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30 years in Coeur d'Alene!

Been Here, Doing That: A Brief History of University of Idaho in Coeur d’Alene
Written by Donna Emert 

The University of Idaho has been in Kootenai County delivering Extension education since 1917, and began to offer courses from the College of Education at Coeur d’Alene in Fall 1980.  William W. “Wally” Pfeiffer directed delivery of northern Idaho programs from his office in Moscow. 

In 1982, Jack Dawson was hired as the first dean to operate from Coeur d’Alene. Dawson had taught in the Coeur d’Alene School District for six years and served as a principal for five.  Sandi Bloem, now mayor of Coeur d’Alene, was a teacher in the district during the time he was principal at Dalton.


The University’s physical presence in northern Idaho began in an 8 by 10 space in the Coeur d’Alene School District office building.  Original Dean’s office décor featured a cafeteria table, a phone and a folding chair. Dawson and his assistant, Helen Piller, comprised the entire staff.


UICDA’s first course offerings included teacher education and recertification courses, but no degree programs.


“There was pent-up demand for in-service course work for teachers who were less likely to travel to Moscow,” Dawson recalled. “Eastern Washington University began to offer some courses.”


“We felt they were fishing in our pond,” he added with a laugh.


In 1985, the University began a longstanding academic partnership with North Idaho College, establishing a physical presence on campus at the Sherman Building. The UI came to the North Idaho College campus at the invitation of then College President Barry Schuler.


To accommodate program growth in the region, the University built six classrooms and administrative space above Molstead Library in 1991. That space still serves University of Idaho students.


In 2001, then Mayor Steve Judy approached Dawson with several propositions to accommodate a growing University presence in Coeur d’Alene, including lease of the 29,000 square-foot Harbor Center facility. University of Idaho opened its doors at the Harbor Center in 2002.


Partnerships with multiple institutions have grown over the years, and the Harbor Center now provides space not only to the University of Idaho but also to Lewis-Clark State College and Boise State University. 


In 2005, former UI College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean, Larry Branen, was named Associate Vice President for northern Idaho, and took the helm at Coeur d’Alene and the University’s Research Park at Post Falls, overseeing operations at both locations.


Richard Reardon, former chair of Psychology and Communications Studies at UI, was named Associate Dean for the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences for northern Idaho in 2007 and Interim Associate Vice President for Northern Idaho in 2010.


Since it began offering coursework for teachers in 1980, University of Idaho Coeur d’Alene has grown to include 48 faculty and staff, currently serving approximately 1600 students annually.


Univesity of Idaho - Coeur d'Alene currently offers ten bachelor’s degree programs, nine graduate degree programs and four certificate programs.