment on the first floor also was replaced by an information desk, and students now use the mail room in the Wallace Residence Center instead of in the Tower itself. 


Next year marks the 125th anniversary of the University of Idaho. Members of the university community present and past are invited to help tell our story. Have a favorite memory to share? Email us with your discoveries!