President's Office

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

The Friday Letter

May 11, 2012

At the University of Idaho “A Legacy of Leading” is more than a tag line. For more than 123 years, the University has been graduating leaders who go on to change economies and communities.

In the past two weeks, we’ve recognized many of these budding leaders at commencement ceremonies around the state, and there are more to come. It’s been a time to recognize outstanding Vandals from Idaho Falls to Boise to Coeur d’Alene.

Tomorrow in Moscow we’ll recognize 1,356 graduating students who represent the best Idaho and America have to offer. In addition to our graduates, we’ll welcome leaders to campus to join us for the Moscow commencement. For example, the Commandant of the Marine Corps General James Amos ’70 is back on campus and will deliver the commencement address as well as receiving an honorary doctorate.

General Amos’ wife, Bonnie, also joined us on campus. Bonnie is working with my wife Ruthie to further our Operation Education Scholarship program that helps permanently disabled veterans and/or their spouses attain a degree. Bonnie is dedicated to this program as co-chair, and, in recognition of her good work and her love for our university, we are bestowing honorary alumni status on her tomorrow.

We’ll also be recognizing two other remarkable individuals with honorary doctorates. One is Horace Axtell who’s known on the Nez Perce Reservation as “uncle” to nearly everyone. Horace has a long history of recording tribal history and preserving the Nez Perce language. His work as a teacher, cultural interpreter, and tribal historian is unparalleled.

We’ll also recognize David Nicandri ’72, whose teaching and writing has developed a wealth of knowledge concerning Northwest history. He’s served as the chief curator of the Washington State Capital Museum. He’s served as an elected official and has authored multiple volumes on early Northwest history.

In addition to these remarkable individuals, we will be inducting two leading alumni into the Alumni Association Hall of Fame for lifetime achievements: Linda Shreve Davidson ’75 and Wayne Solomon, PhD ’55. Linda previously served as the executive director of the University of Idaho Foundation, Inc. Linda is currently the vice chancellor for development and alumni affairs at the University of Tennessee Linda and her team raised nearly $830 million. Her success and leadership qualities have led to her chairing the Society of Institutionally Related Foundations and serving on other national boards. Wayne has excelled in aerospace engineering as both a research and educator. He currently holds the rank of professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is best known for his innovative research efforts in the areas of propulsion and of high-energy lasers.

These Vandals – both our newly minted graduates and our alumni leaders – have excelled in part because of the skills, experiences and opportunities they gained during their time at the University of Idaho.

Please join me in congratulating our new graduates and our returning alumni and friends. Together, they reflect what is best about our university and this great country of ours. And, of course, they reflect a powerful legacy of leading that is filled with hope and inspiration. Go Vandals!

M. Duane Nellis

Here's the latest news from the University of Idaho

U-Idaho Earns Largest Nuclear Energy Grant In US -- $2.5 Million. The U.S. Department of Energy Nuclear Energy University Programs awarded three new research and development project grants to the University of Idaho. The $2.56 million total value of these projects is the largest amount awarded to any single institution. In addition, the University of Idaho was also awarded a three-year graduate fellowship. The projects were awarded to three scientists at the University of Idaho-Idaho Falls Center. Akira Tokuhiro, Supathorn Phongikaroon and Vivek Utgikar are three of the best and brightest nuclear researchers in the world, and as part of the Center for Advanced Energy Studies are working with the Idaho National Laboratory and other Idaho universities on research, education and policy on a state, national and international level. In addition, U-Idaho’s Richard Skifton was awarded a $50,000 annual graduate fellowship for the next three years. Skifton, who is currently completing a Master of Science degree in mechanical engineering, will use the funds to support his doctoral studies at the University of Idaho. See more.

NSF Awards $1.1 Million Grant To Provide STEM Education To Tribes. A $1.1 million National Science Foundation grant will bring Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education to under-served American Indian students in the Coeur d’Alene and Spokane tribes, through the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) and Back to the Earth (BTTE) projects. The three-year project aims to merge indigenous knowledge systems with Western science to provide a platform for STEM engagement for American Indian students. The program will provide STEM-rich afterschool and summer programs for students in grades 4 through 6 on the Coeur d’Alene and Spokane reservations. Activities will include monitoring water quality and gathering the data, addressing engineering challenges, building the virtual watershed and documenting environmental impacts on sacred community places. The Back to the Earth project actively involves teachers of American Indian students and trains them to more effectively incorporate interdisciplinary STEM learning activities into the curriculum. The regional BTTE project is one of only five the NSF selected to fund. The U-Idaho proposal was unique for its focus on tribal students and is the first ITEST project to be funded in Idaho. See more.

Vandal Booster Chapters Work To Bolster Vandal Scholarship Fund. Vandal Booster chapters across the nation are instrumental to the fundraising efforts for Vandal Athletics, through the coordination of events in their local areas. For example, over the last 10 years, the Latah County Vandal Boosters have raised more than a half million dollars for the Vandal Scholarship Fund. The premier event for the Latah County Vandal Boosters is the annual Robb Akey Golf Tournament, dinner and auction held the Saturday following the annual Silver and Gold Football Game. This year’s event raised over $42,000. Volunteers were responsible for soliciting major event sponsors, golf tournament hole and flag sponsors, and auction items as well as working to staff the tournament. In addition to the tournament, the Boosters are active on football game days, selling 50/50 raffle tickets to benefit the Vandal Scholarship Fund. Every dollar given to the Vandal Scholarship Fund pays for tuition and fees of Vandal student-athletes pursuing degrees across the University of Idaho. Fully funding the Vandal Scholarship Fund remains the #1 fundraising priority of Vandal Athletics. To donate to the Vandal Scholarship Fund or to find out how you can get involved with Vandal Boosters in your area, contact Shelly Robson at (208) 651-7992 or