President's Office

Administration Building
Room 105
875 Perimeter Drive MS 3151
Moscow, ID 83844-3151
Phone: (208) 885-6365

Friday Letter Office of the President

December 7, 2012

Dear Friends,

We’re nearing the end of the semester and entering the holiday season.

This week our students have been working and studying hard during what’s called “dead week,” during which they prepare for finals. As they’re giving their all in search of academic reward with thoughts of enjoying the season of giving soon after, I’m reminded of the giving that makes our successes possible.

From its earliest beginnings, the University of Idaho has benefited from philanthropy – public and private. The Morrill Act that created our land-grant university system was made possible by the distribution of public land sold to fund new colleges and universities

At its founding, the University benefited from gifts of material, furniture, and food. The fire of 1906 that destroyed the original administration building led to further drives that provided for the new building, restocked the library, and provided the means to meet other needs of a growing university.

Over the years, private giving has enabled higher education to flourish while fueling advances in research. Private giving has inspired buildings, programs, quality faculty and student opportunity. We can proudly point today to the Renfrew Chemistry Building as an example, which resulted through a partnership of dedicated faculty and staff with private donors. In its seven decades of service, it’s seen a host of successful students and housed laboratories where scientific advances were made. Unfortunately, this structure has not kept pace with nearly 70 years of technology advances.

We hope to add to our successes with a new research facility – the Integrated Research and Innovation Center. Plans call for a technologically advanced building that will house some of our very best researchers and scientists. All will be working on important issues facing our state and nation.

These structures provide homes to world-class programs like the IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence, the NASA Idaho Space Grant Consortium, the Institute for Bioinformatics and Evolutionary Studies, and the Barker Capital Management and Trading Program.

Private and corporate support helps to further these and other efforts through the creation of endowed faculty chairs. Such endowments provide long-term funding the university uses to hire and retain the best and brightest faculty. Thanks to generous donations, endowed chairs have been created in many disciplines including agriculture, business, engineering and international studies. Those who hold these chairs typically excel as both researchers and teachers.

Enabling students to study with these teachers is also another area made possible through giving. More than one third of our students are first-generation college students. Many of them benefit from scholarships, as do others who have shown unique academic and athletic prowess. This is a priority for us, and thanks to generous givers we’ve added 122 new scholarship endowments, totaling nearly $12 million, just since the beginning of our capital campaign, Inspiring Futures: Invest in the University of Idaho.

Today, private support provides a margin of excellence that allows your university to deliver on its promise of a world-class education for its students. Nearly 30,000 Vandals and friends have already recognized this with gifts to the Inspiring Futures Capital Campaign.

If you’re one of these generous supporters, thank you! Our students want to say thank you, too. See here.

If you haven’t joined the campaign effort yet, please think about doing so today – the amount of the gift is less important than the investment you are making in the institution – your gift no matter the amount is a powerful signal of support.

As alumni, friends and donors to the University, you inspire us to do great things. Thank you for that support and for believing in YOUR University.


M. Duane Nellis

Take Advantage Of Year-End Opportunity To Maximize Your Tax Benefits. To ensure your year-end financial plans have the most impact on your university while providing tax benefits, please consider a year-end gift today. You will join with your university in inspiring futures for generations. Your gift will also provide an income tax deduction, before Congress changes the tax code. To maximize your year-end gifts, consider gifts of cash, securities or real estate. Ed McBride, our gift planning specialist, can help you. Call him at (208) 885-9026 or write Thank you for Inspiring Futures!

Engineering Program Named Among Tops In Nation. The National Academy of Engineering has recognized the College of Engineering’s capstone design program as among 29 engineering education programs chosen for their achievements and one of only seven capstone programs highlighted in the Academy’s recent report. Every U-Idaho engineering graduate participates in a senior capstone design course before heading to graduate school or entering the workforce. Through the capstone program, senior engineering and computer science students apply their education to solving a complex problem, typically supported by an industry sponsor. See more here.

Biologist Makes Breakthrough In Curbing Birth Defects. U-Idaho biologist Lee Fortunato’s innovative new research method reveals how a virus responsible for birth defects co-opts a cell’s ability to repair itself. Fortunato, an associate professor of biological sciences, has spent more than 15 years studying human cytomegalovirus, and her recent research was published today in the Public Library of Science’s “Pathogens” journal. Though HCMV is common – 50-80 percent of humans are carriers – it can cause severe birth defects. Approximately 1 percent of babies born annually in the United States – about 40,000 – are infected with HCMV. Some 4,000 of them are born with such conditions as loss of vision and hearing, cerebral palsy, and mental retardation Another 4,000 suffer problems, like progressive hearing loss in childhood. Fortunato’s work examines the effects of the virus on cellular DNA repair mechanisms. It could lead to an antiviral therapy and new understanding of the ways infections caused by various disease-causing organisms defeat cells’ defenses. See more here.

Author, Forester, Executive And Leader Paves The Way For Future Leaders. Jay Gruenfeld, author of “Purple Hearts and Ancient Trees: A Forester’s Life Adventures in Business, Wilderness, and War,” and the recently published “Commissioned in Battle: A Combat Infantryman in the Pacific, WWII,” understands the value of leaders and strong leadership. Whether as a vice president for Potlatch Corp., a three-time Purple Heart recipient. or a staff sergeant in the Pacific Theater in WWII, this former Fulbright Scholar at Oxford has been a leader most of his life. It is not surprising then that Jay and his late wife Jan created two endowments to honor the impact higher education on their lives and to provide support for tomorrow’s leaders. The Jay and Jan Gruenfeld Endowment for Communication and Leadership Excellence in the College of Natural Resources and the Endowment for Teaching Excellence in the College of Education were designed to retain educators as leaders and to train undergraduate students as future leaders. Jay’s willingness to lead does not end there. He recently served as the keynote speaker of the College of Natural Resources Student Leadership Retreat, giving future leaders an opportunity to hear first-hand about his passion for his basic elements of good leadership – emotion and communication. For more information on being a leader and supporting the College of Natural Resources, contact Steven Hacker at (208) 885-7400 or

Nominate A Future Vandal. More than 100,000 alumni can attest that a University of Idaho degree is something special. Our national position, unique brand of hands-on education, quality faculty and programs, offer a path for future success. If you know a potential student who belongs here, click here to continue the legacy of leading by nominating them today.