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

February 1, 2013

Dear Friends,

Events later today will signal an important swing towards our greater success as a 21st century land-grant university.

Just hours from now, two great members of the Vandal family – Tom Alberg and Judi Beck – are slated to announce several significant gifts that will benefit our students and faculty while making our future successes more certain. Though we’ll be communicating through the mass media, I wanted you to hear it from me first.

Tom and Judi’s gifts, which total over $3.3 million, include $2 million to create the university’s first fully-funded endowed chair, $1 million to fund graduate fellowships over the next 10 years, $225,000 to build a new classroom on the Pitkin Nursery site and $100,000 to create a faculty excellence fund.

Endowed chairs help us ensure we attract and keep world-class scholars who will benefit our students and bolster Idaho industries and communities through research and expertise. Endowments like this help shelter our best and brightest from the effects of declining state funding, and they decrease the chance that competing universities will lure away our world-class faculty. By retaining our highly productive faculty members, we ensure our continued position as a foremost national research and teaching university.

The new Tom Alberg and Judith Beck Chair in the College of Natural Resources, or CNR, provides a self-sustaining fund that financially supports a position held by an outstanding faculty member. The funding for this chair gives preference to the Director of the Center for Forest Nursery and Seedling Research position, currently held by Anthony S. Davis, assistant professor of native plants regeneration and silviculture in the College of Natural Resources. Davis teaches in the forest, rangeland and fire sciences department.

The $1 million gift will fund two graduate fellowships in the new Oxbow Graduate Fellowship in Native Plant Research and Education. Each fellow will serve one year of residency at the Oxbow Center for Sustainable Agriculture and the Environment in Carnation, Wash. and one-year residency on our Moscow campus. Such grants help us attract the best and brightest students by helping to reduce their college debt load.

The $225,000 classroom gift also adds to education and research by funding a classroom building at the Frank H. Pitkin Nursery. Tom and Judi have named the new structure in honor of two great Vandals.  It will be known as the Thomas L. and Teita E. Reveley Classroom Building. The Reveleys are major donors to university who’ve given generously to CNR, the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival and Vandal athletics. Tom is also on the boards of the University of Idaho Foundation and the jazz festival.

Finally, the $100,000 gift will go to the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences for the endowment of a faculty excellence fund in honor of Professor Robert Tripepi. This fund will be used to support faculty work in the fields of plant, soil and entomological sciences.

I’m so thankful for these investments in our faculty, students and the university’s future. Gifts like this help us achieve goals for our Inspiring Futures Capital Campaign as well as Vision 2020. These efforts seek to make our successes in education, research and outreach sustainable for the long-term. However, it is generous individuals like Tom and Judi, like the Reveleys, and like you who make a difference.

Thank you for your commitment and investment in future generations.

Go Vandals!


M. Duane Nellis

U-Idaho Ecologists Offer Plans on Preserving Nation’s Biodiversity. The protected areas network within the continental United States is often viewed as one of the country’s best tools for securing vegetation communities and the species they support into the future. Yet, the current network of protected U.S. lands does not fully capture the entire range of the country’s vegetation communities or ecological systems. The failure to adequately protect all of these systems could place the species that rely on them at greater risk of extinction due to climate change impacts. So concludes a team of conservation ecologists and policy experts, including Jocelyn Aycrigg and Anne Davidson of the University of Idaho’s National Gap Analysis Program and J. Michael Scott, a Distinguished University Professor affiliated with the university’s fish and wildlife sciences program. See more.  

U-Idaho Professor Helps Develop Website That Brings The 'Tree Of Life' To Life. Earth is home to more than 2 million known species, interconnected across millions of years of evolution. To map relationships among species, biologists build large and elaborate phylogenies, sections of the tree of life. But how can millions of connections among millions of creatures be visualized in any accessible way? OneZoom, a new website, turns a simple illustration of the tree of life into an interactive interface that anyone can explore by zooming deeper into the branches to reveal further detail. The tree’s branches represent evolutionary connections through time, while its leaves show identified modern species. The three trees now posted on the site represent mammals, birds and amphibians. “If you look at a document, you’re seeing a one-dimensional story,” OneZoom creator James Rosindell says. “What OneZoom gives you is the ability to explore interactively.” See more.

A Vandal Leader Remembers His Wife’s Legacy And Helps Future Leaders. In July, David Thiessen, PhD, ’73, ’81, ’82, established two scholarships at the University of Idaho to honor his late wife, Laura Ann, and to commemorate his family’s longstanding relationship with the University and Vandal Athletics. The Laura Ann Thiessen and the Thiessen Family Scholarships are awarded to student athletes and spirit squad members pursuing degrees in the College of Business and Economics. Thiessen, a retired economics professor at Lewis-Clark State College, appreciates the value of higher education and the Vandal experience. His parents, brother, sister-in-law and niece all are Idaho alumni and his wife, a psychologist, taught briefly at the University and supervised numerous U-Idaho interns over the years. The Thiessens' support of athletics comes from the family’s participation throughout the years. Not only was Thiessen a member of the University’s only NCAA water polo team, but his brother, Terry, was a four-year letterman on the swim team and his father, George, played football for the Vandals and later for the Rams in the NFL. Thiessen has generously supported many areas of the University, including the Thiessen Family Excellence in Research Award in the College of Business and Economics, the Vandal Scholarship Fund, the Kibbie Dome Renovation and Expansion, the University Library and Operation Education. For more information on giving to Vandal Athletics, contact Shelly Robson at (208) 651-7992 or