Evergreen State College President Les Purce to Speak at UI’s Martin Luther King Week

Tuesday, January 7 2014

MOSCOW, Idaho – Idaho native Thomas “Les” Purce, president of The Evergreen State College in Olympia, will be the keynote speaker for the University of Idaho’s observances of Martin Luther King, Jr. week and Black History Month. He will speak Thursday, Jan. 16 at 7 p.m. in the Administration Building auditorium. His talk is free and open to the public.

Purce’s talk, titled, “Continuing the Dream,” will address issues of courage, speaking up and speaking out against bias and hate, and following the examples of King and other civil rights leaders. The event is sponsored by the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the Office of Human Rights, Access and Inclusion, and the Office of the President.

“We are thrilled to have a speaker of Dr. Purce’s caliber to observe Martin Luther King week and Black History Month at the University of Idaho,” said Carmen Suarez, Chief Diversity Officer and Associate Vice Provost for Student Affairs. “His experience and message will resonate well with our students and community.”

Purce also will give remarks at the annual Latah County Human Rights Task Force MLK breakfast on Saturday, Jan. 18, 9 a.m. at the Moscow Middle School, 1410 East D St. Tickets for the breakfast are available at Paradise Ridge CD's, 117 East 3rd St. in Moscow, or by emailing jmuneta@uidaho.edu.

Born in Pocatello, Purce attended primary and secondary schools in Pocatello and was an undergraduate and graduate student at Idaho State University. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, followed by a Master of Education in student personnel, and a Doctorate of Education in counselor education. He also completed Harvard University’s Institute for Educational Management and did additional graduate work at Washington State University in clinical psychology.

“I have known president Purce since our childhood days in Pocatello,” said University of Idaho Interim President Don Burnett. “He has become one of the Pacific Northwest’s most successful leaders – and a distinctive role model – on issues of higher education, economic development, equal opportunity, civil right, and public service.”

Purce’s career in Idaho spanned 15 years in both the public and private sectors. He was the first black elected official in the state, serving as a city council member and mayor of Pocatello. He later served as director of Idaho's departments of administration and health and welfare under Gov. John Evans. In the private sector, he served as partner and chief operating officer of Power Engineering Inc., one of the fastest growing electrical engineering firms in the Northwest.

On July 1, 2000, Purce became the first African-American president of The Evergreen State College, a public liberal arts and sciences college. Purce first arrived at Evergreen in 1989, and between 1990 and 1995, he served as vice president for College Advancement, interim president and executive vice president.

As part of Evergreen’s broad liberal arts education mission, Purce encourages community engagement, curricular innovations and academic programs that educate about social justice issues through the liberal arts and sciences. With Purce’s support, The Evergreen State College vigorously promotes and pursues the values of diversity and equity.

Prior to accepting the presidency at Evergreen, he served as vice president of Extended University Affairs and dean of Extended Academic Programs at Washington State University in Pullman. He had been with WSU since 1995.

Purce has previously served on the board of directors for the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) for two terms and served as past president on the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC) Board of Directors. He currently serves as a board member for the Community Foundation of South Puget Sound, the Northwest African American Museum and Washington Campus Compact. In addition, he was chair-elect for the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Council of Presidents and currently serves as chair.

About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals. For information, visit www.uidaho.edu.