September 11, 2015
Maybe you’ve experienced something like this in your own lives, whether you work at a company, go to school or are involved in community organizations. Invariably, there are people making things happen behind the scenes. The lights stay on, the facilities stay clean, the services continue on as expected — the work gets done.
That holds true at the University of Idaho. The work gets done - a routine excellence that can sometimes go unnoticed. One thing I and others have definitely noticed over the past year, however, is the work of our Steam Plant crew. They keep the lights on, of course, but they also have fun while doing it. About a year ago I first saw a pair of skeletons
in the street-level window on 6th Street. I’m sure I had the reaction many others have had — surprise, a chuckle, and another look at the building and reflection about its role at UI.
Since then, the Steam Plant crew has regularly arranged and rearranged the skeletons to play off the mood or goings-on at UI or in the broader world. For instance, in late spring the skeletons had books in hand, studying for finals. They broke out a beach ball to welcome summer, then grabbed American flags and joined us in celebrating the Fourth of July. They even hopped on a bicycle to get in some exercise at one point.
Part of the skeletons’ job is to draw some attention to the Steam Plant, and I think they have succeeded in that. The plant is a facility of which we can be very proud
. Many university energy plants run on fossil fuels — but not ours. Our plant runs on biomass, cedar wood chip, for 90 percent of its fuel. That waste is a renewable resource
that doesn’t add carbon to the environment, unlike fossil fuels. And the sourcing of the fuel from nearby sawmills means UI supports local industries that keep Idahoans at work and our economy strong.
The skeletons also succeed in lifting our spirits. Whether you’re a student walking past and thinking about your next class, or an employee reflecting on some of the stress of the job, the skeletons provide a chance to smile, to enjoy a break from your routine, and be connected with others to the spirit of the university. That creative, quirky Vandal spirit shows up in a lot of ways, from our Vandal Marching Band to our Homecoming festivities every year. I appreciate how this particular staff crew connects and contributes to that feeling.
It’s a lesson in fun and imagination that we can all take to heart because let’s face it, higher education can be stressful. Now, not everyone needs to start putting skeletons in their windows. But congratulations to the Steam Plant crew for their ingenuity and generosity of spirit. They represent the many Vandals who make our university a great place
to work, live and learn. My hats off to them, and to the Vandal faculty and staff who contribute immeasurably to our university all year round.