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This fund focuses support for: political science, journalism and mass media and Hemingway studies. More

Being a Vandal is a Family Affair

In 1973, accounting professor Bob Clark introduced Peterson to Barb Dodson, a University of Idaho alumna; within two years, they were married. Peterson’s eldest daughter, Julia, is an alumna and married a former ASUI vice president. Peterson’s youngest daughter, Emily – described as rugged individualist – is a Boise State alumna married to an Oregon State University alumnus. Peterson hopes his grandchildren follow in the Vandal tradition.

Peterson Timeline

1957: Attends first Vandal football game, falls in love with the University of Idaho.

1960-68: National Guard service

1964-68: Student at University of Idaho; majored in broadcast communications

1968: Compton I. White Jr. congressional campaign staffer

1968-72: Sen. Frank Church staffer

1972-75: Gov. Cecil Andrus staffer

1975: Marries Barb Dodson

1975-83: Association of Idaho Cities

1983-88: State of Idaho budget director

1988-1991: State Centennial Commission

1992-2012: University of Idaho, special assistant to the president for governmental affairs

2012: Retires from University of Idaho

Contact & Locations


College of
Letters, Arts & Social Sciences

Physical Address:
Admin. Bldg. 112
phone: (208) 885-6426
fax: (208) 885-8964

Mailing Address:
College of Letters, Arts & Social Sciences 
University of Idaho
875 Perimeter Drive MS 3154
Moscow, ID 83844-3154

Coeur d'Alene

University of Idaho C'DA‎
1031 N Academic Way
Coeur d'Alene, ID
(208) 667-2588

College of
Letters, Arts & Social Sciences
University of Idaho
Admin. Bldg. 112
P.O. Box 443154
Moscow, ID 83844-3154
phone: (208) 885-6426
fax: (208) 885-8964

Marty Peterson with text "Love of Public Service"

The Privilege of Being an Idahoan

It’s the autumn of 1957, and 14 year-old Marty Peterson has stepped onto the bleachers at the University of Idaho’s Neale Stadium. He thought he was coming to watch a football game and then go home. But somewhere between the kickoff and the final score, Peterson set his heart on this University and the state it proudly serves. Fifty-five years of public service later, he’s glad to have had the privilege of being an Idahoan.

Peterson’s awesome adventure, that took him through the inner workings of politics in Washington, D.C. and Boise, started with two tours in the Idaho National Guard and a degree at the University of Idaho. The former staff sergeant rented an apartment in Moscow with two Vandal football players, and Peterson started to feed his lifelong passion for politics with a degree in broadcast communications.

Following graduation in 1968, Peterson took a job with Rep. Compton I. White Jr. When White lost his bid for re-election, Sen. Frank Church scooped up Peterson and brought him to Washington, D.C.

It was an exciting time to be in the Senate. Church was a national leader in foreign relations and natural resources, and through working on Church’s staff, Peterson deepened his love of politics and developed enduring friendships.

The political climate was different then, Peterson says.

“You didn’t have the kind of partisan and philosophical lines drawn in the sand that you do today,” Peterson reflects. “The Senate had business to conduct and it did it in a generally efficient manner with little of today’s gridlock.”

Peterson also learned a lot from Church’s longtime chief of staff Verda Barnes, a legendary political figure at both the state and national levels. But after three formative years in Washington, D.C., his heart longed for Idaho.

Peterson joined Gov. Cecil Andrus’ staff for three years, and then spent eight years with the Association of Idaho Cities. During his time with the AIC, Peterson says the organization stopped 100 pieces of anti-city legislation. Today, he continues his efforts on behalf of Idaho’s cities by editing a compilation of their histories.

“Local government is where the rubber meets the road,” quips Peterson. “My governmental heroes are people like planning and zoning commission members who get to sit in often caustic meetings until three in the morning and don’t get paid a cent for their work. Local government is pretty remarkable.”

In 1983, Idaho was in the throes of its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. It was to Peterson that Gov. John V. Evans turned for help.

As the state’s budget director, Peterson spent the next five years advising two governors and the legislature on a wide range of budget and tax issues. Despite challenging economic times and partisan back-and-forth, Peterson helped Idaho restore stability without cutting essential state services or funding for education.

Following his success as state budget director, Peterson took a new job as vice chair of the State Centennial Commission. Thanks to the commission’s leadership, the 1990 centennial celebration was a huge success, raising more than $8 million in contributions, and actively involving Idaho’s 44 counties and its four Indian tribes.

After the state centennial, University of Idaho President Elisabeth Zinser brought Peterson back to where his heart had been since that day in 1957. Zinser made Peterson head of the University’s governmental relations efforts, and for 22 years – and for seven presidents -- he has served his alma mater proudly.

All totaled, Peterson has more than a half-century in public service to Idaho and her flagship university. He figures it’s “just the rent you pay for the privilege of living here and being an Idahoan.”

At a recent lecture he delivered in Moscow, Peterson closed with a quote from Michael Stipe, front man for the band R.E.M.: “The skill in attending a party is knowing when to leave.”

“It has been a great ride.”


To know Marty Peterson, is to know that he is a man who understands his politics and his history. He has met great leaders, sat in meetings where great decisions have been made and he has truly been a great asset to the University of Idaho.

To recognize Peterson’s contributions, the Martin L. Peterson Leadership Endowment was created. It will be housed in the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences, and will focus on funding Peterson’s areas of interest including; political science, journalism and mass media and Hemingway studies.

This endowment is one way to recognize Peterson’s nearly two decades of commitment to the University of Idaho and higher education.

To make a donation to this endowment, please contact Bob Stout (208) 885-4409 or the Foundation Gift Administration Office at (208) 885-2081. You can also mail your donation to University of Idaho, PO Box 443147, Moscow, ID 83844-3147 or give online: Martin L. Peterson Endowment.