Larry Branen to Retire, Pursue Research After Diverse, Distinguished Career At Idaho

Thursday, April 8 2010

Written by Bill Loftus

COEUR d'ALENE, Idaho – Larry Branen, a food scientist, professor and administrator at the University of Idaho for 27 years, will retire June 30 as its associate vice president and center executive officer for northern Idaho at Coeur d'Alene.

Since Branen, 65, began working in Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls in 2003, the University of Idaho has expanded on its strong teacher education focus in the area to offer new programs in child development and nutrition, psychology and other disciplines.

“Northern Idaho offers an outstanding natural laboratory to study the interface between urban development and our natural resources," Branen said. "With the university facilities along the Spokane River we are at the nexus of these changes and can provide access, education and scientific information which will be of assistance to local leaders as they face significant policy challenges."

The university also has increased its presence in research and outreach and extension programs in the area. Annual grant spending now exceeds $3 million at the University of Idaho Research Park in Post Falls, the university's Coeur d’Alene Center and University of Idaho Extension offices in the five northern counties.

Branen said the addition of more than 15 new faculty at Coeur d'Alene since 2003 played a key role in the center's student growth.

"Larry Branen's accomplishments are numerous as a food scientist and administrator," said Doug Baker, provost and executive vice president. "He has left an imprint on the development of the University of Idaho and the state of Idaho through his many roles over nearly three decades of service. We have been enriched by his contributions and will benefit from the legacy that he leaves."

The university has solidified partnerships with North Idaho College, Lewis-Clark State College and the City of Coeur d’Alene to develop the idea of an education corridor along shore of Lake Coeur d'Alene and the Spokane River.

Planning is now underway with the other state educational institutions in the area to develop a new joint building in the corridor that will provide a one-stop shop for students seeking associate, bachelor's and advanced degrees in the area.

The new building, Branen said, will clearly increase local access to degree programs in several areas and provide an opportunity for the University of Idaho to build needed research and outreach programs consistent with the its land grant mission and the needs of the local northern Idaho communities.
Partnerships with local businesses and public agencies are a key to meeting the future educational demands in one of Idaho's fastest growing areas.

"We have excellent working relationships with the local K-12 schools, the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, the local businesses and the communities in the region," Branen said. "We are all trying to find ways that we can work together to serve the people who live and work here."

Partnerships and collaboration are second nature to Branen, who spent a third of his Idaho career as agriculture dean. His influence within the industry led its supporters to rename its most influential annual statewide gathering the Larry Branen Idaho Ag Summit.

Cooperation with Washington State University benefitted both schools. Most recently Branen served as chair of a search committee for a new director of the joint School of Food Science that unites faculty and students from both Idaho and Washington State. As a food scientist at both WSU and the University of Idaho, Branen has pushed for several years to combine the forces of each institution to develop a top tier food science program.

This year marks his 40th anniversary as a professor at a land-grant university, beginning with his 1970 graduation from Purdue University with a doctorate in food science and professionally launched when he joined the faculty of the University of Wisconsin.

His ties to the University of Idaho stretch back to 1951 when he first participated as a 6-year old in the University of Idaho Extension 4-H program. A great high school ag teacher, FFA and 4-H all helped influence his decision to attend the University of Idaho, where he earned a bachelor's degree in food science in 1967.

Before he returned to Idaho he led food science departments at Washington State University and the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.

Branen's professional career at Idaho spanned a broad spectrum. He served as agriculture dean twice, as institutional planning and budget director, Faculty Council chairman and the Idaho Research Foundation's technology transfer agent.

His own research, the use of nanomaterials and nanotechnology as tools to assure food safety and for use in biosensors has followed the path taken by science in general in recent decades. Answering big questions means drawing together experts from many disciplines, each helping the others to understand a part of the problem.

Branen said that the university offers a great atmosphere for the development of interdisciplinary programs and as dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, he saw firsthand the value of interdisciplinary approaches. He said he looks forward to continuing his research after retiring as an emeritus professor and perhaps pursuing business opportunities in Coeur d'Alene or Moscow.

Laurel J. Branen, professor of foods and nutrition at Coeur d'Alene, will continue to teach and maintain her active research program in child nutrition and obesity prevention after her husband retires.

The university will conduct an internal search for an interim appointment to serve in a leadership role for northern Idaho at Coeur d'Alene. Details of the search are pending.
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About the University of Idaho
Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state’s flagship higher-education institution and its principal graduate education and research university, bringing insight and innovation to the state, the nation and the world. University researchers attract nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts each year; the University of Idaho is the only institution in the state to earn the prestigious Carnegie Foundation ranking for high research activity. The university’s student population includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars. Offering more than 130 degree options in 10 colleges, the university combines the strengths of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. The university is home to the Vandals, the 2009 Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl champions. For information, visit

About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals. For information, visit