President's Office

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

February 24 2012

Friday Letter Office of the President
February 24, 2012

Dear Friends, 

          I am writing to thank you for your avid support of your University of Idaho - Idaho's flagship university. We've always been the state's flagship institution - since before statehood - and we always will be. That's a statement of fact, reflective of our legacy, and not a political position.

          I've heard from hundreds and hundreds of you about the recent decision of the State Board of Education to omit flagship from our mission statement. Let me be as direct as I can - this unfortunate wordsmithing changes nothing. One of the real dangers associated with removing flagship is that it might imply to some that we'll settle for something less than what we have always aspired to - excellence and leadership. I don't believe our students, faculty or alums will settle for anything less and I certainly won't.

          In fact, we are the state's leading research university attracting twice the competitive research dollars than the other institutions combined, we attract the best and brightest students, including 167 national merit scholars who chose the University of Idaho compared to only 37 who selected other Idaho schools since 2000. Further, we have a mandated statewide mission as the state's land grant research university. We embrace that mission, and we pursue it with vigor and a passion for excellence that is a hallmark of the University of Idaho. Striving to be the best is who we are as an institution. It is a part of the fabric of being an American and an Idahoan.

          I appreciate the challenges the State Board of Education faces in doing its job. However, the notion that the term flagship is considered "elitist" or discourages collaboration just isn't accurate. The term flagship is descriptive. It is a term applied to universities in every state who have the attributes we have. Further, we have never been more collaborative or worked more closely with our sister institutions than we do now. This has been an important part of my presidency, and I am proud of the growing collaborations we have with our fellow state institutions. That does not mean we are all the same. We are not, and we should not strive to be.

          The University of Idaho is the state's first university. It is the state's largest research university, reaching into every county as part of its land grant mission. Nationally, these attributes are what define a flagship university.

          Another distinctive attribute of flagship universities is the world-class and nationally relevant programs they sponsor. An example of our national scope and impact is on display this week. The 45th annual Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival has our Moscow campus hopping with music and visitors. We are the only university in the nation to be awarded the National Medal of the Arts. This distinction was bestowed upon us for our long legacy of supporting Jazz, a truly American art form.

          Thanks go to artistic director and Grammy award winner John Clayton, festival director Steve Remington, the festival staff, and the many donors and volunteers who make this a great event for so many across the Northwest. It is truly a gem in the Gem State.

          Finally, thank you for your passionate support of your flagship research university. I look forward to carrying your message on this issue forward and pledge to you my unwavering commitment to excellence.

M. Duane Nellis

Researchers Awarded $3.5 Million for Transportation Research.
Two grants recently received by the University of Idaho will support the efforts of university researchers to make the nation's transportation system more sustainable. The university's National Institute for Advanced Transportation Technology (NIATT) was recently awarded $3.5 million from the Department of Transportation to lead a national Tier 1 University Transportation Center. The University of Idaho is leading one of only 10 Tier 1 Centers selected from a highly competitive pool of 46 proposals. Partners in the center are Old Dominion University, Syracuse University, Texas Southern University and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech). The center is a collaborative effort to develop technologies that improve the efficiency and reduce the environmental impact of the transportation system. Researchers will study driverless intersection controls, eco-driving methods, eco-routing based on time and traffic, communication between vehicles to steady traffic flow, vehicle performance adjustments for efficient operation in controlled traffic systems, optimized freight routing, decision support tools for policy makers, and encouragement of driver behavior that reduces fuel consumption and increases safety. See more here.

The Beat Goes On, As Love of Jazz Fuels Giving and Service. Byron Dean Elliott '81 knows firsthand how the power of music can enrich and transform lives. Elliott is an accomplished pianist who studied music while getting his pre-med degree in zoology at the University of Idaho. Currently, he serves as the chief of perinatal medicine at Seton Healthcare Network in Austin, Texas. His passion for music led to his leadership-level support of the University of Idaho's Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival . Over time, Byron has donated more than $100,000 to the festival and this year, he adds a new level of engagement: he begins his tenure as chair of the jazz festival Advisory Board. "I'm very grateful that the University of Idaho allowed me the flexibility to study music while working towards my pre-med degree," says Elliott. "I'd never had the opportunity to perform in front of an audience before and one of the highlights of my time at the University was being able to perform on stage in what is now the Haddock Performance Hall. The study of music was my creative outlet in school and was a wonderful diversion from the pressures of pre-med studies." His daughter Laura, now in her second semester at Idaho, is proudly following in her father's footsteps as a pre-med student. She shares her father's love of music that includes, not surprisingly, Texas and western swing. To give to the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival and enrich more lives through music, contact James Brownson, director of development and marketing, at (208) 885-0116 or

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