Names Etched in History: Freshmen Honor All University of Idaho’s Vietnam Veterans with Plaque

Monday, October 18 2010

MOSCOW, Idaho – The University of Idaho freshmen in Dick Wilson’s Contemporary American Experience course learned a lot about the dedication it takes to make a good thing happen.

Wilson was reading the war memorials hanging in the university’s Memorial Gym when he noticed that the names of some of his contemporaries, University of Idaho students who made the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam, were missing from a plaque honoring the university’s Vietnam veterans.

He talked with Lt. Col. Ken Hunt, who was then with the university’s Army ROTC unit, now retired. Hunt, the son of a Vietnam veteran, also was interested in providing a more accurate accounting. He pitched the plaque project to the freshman in Wilson’s class, a two-semester course that is part of the university’s CORE curriculum.

Students liked the idea, and received permission to pursue the project from then-President Tim White, who worked with them to define parameters and develop a plan of approach.

Students were tasked with writing grant proposals to fund the work, and to conduct the intensive research required to find and confirm the 21 names to be included on the plaque.

“There is an Idaho state plaque in Memorial Gym naming 200 plus soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and coast guardsmen from Idaho who died in Vietnam,” Wilson explained. “But students from University of Idaho who served were not exclusively from Idaho.”

University of Idaho students who hailed from outside the state were not listed on the original Idaho plaque. The plaque also was completed before some of those listed as MIA were confirmed to have been Killed in Action, Wilson explained.

The effort to correct those errors, and honor all University of Idaho students who died in Vietnam, took 38 freshmen a full academic year. Bringing the plaque from idea to reality took a total of four years.

Several of the freshmen students who worked on the project have now graduated, or are seniors or graduate students. The impact of the project remains with them.

“When faculty can take you beyond the textbook learning, it’s better. It’s much more personal. It’s very real, and you learn a lot more,” said Jared Zook, who participated in the project as a student.

“I think student interest was so strong because Dick had lived in the Vietnam era, and he was kind of shocked to see names missing,” Zook said. “I think student involvement was so strong because of the plaque. There’s permanence about it. It’s something unique that not every freshman gets the opportunity to do.”

“I sometimes hear people say the world is going to hell in a hand basket and kids today just aren’t great like they were when we were kids,” said Wilson. “But you wouldn’t believe how amazing the students at the University of Idaho are. The students who did this project, they give me great hope. The experience was just profound.”

The new University of Idaho Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial plaque will be installed and dedicated Friday, Nov. 5, at 11 a.m. in the Memorial Gym Rotunda.
# # #

About the University of Idaho

Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state’s land-grant institution and its principal graduate education and research university, bringing insight and innovation to the state, the nation and the world. University researchers attract nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts each year. The University of Idaho is the only institution in the state to earn the prestigious Carnegie Foundation classification for high research activity. The student population of 12,302 includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars, who select from more than 130 degree options in the colleges of Agricultural and Life Sciences; Art and Architecture; Business and Economics; Education; Engineering; Law; Letters, Arts and Social Sciences; Natural Resources; and Science. The university also is charged with the statewide mission for medical education through the WWAMI program. The university combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities and focuses on helping students to succeed and become leaders. It is home to the Vandals, the 2009 Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl champions. For more information, visit

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